With the local media swirling like vultures for the latest morsel in the case against resigned WCBS anchor Rob Morrison, FishbowlNY turns to attorney Paul Callan, who represented former WABC weather anchor Heidi Jones during her scandal last year.
She eventually was fired for falsifying a sexual assault. We spoke to Callan yesterday, hours before Morrison announced his resignation.
Morrison was arrested Sunday on a felonious charge of choking his wife, Ashley Morrison during a fight at their home early Sunday morning. A judge ordered Morrison to stay 100 yards away from his wife.
“There have been indications that his wife wants to drop the charges, so ultimately this will be a decision by the Connecticut prosecutor as to whether to try to informally resolve the case with a dismissal,” Callan tells FishbowlNY.
That doesn’t automatically mean Morrison will be cleared.
“Prosecutors can serve a subpoena on her. They can force her to testify under oath,” Callan says. “Sometimes the wife is placed in a difficult position as she tries to deny the charge.”
Callan does concur with Morrison’s assessment to FishbowlNY that the case will not reach trial.
However, with a reported string of domestic abuse that includes a 2009 arrest for assault, Callan says that could provide enough fuel for prosecutors.
“His prior history of arrests and prior police visits to the home are certainly going to be very important as Connecticut prosecutors evaluate the next step in the case.”
He says the former anchor could greatly help his own case.
“If Morrison steps up to the plate and says, ‘I’ve got a substance abuse problem,’ and he agrees to go into some sort of a rehabilitation program or an anger management program, you might have resolution without a criminal conviction,” Callan says.
Out after 3 1/2 years at WCBS, Callan says Morrison needs to focus on his livelihood not just the alleged actions.
“His biggest problem is not the criminal case in Connecticut,” Callan says. “His biggest problem is his career, and is this a career-ender or can he make a comeback from these charges?”
Callan drew parallels to sportscasting great Marv Albert, who faced a felony assault of a woman in 1997. Albert was suspended, fired, then came full circle when he was rehired by NBC two years later.
“If Morrison’s case results in a dismissal of all criminal charges, I’m not so sure that anything other than a short suspension would be handed down by CBS,” Callen said before Morrison quit Channel 2.
Morrison was arrested after cops allege red marks on his wife’s neck were forcefully made by his hands. He stopped short of a full denial to FishbowlNY, saying, “Police can say anything they want. Is there any sort of photographic evidence? There is none.”
Regardless, Callan, a CNN legal contributor, sees enough evidence that put CBS in a quandary.
“These are very serious charges… I think it is a very serious blow to his career,” Callan says.
Callan says WCBS, which covered the initial story of Morrison’s arrest, was being “inappropriate,” facing a “conflict of interest” by reporting on one of its own.
A separate issue in the media, Callan, who had Jones as a client, contends, there is a double standard for women in the industry.
“The men somehow find their way back on the air, whereas women have a much harder time getting back on the air when they’re accused of misconduct.”
Last year, WNYW anchor Greg Kelly was off Good Day New York while police investigated a rape allegation. Within weeks, it was thrown out and Kelly returned.
In comparing the Kelly allegation, Callan says Morrison’s situation could ultimately turn out much worse than it did for the NYPD commissioner’s son.
“Police indicate physical injury to his wife’s throat, corroborating the claim that [Morrison] attacked her. But it remains a domestic dispute, which the system doesn’t view quite as seriously as a rape case involving unrelated people,” Callan says. “Greg Kelly’s case was a charge of rape—a much more serious charge. I would have to say knowing how the Greg Kelly case ended that Morrison’s case looks more serious at this point in time.”