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Scrap metal dealer who stole bridge continues push to overturn his conviction

Dan Goldblatt, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, right, and Nick Ream, environmental engineer for IDEM, stand on what once was the northerly support for the Monon Bridge over the Grand Calumet River in Hammond in July 2015. Kenneth Morrison, owner of T&K Metals in Whiting, was convicted in December of interstate theft for cutting up the disused bridge built in 1910 and selling it to scrapyards in Illinois.

HAMMOND — A scrap metal dealer seeking a new trial after his conviction last year for stealing a historic bridge says a U.S. District judge denied him a fair trial.

Kenneth Morrison, owner of T&K Metals in Whiting, was convicted in December by a U.S. District Court jury of interstate theft for cutting up a disused bridge built in 1910 and selling it to Illinois scrapyards for more than $14,000.

Morrison's attorney filed a motion Dec. 27 seeking a judgment of acquittal or new trial.

Morrison argued the U.S. attorney's office failed to meet its burden of proof, because prosecutors "wrongfully implied" they didn't need to prove who owned the bridge.

In Morrison's latest court filing, his attorneys say Judge Philip Simon denied Morrison a fair trial by refusing to include proposed jury instructions about Morrison's "theory of defense." The proposed instructions centered on ownership of the bridge.

During Morrison's trial in December, defense attorney Sheldon Nagelberg told jurors Morrison believed the Monon Bridge to be abandoned property, since Hammond city officials couldn't give him a straight answer on who owned it.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Powers argued Morrison knew full well the city owned the bridge, because he had applied unsuccessfully to the city in 1991 and again in 2014 for work permits to scrap it.

The U.S. attorney's office must respond to Morrison's motions by May 31. Morrison will have an opportunity to reply by June 11.

Simon rescheduled Morrison's sentencing hearing for July 16.

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Public Safety Reporter

Sarah covers crime, federal courts and breaking news for The Times. She joined the paper in 2004 after graduating from Purdue University Calumet.