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Federal appeals court reinstates indictment in Tampa cop killings

TAMPA — A federal appeals court has reinstated the indictment against Cortnee Brantley, who had been charged over her alleged role in a traffic stop that ended with the killings of two Tampa police officers.

A federal judge in Tampa dismissed the indictment in October 2010.

Police have said Brantley, then 22, drove away after a traffic stop in which Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab were shot and killed on June 29, 2010. Authorities also accuse Brantley of concealing the fact that her boyfriend, shooting suspect Dontae Morris, was a felon with a gun.

Brantley of Seffner had been charged with misprision of a felony. The crime of misprision requires "knowledge of a crime and some affirmative act of concealment or participation," the U.S. Attorney's Office said Friday.

In October 2010, a federal district judge in Tampa ruled that the government had failed to show that Brantley not only knew about the gun but took some specific act to conceal it. He dismissed the charge.

U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill appealed the case to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

On Thursday, that court ruled the district court had no authority to dismiss the indictment before trial based on its view of the sufficiency of the evidence.

Brantley's attorney, Grady Irvin, noted that the appeals court did not rule on the merits of the case against his client. Instead, the court said the Tampa district judge had dismissed the indictment too early in the process.

Irvin said that at the midpoint of the criminal trial he can tell the judge that the government's evidence, even if taken as true, does not add up to a crime.

"It is at that point a judge can grant the relief that has been sought by Ms. Brantley all along, a dismissal of the case," Irvin said in a written statement.

Tampa police Chief Jane Castor released a statement Friday on the latest development in the case.

"We appreciate the continued efforts of the U.S. Attorney's Office in holding Cortnee Brantley accountable for the role she played in the murders of Officer Dave Curtis and Officer Jeff Kocab," Castor said. "No matter the outcome of this case, it will not ease the pain of losing two members of our law enforcement family."

Morris has been charged with murder in the officers' deaths and is awaiting trial in state court.

Reach Jodie Tillman at jtillman@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374.

Federal appeals court reinstates indictment in Tampa cop killings 02/17/12 [Last modified: Friday, February 17, 2012 11:23pm]
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