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Youth, 17, Admits Car Thefts, Bank Robbery

August 03, 1985|JANET RAE-DUPREE | Times Staff Writer

One of two Tarzana youths accused of bank robbery pleaded guilty in Sylmar Juvenile Court Friday to armed bank robbery and auto theft charges.

Mark Berman, 17, admitted to Judge Burton S. Katz that he took more than $4,000 from Encino Savings & Loan Assn. on May 23 and took three cars at gunpoint in May in holdups in the west San Fernando Valley.

Michael Morrison, 17, Berman's co-defendant, has not yet entered a plea. Proceedings for Morrison have been postponed until a state Court of Appeal can rule on Katz's order closing pretrial hearings in the youth's case.

Berman, who was 16 when he committed the crimes, hugged his tearful mother, father and two older brothers after entering his pleas. His father, Martin, an attorney, is acting as co-counsel for his son with attorney Paul Geragos.

Katz, who ruled Wednesday that Berman should be tried as a juvenile, ordered the youth to appear for sentencing Sept. 17.

While testifying Tuesday in his own defense at the hearing to determine whether he should be tried as an adult, Berman said he was despondent over his failing grades and stole one of the cars "to impress Mike (Morrison)."

Berman said Morrison hatched the plan to rob the bank so they could start an ice cream truck business.

A psychiatrist who testified on Berman's behalf described him as a "responsible youngster" who committed the crimes because he was afraid of losing his friendship with Morrison.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Jerry Bowes said Berman probably will be ordered to serve time in the California Youth Authority, where officials could keep him until age 25. Had Berman been ordered tried in adult court, as prosecutors had requested, he could have been sentenced to as much as 12 years and eight months in prison.

Defense attorney Geragos said he plans to propose alternatives to California Youth Authority time when Berman appears for sentencing.

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