Archive for Thursday, October 4, 2007

Bond reduced for woman charged in U.S. 59 fatalities

October 4, 2007

By Mike Belt

A woman charged with fleeing police after two highway workers were killed in a hit-and-run south of Lawrence last month saw her bond cut in half during a hearing Wednesday in Osage County District Court.

Ramona I. Morgan's bond was dropped from $2 million to $1 million. But her attorney, Clinton Lee, argued that it should be considerably lower.

"I think that is extremely excessive under the circumstances," Lee said, adding that a "more reasonable" bond would be a maximum of $5,000.

Lee, of Lansing, noted that if Morgan were freed in Osage County she would be transferred to Douglas County on a "hold" order. In Douglas County, where she is charged with two counts of reckless second-degree murder, her bond is $200,000.

Osage County Magistrate Judge Jon Stephen Jones said he considered Ramona Morgan a higher risk to leave the area because of the charges against her. He said he generally sets a higher bond for people charged with fleeing and eluding. He refused to reduce the bond further because he said he wasn't confident Douglas County could hold her.

"I do not understand why it would be so low," he said of Douglas County's bond.

Lee said he thought there was a concerted effort by Osage County Attorney Brandon Jones and Douglas County to "stack the deck" against Morgan by trying to build a criminal history against her before her case is heard in Douglas County. He said Douglas County should handle its case first.

Lee also said Brandon Jones was trying to make Morgan indigent with the high bond. Moreover, Lee maintained that Morgan, 48, formerly of Washington state, was not a risk to flee the area if she were freed. Morgan's daughter, Sabrina Morgan, is getting a place to live in Lawrence, Lee said. Her mother would have a place to stay.

Sabrina Morgan, 26, was a passenger in the pickup truck her mother was driving when it was stopped after two tires were flattened by spike sticks officers placed on the highway. Initially charged with aiding a felon, Sabrina Morgan was freed a week ago after the charge was dropped.

Brandon Jones said he resented Lee's accusations, calling them "ridiculous."

"Miss Morgan hit and killed two people in Douglas County," he said. "She made an attempt to flee. ... It wasn't until they blew out her tires that she stopped, and then she had to be taken out at gunpoint."

The Morgans were arrested Sept. 11 after a pickup truck barreled through a restricted one-lane construction zone on U.S. Highway 59 at Pleasant Grove. Two highway workers were killed and a third was injured. The truck left the scene and one matching its description was spotted by a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper minutes later on U.S. Highway 56 in Osage County.

The trooper attempted to stop the truck and a chase ensued. One vehicle was forced to the side of the road by the truck and the driver attempted to drive around the spike sticks, Brandon Jones said. The chase and reckless driving also makes her a danger to the community, he said.

A preliminary hearing for Morgan was set for Dec. 5.

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