Sunday, February 18, 2018
News Roundup

Dontae Morris sued by widows of slain Tampa police officers

TAMPA — Jail isn't enough. Now they're coming for his soda and stamps.

The widows of two slain Tampa police officers don't want Dontae Morris to enjoy any jailhouse extras with donated money. So they're suing him.

"For him to be able to have the luxury of extra money to spend it on things that will make him comfortable . . . we don't think he deserves that," said Kelly Curtis.

Curtis and Sara Kocab each are suing Morris, who has been charged in their husbands' deaths, for more than $15,000. It's not that they think he has it. He is unlikely to ever gather that much.

But if people donate money to Morris, they would rather he never see it.

Curtis said they would give lawsuit proceeds to the Gold Shield Foundation, a charity that gives college scholarships to children of fallen firefighters and police.

"It'd be one more dose of justice," said their attorney, Mark Wright.

Morris, 26, has not yet gone to trial in the shootings of Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab, who were gunned down in a traffic stop June 29, 2010. And while the case winds its way through court, he sits in a high-security wing of the Falkenburg Road Jail. From there, he has access to a canteen account.

That's one of the main targets of the suit.

A canteen account is a jailhouse fund each inmate can keep for money donated by people outside jail. Anyone can drop off money, and inmates use it for things like radios, chips, soda and stationery.

Honey Buns and Ramen noodles are favorites of inmates in Hillsborough's jails.

Deposits into Morris' canteen account come from family members, mainly his mother and sister. They usually leave between $15 and $60 and have done so at least once every month this year, jail records show. Since July 20, 2010, they've deposited $2,176.

Currently, he has $2.33.

If the women win the lawsuit, their attorney hopes authorities will garnish Morris' canteen account, much as they do for regular bank accounts. Any money going to Morris would be whisked away to the foundation.

"I don't want his money," Curtis said. "But I think the Gold Shield Foundation is a great foundation."

The widows didn't have the option of waiting to file their lawsuit until after a trial. Wrongful death suits have a two-year statute of limitations. The anniversary is next week.

So on June 12, Wright filed a standard two-page complaint. Point by point, the women's suffering is laid out in cold legalese.

They say Morris acted with "premeditation" in the shooting.

Curtis left behind four boys.

The women have lost money, companionship and protection, it states.

They've "incurred pain and suffering."

"This is another small thing that we can do to help right this horrible tragedy," Wright said. "Nothing will bring them back or heal the loss, but why should this guy profit? Why should he ever have any money whatsoever?"

Times staff writer Sue Carlton contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

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