Thursday, April 19, 2018
News Roundup

Dontae Morris' girlfriend being retried on rare charge

TAMPA — It will be a replay of one of Tampa's most tragic events.

Cortnee Brantley, 24, of Seffner, the girlfriend of a man accused of killing two Tampa police officers in 2010, will be back in a federal courtroom today to be retried on a charge that she failed to fully help investigators during the manhunt for her beau.

Jurors deadlocked during her first trial in July, so a judge declared a mistrial.

It was the early morning of June 29, 2010, when Brantley's boyfriend, Dontae Morris, killed Tampa police Officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis after a traffic stop on 50th Street because of a missing license plate, prosecutors say. Morris was a passenger in the car, which was driven by Brantley.

Curtis discovered a warrant for Morris' arrest on a bad check charge and called for backup. Morris, who had been questioned previously in a murder investigation, may have thought he was being arrested in that case instead.

Prosecutors say he pulled a gun and shot the officers in the head as he exited Brantley's Toyota Camry.

Morris ran from the scene, triggering the biggest manhunt in Tampa history. He was captured after four days and awaits trial on first-degree murder charges.

Brantley fled in her car. Prosecutors have not argued that she had any advance knowledge of the shooting.

The killings were caught on the dashboard camera in Curtis' cruiser, and jurors were shown the video at Brantley's first trial.

Brantley refused to identify Morris as the person responsible for the killings during questioning by police. That led investigators to charge her with an obscure federal crime called misprision of a felony — failing to report a felony to authorities.

Surprisingly, the shooting of the officers is not the felony Brantley is accused of failing to report. It's that Morris was a felon with a gun and ammunition. But to win a conviction, prosecutors must prove Brantley took steps to conceal that information from police during their investigation of the shooting.

Jurors at the first trial appeared confused by the charge and asked for a definition of the crime during eight hours of unsuccessful deliberations. Jurors declined comment afterward.

Neither Brantley's attorney, Grady Irvin Jr., nor prosecutor James Preston would comment for this article. The families of the officers, who attended the first trial, have previously declined to comment while the case is pending.

Irvin argued at the first trial that police knew Morris' identity within minutes of arriving at the scene and didn't need Brantley to identify him. Irvin said Brantley drove away because she was afraid of Morris.

Irvin has portrayed Brantley as a convenient scapegoat in a case charged with emotion.

Prosecutors said Brantley didn't fear Morris at all, noting Brantley called Morris' cellphone within seconds of the shooting.

"I think the rarity of charge illustrates how desperate the government is to obtain a conviction on her," said defense lawyer John Trevena, who has no ties to the case. "They want justice for the officers who were killed. There's not going to be any quarter given to (Brantley) at all. No mercy."

U.S. District Court Judge James Moody had dismissed the charge against Brantley in October 2010, saying prosecutors could not prove that Brantley tried to conceal any felony being committed by Morris. But an appeals court later reinstated the charge, saying Moody had dismissed it before hearing evidence at trial.

Moody seemed close to dismissing it again during the trial, but in the end, he allowed the case to go to the jury.

The judge had said the fact that Brantley refused to identify Morris as the person who killed the officer was not enough, by itself, to convict her. Prosecutors, he said, most prove an act of concealment.

Misprision of a felony is a charge that traces back to England in the 1300s.

John V. Hurd, a Massachusetts lawyer, said in a 2008 Suffolk University Law Review article that misprision of a felony is related to the ancient duty of English citizens to "raise a hue and cry" upon witnessing a crime in the days before police forces.

In English common law, the responsibility was limited to men between the ages of 15 and 60.

Potential jurors in the retrial will no doubt be asked by lawyers whether they saw any of the media coverage of Brantley's mistrial.

The judge has barred the news media from sitting in the courtroom during jury selection, citing a lack of space. Instead, reporters would watch those proceedings remotely by video.

The Tampa Tribune filed a motion Jan. 7 seeking access to the courtroom during jury selection, noting that access to court had also been restricted during other parts of the trial.

Moody denied the motion.

William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

NEWARK, N.J. — Bachman-Turner Overdrive's Taking Care of Business shook the walls of the Lightning locker room not long after it dispatched the Devils in Wednesday's Game 4 of their first-round playoff series.The 3-1 win was sparked by Nikita K...
Updated: 3 hours ago

High school scoreboard for April 18

Wednesday’s scoreboardSoftballAdmiral Farragut 2, Boca Ciega 1Springstead 10, Nature Coast 4
Updated: 3 hours ago
Lightning-Devils: How Tampa Bay worked its way to a 3-1 series lead

Lightning-Devils: How Tampa Bay worked its way to a 3-1 series lead

Times columnist Tom Jones gives his thoughts while watching the broadcast of Game 4 of the series between the Lightning and Devils:Hard work beats everythingWe watch the Lightning all season long and marvel at its skill. Nikita Kucherov, Steven ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Political skirmish erupts over plan to revamp Hillsborough commission

Political skirmish erupts over plan to revamp Hillsborough commission

TAMPA — A political fight over the makeup of Hillsborough County government could be heading to voters to decide.After a discussion divided along party lines, commissioners voted 5-2 Wednesday to move ahead with a plan to overhaul the structure of th...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Largo police release video as State Attorney clears officer in shooting

Largo police release video as State Attorney clears officer in shooting

LARGO — The Pasco-Pinellas state attorney cleared a Largo police officer who fatally shot a 30-year-old man last month.The letter from State Attorney Bernie McCabe said Officer Matthew Steiner was "in imminent fear for his life" during the March 23 e...
Updated: 5 hours ago
2 men spread affirmations in New Hampshire; bipartisan bill calls for VA to study pot; 3 men convicted in plot to bomb Somali refugees; more in U.S. news

2 men spread affirmations in New Hampshire; bipartisan bill calls for VA to study pot; 3 men convicted in plot to bomb Somali refugees; more in U.S. news

New HampshireWe need more of these signsTwo men are trying to spread some positivity with their feel-good signs. NH1 reported Greg Amaral and Wendell Walker have stood in downtown Nashua with signs carrying positive messages each weekend since Easter...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. aren’t available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Wed., April 18, midday:15 112 6177e_SRit28928Wed., April 18, evening:11 318 7120e_SRit93676LottoWed., April 18:...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Diamond shines light on ‘lost planet,’ says study; Merkel condemns attack on 2 men in Jewish skullcaps in Berlin; more in world news

Diamond shines light on ‘lost planet,’ says study; Merkel condemns attack on 2 men in Jewish skullcaps in Berlin; more in world news

WorldDiamond sheds light on ‘lost planet’Fragments of a meteorite that fell to Earth about a decade ago provide compelling evidence of a lost planet that once roamed our solar system, according to a study published Tuesday. Researchers from Switzerla...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teacher aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer p...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Anonymous Rays rally to beat Rangers 4-2, win series

Anonymous Rays rally to beat Rangers 4-2, win series

ST. PETERSBURG — Even before they lost several of the hitters they were relying most on to injuries, the Rays did not exactly have a lineup built on intimidation.Their own owner said opening day that he expected them to rank among the least pro...
Updated: 7 hours ago