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Driver Cortnee Brantley ready to cooperate in police shooting case, attorney says

TAMPA — That morning, Cortnee Brantley feared Dontae Morris. Her mother says so and her attorney does, too.

Yet in the hours after she fled the scene where two Tampa police officers were killed, Brantley spoke by phone to the man authorities believe pulled the trigger, according to federal court documents released Tuesday.

She wouldn't tell a detective the contents of her call with Morris. Nor would she identify Morris as the man seen on a police car video that recorded the shooting.

But with Brantley now jailed on a federal charge carrying a penalty of up to four years in prison, defense attorney Grady Irvin said his client will cooperate with investigators.

"She hated to have witnessed something like that," Irvin said. "She does not stand by what happened."

Brantley, 22, appeared in court Tuesday in an orange jail uniform. The government considers her a flight risk and wants her locked up while she awaits trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Preston said.

Grady, who said he was hired by Brantley's family Tuesday morning, requested a few days to prepare her case. U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas McCoun set a detention hearing for 2 p.m. Thursday.

Brantley is accused of failing to alert authorities that Morris, 24, was a felon with a gun. Tampa police say she drove away after Morris shot and killed Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab during a traffic stop June 29.

Morris fled on foot and evaded authorities for four days. He was arrested Friday night and charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of the officers and the May 18 shooting death of Derek Anderson in east Tampa.

Investigators determined that Morris used a firearm with .38-caliber ammunition in the police killings, an FBI agent wrote in a court affidavit. The bullets matched those used to kill Anderson, Tampa police have said.

Officials still haven't released details about Morris' capture at a South Tampa law firm, or whether the person who led police to him will receive the $100,000 reward.

Police spokesmen referred questions Tuesday to Chief Jane Castor, who said she would hold a "wrap-up" press conference with Mayor Pam Iorio at 11 a.m. today. The mayor said there may be some information about the investigation that police don't want to share.

Representatives from the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service and CrimeStoppers of Tampa Bay said they are waiting for information from police that will help them decide how and whether to disburse the reward money.

Those details will be used to "make the final determination and coordinate our payment of the reward," FBI spokesman Dave Couvertier wrote in an e-mail.

Federal court documents made public Tuesday shed more light on Brantley's actions.

After the shooting, Brantley said, she drove directly to an apartment complex where investigators found her about 10 hours later.

During questioning, Brantley identified herself as the driver of the 1994 Toyota Camry involved in the traffic stop. She admitted she never reported the shooting to emergency workers or law enforcement.

Authorities say she knew Morris was a felon, and they've got a photograph to prove it.

Brantley visited Morris more than once while he served prison time on cocaine charges, visitor logs show.

During a visit at the Mayo Correctional Institution in January, she posed for a picture with Morris, his child and two of his siblings, Dwayne and Audra Callaway.

"This establishes Brantley's prior knowledge of Morris' felony convictions," a criminal affidavit said.

Kareem Hunter, 24, attended Brantley's court hearing Tuesday. He told reporters that he has known her for 10 years. He described her as intelligent but said she still did things her mother told her not to do — namely, staying out late and dating Morris.

"You meet someone and you think he's the one," Hunter said. "She was trying to help him."

Hunter said Brantley's pride kept her from initially cooperating with authorities who were looking for Morris.

She "had to be a tough girl," he said.

Brantley's attorney contends she was in shock.

"She was afraid for her life," Irvin said. "She's afraid of this person."

Times staff writers Jessica Vander Velde and Nandini Jayakrishna contributed to this report. Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Driver Cortnee Brantley ready to cooperate in police shooting case, attorney says 07/06/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 7, 2010 8:24am]

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