While his friends at UCSB began organizing a T-shirt sale to help fund his legal defense, Associated Students President Cervin Morris plead not guilty Tuesday to all charges filed against him by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.
Defense attorney Adam Pearlman represented the third-year undergraduate, who faces one count of felony assault with a deadly weapon resulting in great bodily injury and one misdemeanor count of battery following his Nov. 12 arrest for allegedly hitting a man in the head with a glass bottle and punching another man in the face.
Morris’s original arraignment, scheduled for Dec. 14, 2004, was postponed until yesterday because he did not have an attorney present.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer said Morris and his attorney have not discussed any type of plea bargain with the D.A.’s office. Dozer declined to comment about the strength of the D.A.’s case against Morris, but said the office felt it had strong enough evidence to at least file charges.
In addition to the assault and battery charges, Dozer said Morris was also in court to answer for a probation violation. Morris was sentenced to probation following a May 8, 2003 arrest for driving under the influence, but he pled guilty to a lesser misdemeanor charge of reckless driving involving alcohol. Dozer said at the time of that arrest, Morris had a blood alcohol level of .08 percent — the legal limit in California — but he was under the age of 21. It is illegal for minors to drive with any blood alcohol level over .01 percent.
As of press time, it was unclear whether Morris’ Nov. 12 arrest resulted in the probation violation.
Dozer said the D.A. would not use Morris’s reckless driving conviction if the assault case goes to trial, but the incident could be used during the penalty phase if Morris is found guilty.
Following Tuesday’s arraignment, the next legal proceeding is a preliminary hearing setting, scheduled for Jan. 28, which will determine when a preliminary hearing will take place.
To try and garner support for Morris, two of his friends have started a fundraiser to help cover his legal fees. Third-year art history major Vanessa Villasenor and third-year sociology major Chaz Whatley will be selling T-shirts, bearing Morris’s face and the words “Free Curve.”
Whatley and Villasenor will be tabling in the Arbor everyday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and students can purchase the T-shirts for $10 each. All proceeds will be donated to help pay Morris’s legal fees, and any remaining money will be donated through the Direct Relief Organization to aid tsunami victims in Southeast Asia.
Whatley said she and Villasenor came up with the fundraising idea.
“We were just sitting and talking and we were thinking how hard it is to be a student and to be facing the financial burden of legal fees,” she said.
Villasenor said while she is optimistic about the fundraiser, she said the cost of Morris’s legal fees could be quite high.
“Obviously I doubt we can even make as much as the legal fees, but we will try as much as we can,” Villasenor said.
Although Morris declined to comment on his case, he said friends, and not Associated Students organized the T-shirt fundraiser.
“With all of the things I’m facing, they don’t want me to go down because I can’t pay the legal fees,” Morris said.
He also said the T-shirts are not meant to show his guilt or innocence.
“I don’t think it’s about going out and telling people that I’m innocent or not. It’s about [showing] support,” Morris said.
Even with his legal proceedings, Morris said he still devotes the majority of his time to UCSB students.
“Even though it is a lot of drama, I still hold the students first. I still make sure that I do the best job [as A.S. president] that I can,” he said.