Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Dontae Morris attorney likens Hillsborough jail to Guantanamo

TAMPA — Dontae Morris' attorney is once again fighting for his client's visitation privileges, this time likening Morris' jailhouse isolation to the treatment of Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

Morris should be presumed innocent and treated humanely despite the emotionally charged case against him, attorney Byron Hileman wrote in a motion filed this month.

Morris is accused of killing five people, including Tampa police Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab. The officers were gunned down during a traffic stop on June 29, 2010.

Morris lost his phone and video visitation privileges in March amid allegations that he tried from a jail phone to find out what his ex-girlfriends were telling police.

Over the summer, jail officials allowed Morris' mother and maternal grandmother to talk to him through remote video conferences, but he lost that privilege after he violated a jail rule, said Morris' attorney, Byron Hileman.

That privilege was suspended from Sept. 19 to Oct. 10, said Col. Jim Previtera, who is in charge of the county's jails. And it's because Morris used a computer monitor — available to any inmate — to schedule video conferences he knew family members would not be attending.

"He knew it would get him out of his cell," Previtera said.

For each scheduled visit, the pod would go into lockdown and several deputies would have to work to safely move Morris to the video terminal.

Previtera said it was a waste of employee resources. At a Nov. 15 hearing, he plans to present evidence that Morris acted deliberately.

Hileman said he wasn't clear on the jail's accusations. He said he wants to keep Morris focused on his case, not on "side issues."

In the motion, Hileman writes that Morris' isolation has been wearing on his emotional stability and has become his overriding focus.

"Any time that a defendant gets preoccupied with side issues … it interferes with what my job is, which is preparation for the trial," Hileman said.

He also said Morris' sister and paternal grandparents want to be included in the video conferences.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at or (813) 226-3433.

Dontae Morris attorney likens Hillsborough jail to Guantanamo 10/25/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 11:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. SI ranks Quinton Flowers on top 100, above Deondre Francois


    Sports Illustrated's ongoing countdown of the top 100 players in college football includes some high praise for USF quarterback Quinton Flowers.

  2. What to watch this weekend: 'GLOW,' second season of 'Preacher'


    Ready to rumble: GLOW

    Four words: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Yes, the fluorescent, body-slamming soap opera GLOW starring a cast of exaggerated characters is back, this time as a fictionalized Netflix series. Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men) stars as Ruth, a down-on-her-luck actor …

    Alison Brie, left, and Betty Gilpin in GLOW on Netflix.
  3. Exploratory Lab Boot Camp provides real-life technology training to students


    CLEARWATER — At this graduation ceremony featuring some of the brightest local minds in tech, it was the youngsters who stood out.

    Laszlo Leedy, 17, a senior at Shorecrest Prep, presents part of his team's project for SPC's Exploratory Lab Boot Camp. Students presented their ideas at the end of the SPC Exploratory Lab Boot Camp. The program provides real-time business training to students. This year's graduation celebrated 15 students that finished the program. 
[JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  4. Editorial: Trump, not military, should set troop levels in Afghanistan


    There is no task more solemn for any American president than the decision to send troops off to war. In delegating authority over troops levels in Afghanistan to the Pentagon, President Donald Trump has shirked his obligation to own and defend his Afghan policy, while further divorcing America's military strategy there …

  5. North Korea says it's 'biggest victim' in U.S. student's death (w/video)


    SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Friday called itself the "biggest victim" in the death of an American student who was detained for more than a year and died days after being released in a coma.

    Mourners line the street after the funeral of Otto Warmbier, Thursday, June 22, 2017, in Wyoming, Ohio. Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate student who was sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years in prison with hard labor in North Korea, died this week, days after returning to the United States. [Associated Press]