A sentencing for two Akron teens convicted in the February 2018 shooting death of another teen was again delayed Friday — this time because one of the two is seeking to withdraw his plea.
The sentencing for Tyler Morgan, 19, and John Smith, 17, was delayed last month when a question arose about whether a new violent offender registration requirement would apply in this case. That issue, which hasn’t been decided, is among the reasons Morgan is now seeking a plea withdrawal.
“That was an additional burden he did not contemplate,” said Tyler Whitney, Morgan’s attorney
The registration requirement means that defendants must register their address for 10 years after they are released from prison. It became effective March 20, which was after Morgan and Smith were convicted but before they were sentenced.
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Kelly McLaughlin held a hearing Friday about Morgan’s request and is now considering it.
Morgan and Smith pleaded no contest to murder Feb. 4 and McLaughlin found them guilty. They both face 15 years to life in prison.
The teens are accused in the Feb. 13, 2018, shooting death of Shpetim Ramadani, 18.
Ramadani was a passenger in a Chrysler 300 when the occupants stopped in South Akron to talk to Morgan and Smith about 7 p.m. Morgan or Smith fired a gun into the vehicle, striking Ramadani in the chest, police said.
The driver of the Chrysler called police. Ramadani was later pronounced dead at Summa Akron City Hospital.
The dispute between the teens centered on an ounce of marijuana with a street value of less than $200, police say.
Whitney filed a plea-withdrawal request Tuesday. Whitney said his client felt pressured to plea, claims he is innocent of murder and didn’t know about the registration requirement when he agreed to the plea deal.
Assistant Prosecutor Rick Raley, however, claims Morgan is having “buyer’s remorse,” which isn’t a reason for a judge to allow a plea withdrawal. He played two jail calls in which Morgan talked about not wanting to spend 15 years in prison and how he thinks the most he should have gotten was manslaughter.
“He wants a second bite at plea negotiations,” Raley said.
If Morgan is permitted to withdraw his plea, Assistant Prosecutor Brian Stano said the offer will be off the table and the case will go to trial. Prosecutors dropped several charges and gun specifications as part of the plea deal.
As for the registration, Raley said judges aren’t required to advise defendants about the requirement until sentencing.
Smith hasn’t requested to withdraw his plea. David Lowry, his attorney, said that could change, depending on McLaughlin’s ruling.
Whitney and Lowry both argue the registration requirement shouldn’t apply to their clients and raises constitutional concerns. Prosecutors say it should apply.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, email@example.com and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.