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Dan Sullivan, Times Staff Writer

Dan Sullivan

Dan Sullivan covers Hillsborough County courts for the Tampa Bay Times. Since joining the Times in 2010, he has written about unsolved crimes, the opioid epidemic, gun control, and Florida's death row, among other topics. In 2014, he was a Livingston Award finalist for a story that examined a legal loophole that allows Florida to hold mentally challenged criminal defendants without trial. A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, he is a 2006 graduate of the University of Tampa, where he earned a degree in writing.

Phone: (813) 226-3386

Email: dsullivan@tampabay.com

Twitter: @TimesDan

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  1. In third day of Reeves case, theater manager describes moments before and after shooting

    Criminal

    DADE CITY — A movie theater manager described Wednesday morning how a quiet afternoon at the guest services desk during matinees in January 2014 exploded into chaos.

    Thomas Peck, manager at Cobb Grove 16, was sitting behind the desk when someone came out of theater 10 alarmed, he recalled for a judge and attorneys on the third day of a "stand your ground" hearing for murder defendant Curtis Reeves....

    Authorities say Curtis Reeves used this gun, a .380 caliber pistol, to shoot Chad Oulson in a Wesley Chapel movie theater. Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office
  2. Theater surveillance video emerges as key evidence during Pasco 'stand your ground' hearing

    Criminal

    DADE CITY — As patrons settled into their seats to watch a movie in theater No. 10 that day, they became part of the show.

    A pair of surveillance cameras mounted high on opposite walls captured the clearest picture authorities now have of the fatal shooting that happened Jan. 13, 2014, at Cobb Grove 16.

    The images were shown frame-by-frame, at varying speeds, to a judge in a Dade City courtroom Tuesday. They appear to depict retired Tampa police Capt. Curtis Reeves leaning forward in his seat, then shrinking back. They show another man's arm reaching out, grabbing Reeves' bag of popcorn and then tossing it at Reeves' face....

    Curtis Reeves sits with his defense attorneys Richard Escobar during a Stand Your Ground Hearing at the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City on Tues., Feb. 21, 2017. Video evidence is displayed on the table in front of them.  Retired police officer Curtis Reeves was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Chad Oulson inside the Cobb Grove 16 movie theaters in Wesley Chapel in 2014. If Reeves is granted Stand Your Ground protection, he is immune from criminal prosecution.
  3. Defense, prosecution offer different perspectives in Pasco theater 'stand your ground' hearing

    Criminal

    DADE CITY — Curtis Reeves sat in the middle of a darkened theater where patrons were watching previews for shoot-em-ups like Sabotage and Robocop. There was an argument about a cell phone, authorities said, then the former Tampa cop shot and killed another man.

    But on Monday, in a Pasco County courtroom, a judge heard a different version of the events. In this one, Reeves was an old man in declining health who acted out of fear when another man attacked him....

     Matthew Reeves, son of defendant  Curtis Reeves, describes to the court what he saw when his father shot Chad Oulson in the Cobb Grove 16 movie theater in Wesley Chapel. The inside of the movie theater where the shooting took place can be seen on a background monitor in court at the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City during Curtis Reeves' "Stand Your Ground" hearing.
  4. Man accused in killing of Pinky, Busch Gardens flamingo, found incompetent

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A man accused of fatally injuring Pinky, the Busch Gardens flamingo made famous through her dancing videos, is too mentally ill to go to trial, a judge declared Friday.

    Two doctors examined Joseph Corrao in recent weeks, concluding that the 45-year-old is incompetent to proceed toward trial on a charge of aggravated animal cruelty.

    Neither doctor was in court Friday morning. But Hillsborough Circuit Judge Tom Barber ordered that they should both appear at a future court date to discuss their findings and treatment options to restore Corrao to competency....

    Joseph Corrao said little at Friday’s hearing. Another hearing is set for March 22.
  5. Death in a Pasco theater: 'stand your ground'?

    Criminal

    If you believe Curtis Reeves, he was a scared old man who thought he was about to get beat up when Chad Oulson loomed over him in a dark Wesley Chapel theater.

    If you believe Nicole Oulson, her husband was calm as the "belligerent" Reeves pestered him about turning off his cellphone before the movie Lone Survivor.

    If you believe what was captured on a grainy surveillance video, Oulson's arm came toward Reeves an instant before the retired Tampa cop drew a pistol from his front pocket and fired a single shot....

    Curtis Reeves waits in handcuffs after the fatal shooting in a Wesley Chapel movie theater.
  6. Ex-Buc Steve White disputes assertions that he abused Bloomingdale rapist

    Courts

    TAMPA — Breaking his silence, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Steve White on Monday turned to Twitter to dispute assertions that he abused a boy who grew to be known as the Bloomingdale Library rapist.

    The matter first came up in 2008 when Kendrick Morris, then 16, was arrested for a pair of brutal east Hillsborough County rapes. It resurfaced Thursday when a pair of psychologists testified that Morris told of childhood physical and emotional abuse at the hands of White and Morris' mother, Lisa Stevens....

    Steve White had been in a relationship with the mother of the convicted attacker.
  7. Doctors say Bloomingdale rapist Kendrick Morris could be rehabilitated as state seeks life sentence

    Criminal

    TAMPA — For an entire morning, Kendrick Morris listened as a pair of doctors talked about how he is a man of above average intelligence, a survivor of childhood abuse, who regrets his teen crimes and is capable of living safely in society.

    "I am trying to learn to like myself," he wrote in prison. "But I have to think about what I did first."

    Then, in the afternoon, came the parade of tearful friends and relatives of a young woman that Morris raped outside a Bloomingdale library nine years ago....

    Deputies arrested Kendrick Morris in the assault at the Bloomingdale library. He was 16. Morris was 15 when he raped an elderly woman.
  8. Lawsuit alleges doctors misdiagnosed former Tampa councilwoman Helen Chavez before her 2014 death

    Civil

    TAMPA — The daughter of the late Helen Chavez, a Tampa restaurateur and former city council member, is suing the doctors who treated her mother just before her 2014 death, alleging they failed to adequately diagnose a life-threatening heart condition.

    Denise Chavez filed the lawsuit last week in Hillsborough Circuit Court. It alleges that Dr. Christine Torres and Kimberly Gore, a physician assistant, were negligent in their assessment and treatment of a skin condition Helen Chavez exhibited shortly before her death....

    Helen Chavez, a Tampa restaurateur and former city council member, died Aug. 2, 2014 at age 89.
  9. Man released from life sentence leaves Hillsborough jail with milk shake on his mind

    Crime

    TAMPA — Once condemned to life in prison, 39-year-old Floyd LaFountain walked out of a Hillsborough County jail on Friday, tasting freedom for the first time in 22 years.

    "I want to drink a milk shake and just maybe go to the beach," he said when asked about his plans.

    LaFountain had been locked up since age 16 for his role in a robbery in which a cohort pulled a gun and shot a man....

    Floyd LaFountain
  10. Life sentence lifted, man with teen role in fatal Tampa robbery now set to go free

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Until this week, Floyd LaFountain, 39, was condemned to spend the rest of his life in prison for a crime he committed at age 16.

    But on Wednesday, a judge decided he had been locked up long enough.

    Sometime in the next few days, LaFountain will go free.

    He was resentenced to 22 years in prison, time he has already served, for his role in a 1994 robbery in which someone else pulled a gun and killed 73-year-old Manuel Huerta of Tampa....

    Floyd LaFountain sits in court Wednesday before being resentenced to 22 years, time already served, and 15 years probation, in the death of Manuel Huerta in 1994. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |   Times]
  11. Sent to prison for life as teen, man could find freedom at 39

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Today, a man with a buzz cut and a few wrinkles in his forehead will stand in orange scrubs before a Hillsborough judge.

    He will hear lawyers explain that he's not the same mop-topped teenager he was 23 years ago, when he and two buddies, stinking of booze, burst into a home to rob its owner and left the man dead.

    Floyd LaFountain didn't pull the trigger that day, but he is serving the same sentence as the teen who did: life. ...

    Kendrick Morris, now 25, who was 16 when he committed two brutal rapes in east Hillsborough County and was sentenced to 65 years in prison, will ask for a new sentence Feb. 9. Prosecutors will seek life.
  12. Widespread use of senior judges questioned

    Courts

    TAMPA — The presiding judge in courtroom 510 in the George Edgecomb Courthouse retired eight years ago.

    Yet on a recent Wednesday morning, the Honorable Sandra Taylor — a black robe draping her shoulders — was busy working her $350-a-day part-time job.

    Unlike most of the other judges in the 13th Judicial Circuit, Taylor was never elected to the bench in Hillsborough County, nor was she appointed by the governor. In fact, she doesn't even live here....

    Senior Judge Sandra Taylor swears in a defendant in the foreclosure division of Hillsborough County Court this month. The foreclosure crisis of 2008 created a massive backlog of cases, and senior judges were brought in to relieve the logjam.
  13. Husband of disgraced Tampa police corporal accused in theft of tax refund

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A retired Tampa police officer faces federal charges over a check reported missing from an evidence room, and he isn't the first in his family to be accused.

    Thomas A. Hevel was charged last week with theft of government property and aggravated identity theft, stemming from the disappearance of a U.S. Treasury tax refund check for $4,550.

    The same check was one of more than 13 tax refund checks that Hevel's wife, Jeannette, a former Tampa police corporal, admitted to stealing from an evidence room last year when she pleaded guilty to federal charges....

  14. Mailers reopen rape victim's old wounds in Hillsborough state attorney race

    Politics

    TAMPA — With less than three weeks before the November election, fliers have landed in Hillsborough County mailboxes attacking the record of incumbent State Attorney Mark Ober on sex crime prosecutions.

    The mailers, sent by the state Democratic Party in support of challenger Andrew Warren, depict local residents voicing disgust over Ober's handling of two cases. The ads accuse him of letting rapists go free....

    A set of political fliers attacking Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober's record in sex crime cases has been making the rounds in the lead up to the November election. The fliers, like this one, depict citizens who are quoted saying Ober has lost their votes. Ober has called the ads distorted and misleading.
  15. 75 Tampa Bay area religious leaders call for end to death penalty in wake of Harvard report

    Criminal

    TAMPA — The names of those who signed the letter read like a who's who of the local religious community, with Catholics, Jews and various Protestant denominations represented.

    There was James Favorite, the pastor of Beulah Baptist International Church. There was Betsy Torop of Congregation Beth Shalom in Brandon. There was Bishop Robert Lynch of the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg....

     Hillsborough and Pinellas County faith leaders gathered for a press conference regarding the death penalty outside the Hillsborough County Courthouse in Tampa on Monday October 17, 2016.   After the press conference, the group took a letter to the State Attorney's office calling for the end of the death penalty.