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Case against Cortnee Brantley 'far from over,' Tampa police chief says

TAMPA — Police have not given up on the idea of bringing charges against Cortnee Brantley, who authorities say drove away after seeing her boyfriend shoot and kill two Tampa police officers.

A federal judge Thursday dismissed the lone charge against Brantley, 22, of Seffner.

"This case is far from over," Tampa police Chief Jane Castor said in a statement Friday.

"As we continue to investigate and develop new information, there is the strong possibility of additional charges against this suspect and any others who provided assistance to Dontae Morris," Castor said.

After shooting officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab, Morris ran into the night, eluding capture for four days, police say. Brantley drove away separately. If convicted, Morris, 25, can get the death penalty for the June 29 shootings.

After Castor's announcement, Brantley's attorney responded with a statement of his own.

"It's regrettable that on the heels of the federal judge's ruling she appears to be trying to pressure the elected state attorney to exact a vendetta against a person she knows full well had nothing to do with bringing about the unfortunate deaths of these officers," Grady Irvin Jr. said.

Irvin said one had to wonder whether the shootings of June 29 would have happened if Castor had exercised the same tenacity on May 18 or on June 8, when Morris is suspected of killing two other men, Harold Wright and Derek Anderson.

Irvin doubted it, "because Mr. Morris would have been behind bars."

Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy declined to respond to Irvin. Hillsborough state attorney's spokesman Mark Cox said he would not be drawn into commenting on Irvin's claim that police were trying to pressure prosecutors.

"We continue to confer and work closely with the Tampa Police Department on this complex case," Cox said. "We are of one accord on this case as we go forward."

Since Morris' arrest, police have been seeking additional information about who helped him hide until his arrest.

In the federal case dismissed Thursday, Brantley had pleaded not guilty to an unusual and archaic charge: misprision of a felony, which meant she was accused of covering up a serious crime.

Federal authorities charged that Brantley knew that Morris was a convicted felon who was illegally carrying a loaded gun on the date the officers were shot.

To make its case, the government had to show that Brantley knew about the crime and took a specific action to conceal it.

But U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. ruled that the evidence did not include any acts of concealment related to Brantley's knowledge of the gun.

With the federal charge dropped, Brantley's mother told the Times that she hopes her daughter can return to Hillsborough Community College and finish a degree in psychology.

"We'll just live life," Mischell Brantley said.

Times staff writer Robbyn Mitchell contributed to this report.

Case against Cortnee Brantley 'far from over,' Tampa police chief says 10/29/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 29, 2010 10:31pm]
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