Saturday, June 23, 2018
News Roundup

Fired Tampa detective wants job back amid secret federal investigation

TAMPA — Fired Tampa police Detective Eric Houston, the subject of a federal grand jury inquiry who helped investigate several prominent murder cases, is fighting to reclaim his job.

Houston maintains his innocence, said Owen Kohler, the Police Benevolent Association general counsel who signed a grievance as his representative.

"Detective Houston denies that he committed any policy violation," the document states.

The city said otherwise when terminating Houston, asserting he had violated two policies. One requires city employees to obey laws. The other doesn't allow personal motives to influence police decisions on duty.

The grievance calls police Chief Jane Castor's decision to fire Houston "arbitrary, capricious, excessive and not progressive in nature."

Houston seeks reinstatement, back pay and reimbursement for lost benefits. The city's next step will be to schedule a hearing.

Nearly three weeks have passed since Castor convened a news conference to announce that Houston had been fired amid a grand jury investigation. She called his alleged behavior "egregious" but did not reveal the nature of it.

His criminal defense attorney, Wade Whidden, did not respond Tuesday to inquiries from the Tampa Bay Times.

Kohler, who represents Houston solely in the employment matter, said Houston still doesn't know why the grand jury is investigating him.

"He can't make a statement on the nature of the charges because he doesn't know what he's being investigated for," Kohler said.

In that respect, Houston has plenty of company.

On Tuesday, a defense attorney for convicted killer Dontae Morris expressed frustration in state court over the secrecy surrounding the Houston investigation.

Morris is scheduled to be sentenced May 30 for the shooting deaths of Tampa police Officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis on a traffic stop in 2010.

Houston supervised the crime scene back then and his court testimony filled more than 80 pages in a transcript of the trial.

Byron Hileman, who represents Morris in the death penalty case, wants Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente to delay the sentencing to see whether the federal investigation of Houston might impeach his credibility.

"I can't know if it's relevant or not," Hileman said. "We shouldn't be put in the position of having to guess."

Already, Morris' ex-girlfriend, Cortnee Brantley, won more time for an appeal because of the investigation of Houston, whose testimony helped convict her in federal court of failing to alert authorities that Morris was a felon with a loaded gun.

Morris' defense attorneys began Tuesday's hearing with a request for a six-week delay.

But Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon said he had learned that the U.S. Attorney's Office would not wrap up the grand jury investigation of Houston before Labor Day.

He discounted the importance of Houston's testimony at trial, citing examples of its corroboration by others or by evidence such as photographs.

He said he had been told by superiors at the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office and by the Tampa Police Department that the federal investigation "does not have anything to do with his work on this case or the Rodney Jones case."

Morris was also convicted of murdering Jones, 42, in 2010.

Judge Fuente said he would rule by the end of the week on the request to delay sentencing.

The police department has reviewed several cases that Houston helped investigate. Among them, he helped investigate the case against Julie Shenecker, currently on trial on charges she murdered her two children.

Patty Ryan can be reached at (813) 226-3382 or [email protected]

Correction: This story has been revised to correctly identify Police Benevolent Association general counsel Owen Kohler. His first name was incorrect in an earlier version.

Comments
Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

1. SS Willy Adames had a nice night, and there appear to be many more in his future. He had two hits, an RBI and an inning-ending leaping catch on a line drive by Didi Gregorius in the fifth.2. DH C.J. Cron needs to shake things up. Take a different ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Marc Anthony pays a visit to the Trop

Marc Anthony pays a visit to the Trop

By Allana BarefieldTimes Staff WriterST. PETERSBURG — Latin pop star Marc Anthony visited Tropicana Field on Friday to see his beloved Yankees play the Rays.Anthony spent nearly an hour on the field before the game as fans and players surrounde...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays journal: Daniel Robertson’s return crowds up infield

Rays journal: Daniel Robertson’s return crowds up infield

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays reinstated INF Daniel Robertson from the 10-day disabled list (left hamstring strain). To make room, RHP Austin Pruitt was sent to Triple-A Durham."It's out of my mind. I don't think about (the hamstring) when I'm bend...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Brady Singer, Gators eliminated by Arkansas at CWS

Brady Singer, Gators eliminated by Arkansas at CWS

Times wiresOMAHA, Neb.  —Defending champion Florida failed to win a third straight elimination game, losing to Arkansas 5-2 Friday night and departing the College World Series.The Gators (49-21) had to win to force a rematch. The Razorback...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays hang on for a 2-1 win over Yankees

Rays hang on for a 2-1 win over Yankees

ST. PETERSBURG – Many times this season the Rays' strategy of opening the game with a short reliever and using the bullpen to finish hasn't had much success.Friday wasn't one of those nights.A total of six pitchers held the Yankees and their va...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rowdies fall to Penn FC

Rowdies fall to Penn FC

By Darek SharpTimes CorrespondentST. PETERSBURG — For the second time this season, Penn FC got two goals from a former Rowdie that led the way to a win over Tampa Bay.Lucky Mkosana doubled his season total Friday in a comeback 2-1 win before an...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Ronald Darby’s friend: Jameis Winston got into second Uber ride alone

Ronald Darby’s friend: Jameis Winston got into second Uber ride alone

New details emerged Friday night about the Uber ride in Arizona in March 2016 that led to Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston's three-game suspension to start the upcoming season, including the fact that Winston was in a car that night with a former Vand...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Tampa boy, 14, shot on bike, police asking for help

Tampa boy, 14, shot on bike, police asking for help

TAMPA — Police want to know who shot 14-year-old De’Nico Thomas after a night of playing video games.Thomas was at a friend’s home Wednesday night and walking home when Tampa police said he was shot, resulting in life-threatening injuries.As he faces...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Carlton: That snake-like thing living under your refrigerator? It’s a skink. Welcome to Florida

Carlton: That snake-like thing living under your refrigerator? It’s a skink. Welcome to Florida

At first I thought it was a snake.Because wouldn’t it be typically Florida to come home and find a snake poking its nose out from under your stove? Which wouldn’t be a problem or anything. I would just have to move out is all.But no, the creature tha...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Man, 78, proposes to newfound love at ‘senior’ prom in Riverview

Man, 78, proposes to newfound love at ‘senior’ prom in Riverview

RIVERVIEWJaime Rodriguez, 78, popped the question Friday morning but skipped the "getting down on one knee" part."If I get on my knee, you’d have to help me," he told the emcee a moment before asking Luz Rivera to marry him.Rivera, 69, smiled and sai...
Updated: 10 hours ago