TAMPA — Murder suspect Dontae Morris and his sometime girlfriend texted each other about hiding her car after the fatal shootings of two Tampa police officers, federal prosecutors revealed Friday.
"Just lean bak stay loyal," Morris wrote in a text message to Cortnee Brantley, according to a court document filed in her case.
"Of course," Brantley texted back, authorities say. "Til death do us part."
The court document, known as a bill of particulars, also said that Brantley, 22, sent numerous text messages to others following the officers' deaths early on the morning of June 29.
"U haven't seen me," she wrote, according to authorities. "U don't know where I'm at. … Please don't tell anyone anything. Erase these messages!"
Morris, 25, could be sentenced to death if convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab, who were killed after a traffic stop in East Tampa erupted in gunfire.
Brantley faces an obscure federal 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, saying that on the date the officers were killed, she knew that an unnamed felon illegally possessed a gun and bullets but did not tell authorities.
In response to a motion from defense attorney Grady Irvin, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Pizzo this week told the government to disclose what "acts it contends the defendant allegedly committed that knowingly and willfully concealed" the felony cited in the indictment.
Along with the text messages, prosecutors responded that Brantley, after seeing Morris, a felon with a loaded gun, execute the officers, she fled, removing evidence — her car — and disturbing the crime scene in the process.
She also refused to tell investigators whether Morris was the passenger in her car when she was stopped by police, officials say.
Brantley has pleaded not guilty to the amended charge.
In a response filed Friday night, Irvin said the government's bill of particulars shows why the case should be dismissed.
Irvin acknowledged that the state might charge Brantley with tampering with evidence under the scenario that federal prosecutors described.
But he added that she has a constitutional right not to incriminate herself in that crime, and he argued that she cannot be charged with misprision of a felony for exercising that right.
The actions that prosecutors describe "may clearly amount to irresponsible citizenship" and may be "contrary to accepted societal duties under normal circumstances," Irvin wrote.
But the circumstances the night of the shooting were not normal, he said
Brantley's silence was protected by her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, Irvin said, so the federal indictment should be dismissed.
Irvin made a similar set of arguments last week in a previous motion to dismiss the indictment.
U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. denied that motion less than 24 hours after Irvin filed it.
Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403.