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Judge denies motion to dismiss case against girlfriend of Dontae Morris

TAMPA — A federal judge Monday denied a defense motion to dismiss a charge against Cortnee Brantley accusing her of failing to fully aid authorities who say her boyfriend, Dontae Morris, killed two Tampa police officers.

U.S. District Court Judge James Moody, who expressed reservations about the charge against Brantley during a trial last month, denied without comment a defense motion for a judgment of acquittal.

Moody had declared a mistrial in that case after a deadlocked jury failed to reach a verdict during eight hours of deliberations over two days.

That clears the way for Brantley, 24, of Seffner to be retried on a federal charge that she failed to report that Morris was a felon with a gun and ammunition and then acted to conceal that from authorities after the shooting.

Federal prosecutors have said they will retry Brantley, but a trial date has not been set.

Morris is charged with killing Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab on the early morning of June 29, 2010, after Curtis stopped Brantley's car on 50th Street for not having a license plate. Morris was Brantley's passenger.

The officers were trying to arrest Morris on a bad check warrant. But Morris had recently been questioned by detectives investigating a murder and may have thought he was being arrested for that crime.

After the shooting, Morris ran and eluded the largest manhunt in Tampa history for about four days. Brantley fled in her Toyota Camry, but was located later the same day of the killings.

After the close of testimony at the trial, Moody said he questioned whether prosecutors had proved Brantley took steps to conceal from police that Morris was a felon in possession of a gun and ammunition — a requirement for the charge she faces.

The judge said the fact that Brantley refused to identify Morris for investigators as the person who killed the officers was not enough, by itself, to convict her.

But Moody delayed a decision on the motion to dismiss the charge until after the trial ended.

Moody had dismissed the charge in 2010, saying prosecutors could not prove concealment. But an appeals court later reinstated it and said Moody should have ruled only after hearing evidence at trial.

Brantley and her attorney, Grady Irvin Jr., could not be reached to comment. The office of U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill declined to comment.

Irvin argued at trial that Brantley, the car roof blocking her view, was not even sure that Morris had shot and killed the officers and suggested that she might have fled out of fear of Morris.

Irvin told jurors that police knew within minutes of arriving at the scene they were looking for Morris, rendering an identification by Brantley meaningless.

Prosecutors said Brantley and Morris exchanged calls and a text message shortly after the killings with Brantley pledging silence.

If convicted, Brantley faces up to three years in prison.

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@tampabay.com.

Judge denies motion to dismiss case against girlfriend of Dontae Morris 08/06/12 [Last modified: Monday, August 6, 2012 9:10pm]
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