Morris' aunt will appeal firing from Tampa police, lawyer says

TAMPA — If former Tampa police employee Carolyn Riggins had her hearing in court, things might have been different.

But at Tuesday's personnel hearing, held to decide if she would keep her civilian job with the Tampa Police Department, the specific evidence against her was not made public.

Riggins' attorney said he had no idea how police determined she had worked against them during the manhunt for cop killer suspect Dontae Morris, her nephew.

"The Police Department would not divulge their information," lawyer James Mancuso said. "They said that it's protected because there's an ongoing criminal investigation involving Mr. Morris."

On Tuesday, the Police Department announced that Riggins, 45, hindered the manhunt. Police said she didn't reveal her daughter had a close friendship with Morris, fed information to her daughter and withheld the whereabouts of people officers were looking for. Police would not release further details. Mancuso said that at the hearing, Maj. Marc Hamlin told him the evidence is currently protected by law.

Mancuso said he asked to postpone the disciplinary hearing until that evidence was public. Instead, police fired Riggins.

Riggins plans to appeal, Mancuso said.

In criminal court, Mancuso represents Riggins' daughter, Alaina Riggins, and Dwayne Callaway, Morris' brother.

While police were searching for Morris, they were also looking for Callaway. The younger Riggins and Callaway were arrested together July 2 and charged with drug and weapons violations.

Mancuso said Carolyn Riggins didn't know the whereabouts of anyone wanted for questioning in the manhunt.

"And there's no evidence that her daughter has had contact with Mr. Morris. I've never seen one lick of evidence," he said. "That certainly wasn't presented at the hearing."

He said she would never purposefully hinder a police investigation.

"She liked her job there," he said.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Morris' aunt will appeal firing from Tampa police, lawyer says 07/14/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 15, 2010 7:40am]

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