Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Probe of Tampa detective a windfall for Cortnee Brantley

Cortnee Brantley was sentenced in relation to Dontae Morris’ fatal police officer shootings.

Cortnee Brantley was sentenced in relation to Dontae Morris’ fatal police officer shootings.

TAMPA — A year ago, a federal judge decided that prison could wait until a higher court ruled on Cortnee Brantley's appeal.

Prison continues to wait.

Her appellate brief hasn't even been filed.

Brantley's life took a brutal turn in 2010 when a passenger in her car, Dontae Morris, killed two Tampa police officers on a traffic stop. Morris was sentenced to death. Brantley was sentenced to 366 days in prison for helping to conceal that he was a felon with a gun and bullets.

But ammunition for Brantley's continued freedom has come from an odd corner: the unrelated federal probe of a former Tampa detective who helped investigate the officers' deaths.

For the third time in three months, Brantley's attorney has cited the pending case against former Tampa police Detective Eric Houston as grounds to seek a delay in Brantley's appeal.

That's on top of three earlier delays for more mundane reasons, from a law office relocation to the attorney's busy caseload.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has not yet answered the latest request. The U.S. Attorney's Office has opposed all three of the delays related to Houston.

"Brantley remains on release pending appeal," Assistant U.S. Attorney David Rhodes wrote in a response filed Tuesday, "and she seemingly has no incentive to prosecute her appeal, which has now been pending for more than a year without a brief being filed."

Houston was a government witness in the Brantley case. He oversaw the crime scene after the officers were shot.

Now, stripped of his badge, the ex-cop is the target of a federal grand jury investigation. The only publicly released document in his case appears to link him and others to stolen identity tax refund fraud enabled by large-scale use of law enforcement databases.

Houston has maintained his innocence. Through his attorney, Wade Whidden, he declined to comment about his name being invoked to win delays for Brantley's appeal.

Brantley's defense attorney, Grady Irvin, notes in the request for a filing extension that Houston was the first law enforcement officer to speak with her after the police shootings.

"While the detective has yet to be indicted, published reports are that the detective's conduct appears to bear on issues of credibility (i.e., truthfulness, honesty, false statements, etc.)," Irvin wrote.

A federal jury convicted Brantley in January 2013. Three weeks later, the trial judge, U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr., ruled that the verdict was plausible by the "thinnest of legal threads" and found Brantley guilty.

He sentenced her in June 2013. But the next month, before she had reported to a prison, he extended her bail, leaving open the possibility that an appellate court might disagree with the verdict.

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

Probe of Tampa detective a windfall for Cortnee Brantley 07/02/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 9:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Students at middle school pretend to rape black classmates on Snapchat


    The Snapchat had just about every offensive topic the middle school students could cram into a video clip: race-based simulated sexual assaults, profanity-laced slurs and repulsive language that shocked whoever the intended audience was - and, eventually, many more people.

    Students at a Virginia middle school pretended to rape other students on video, which was shared on Snapchat. Reports say white members of a football team enacted the rape scenes while in the locker room. This photo of a standard locker room is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
  2. Seminole Heights restaurants face struggles amid killings, post-Irma

    Food & Dining

    SEMINOLE HEIGHTS — The neighborhood's hip circle of popular, well-regarded restaurants is feeling the squeeze in the wake of a recent killing spree. And the timing is rough.

    Ella's American Folk Art Cafe. Times files
  3. St. Pete-Clearwater holding food, supply drive for hurricane refugees


    CLEARWATER — St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are holding a food and supply drive for the Hispanic Outreach Center in Pinellas County. The event, which will benefit refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria, will be held Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the airport at 14700 Terminal Blvd.

    St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are hosting a food and supplies drive Tuesday for refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria. | [Times file photo]
  4. A buzz-worthy look at the Astros-Dodgers World Series matchup

    The Heater

    Houston Astros' Yuli Gurriel is congratulated by Jose Altuve after scoring during the fifth inning of Game 7 of baseball's American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) TXMG170
  5. Florida, FSU try to ignore death threats, angry fans


    GAINESVILLE — Frustration over uncharacteristically down seasons at Florida and Florida State has started to spill over from message boards and start crossing real-world lines.

    Fans watch the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Fla. At the half, Florida was up 10 to 3.