Saturday, January 15
Morrison says his life teaches lesson

Associated Press

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- His boxing glory gone and his health uncertain, convicted felon Tommy Morrison now hopes that the story of his roller-coaster life will help keep others from repeating his mistakes.

Morrison, who was sentenced to prison Friday after pleading guilty to drug and weapons charges, wants to be an inspirational speaker after he is released.

"My goal is to clean myself up," Morrison said in court after his sentencing. "When I get out, I want to go to high schools, colleges, nursing homes, if necessary, and tell people my story.

"I've been up the ladder, down the ladder ... I'm a social chameleon. I can fit into any crowd. People listen to me because I'm real. God put me here for that purpose. He put me in jail to wake (me) up."

Morrison, who grew up in Jay, Okla., began his amateur boxing career in the late 1980s, winning Golden Gloves titles in two states and making it to the finals at the U.S. Olympic trials. He also starred as a boxer alongside Sylvester Stallone in the fifth "Rocky" movie.

After turning pro, Morrison had 40 knockouts and won the World Boxing Organization title in 1993, defeating George Foreman on a 12-round decision. But his boxing career ended in 1996, when he tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS.

Since then, Morrison has been in frequent legal trouble.

In March 1997, he was arrested in Fort Scott, Kan., and charged with drunken driving and speeding. Morrison drank wine with dinner after speaking to a group of high school students about AIDS.

"Here I am teaching about responsibility, then I pull something stupid like that," Morrison said in 1997. "It makes me feel uncomfortable."

Morrison avoided jail time by reaching a diversionary agreement on the Kansas charges.

But in December 1997, a jury in Delaware County, Okla., convicted Morrison of driving under the influence and other charges related to a chain-reaction traffic accident that injured three people. He was ordered to spend time in a treatment facility.

Morrison had just pleaded guilty in Tulsa, Okla., to his second DWI offense and had been sentenced to two years probation when Fayetteville police arrested him Sept. 16 after stopping his weaving car.

He had been scheduled for trial in March, but pleaded guilty Friday to charges of cocaine possession, simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms, being a felon in possession of a firearm, misdemeanor marijuana possession and driving while intoxicated.

Circuit Judge William Storey sentenced Morrison to 10 years in prison, with eight suspended, and refused to release him on bond for the few weeks before reporting for his sentence. The judge said Morrison was too great of a risk and was unlikely to keep his drug problem under control.

Morrison also faces a misdemeanor drug charge and public intoxication charge stemming from a Thanksgiving Day arrest in Madison County, where he was a passenger in a car that ran off the road into some trees.

That led to the revocation of Morrison's bond in the Fayetteville case, and he has remained in the custody of the Washington County jail since Dec. 21.

Morrison's health has deteriorated recently and required numerous hospital visits. Prosecutors and defense attorneys have declined to say whether Morrison's HIV has progressed to AIDS, but have said he has grave health concerns.

"Tommy is the great American success story and the great American tragedy rolled into one," his attorney, John Hudson, said.

Morrison is to be sent to one of Arkansas' two facilities -- either in Osceola or Texarkana -- that house nonviolent offenders. If Morrison is credited with "good time," he could be freed in one year, Hudson said.

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