TAMPA — Cortnee Brantley's hair appears high on a list of personal priorities. Braided, twisted, two-toned, at times shaved, her strands show a new style with each trip to federal court. She fixes other people's 'dos and has dabbled in cosmetology school.
But should hair outrank the orders of a federal judge?
U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. doesn't think so.
He threatened Wednesday to jail Brantley if she doesn't start remembering court obligations the way she manages to remember hair appointments.
Brantley, 25, is free while she appeals a conviction on a charge spawned by her association with a man accused of killing two Tampa police officers in 2010. She was sentenced in June to a year and a day after a jury found her guilty of misprision of a felony for failing to warn authorities that boyfriend Dontae Morris was a felon with a loaded gun.
Moody granted the bail, concerned she might otherwise serve the entire sentence before her appeal was decided.
But Brantley has a weekly date to call an assigned officer from the Middle District's Pre-Trial Services division. And she has missed the call 19 times, the judge announced in court Wednesday, after reviewing a report of her activities.
He asked her why she was having a hard time following rules.
She told him she forgets.
He asked if she forgets doctor's appointments. She said she doesn't usually have doctor's appointments. He asked if she forgets hair appointments.
"No," she said.
"So your hair appointments are more important than reporting to your probation officer?" Moody asked.
Defense attorney Grady C. Irvin Jr. said Brantley eventually calls. She's just tardy.
He told Moody that Brantley shares a cellphone with her sister, that the two have had medical issues, that her mother hasn't been around and that the home has been taken by the bank. (Her grandmother's home still secures the bail, Irvin reported.)
"It sounds like you're telling me she has so much going on in her life that she can't follow the rules," Moody said.
Irvin suggested that she may need strong words from someone empowered to jail her.
Prosecutor James Preston said that it was clear Brantley doesn't care and that warnings mean nothing to her. Two police officers are dead because she couldn't follow the law and keep a tag on her vehicle, he said, referring to the traffic stop where Officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis were both shot in the head. The case against Morris begins with jury selection in Orlando next week, followed by a trial in Tampa.
"She's at liberty now because you allowed her to stay out and she's thumbing her nose at you," the prosecutor told the judge.
Then, too, there was the matter of Brantley's recent traffic stops.
Last month, Temple Terrace police ticketed her for driving 34 mph in a 25 mph zone. This month, a Hillsborough County deputy charged her with driving on a license suspended for failure to pay a ticket. In June, a deputy ticketed her on a seat belt violation.
A speeding ticket is part of life, Judge Moody told Brantley, but she's supposed to report police encounters to the court official assigned to her case, and she hadn't done that either.
He said he usually locks people up for lying to a court official, and that, too, had been alleged.
In the end, Moody opted to give Brantley one last chance. He warned that her next violation will be followed by jail until her appeal is over.
"I'm going to see if I can convince you that these rules are at least as important as hair appointments," he told her.
Patty Ryan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3382.