TAMPA — What exactly is Cortnee Brantley accused of doing to cover up the fact that suspected cop-killer Dontae Morris was a felon in possession of a gun and ammunition?
U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Pizzo on Tuesday ordered federal prosecutors to answer that question in the next five days.
Pizzo's four-page order came in response to a request from defense attorney Grady Irvin for the answers to a series of detailed questions about the case.
Brantley, 22, of Seffner, faces a little-known charge known as misprision of a felony, which is punishable by up to three years in prison.
Last week, a federal grand jury issued an amended indictment against Brantley, Morris's sometime girlfriend, saying that on June 29, the day authorities say Morris killed two Tampa police officers, she knew an unnamed felon had a gun and bullets but did not tell authorities.
Brantley has pleaded not guilty to the amended charge.
Morris could be sentenced to death if convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab.
Pizzo denied most of Irvin's requests for additional details, but did rule that prosecutors must identify "the affirmative act or acts it contends the defendant allegedly committed that knowingly and willfully concealed" the felony in the indictment.
Citing federal case law, Pizzo wrote that "the mere failure to report a known felony would not violate" the misprision of a felony statute. And he said the indictment does not describe Brantley's "act or acts of concealment."
Irvin's request said he needs the information to prepare a defense and minimize surprise at trial. Pizzo wrote that the government's "bare bones" response to Irvin didn't address the defense argument by saying, for example, that it had revealed the acts of concealment in pre-trial discovery materials shared with the defense.
In the government's response, prosecutor James Preston Jr. did contend that, between the indictment, a complaint filed in the case and the discovery, Brantley "is sufficiently aware of facts supporting the charge against her."
Authorities have said Brantley drove away after Morris shot the officers during a traffic stop but did not call for help. During questioning later, she also refused to identify Morris as the shooter and would not tell police what she and Morris talked about in phone calls afterward.