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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. Retired Tampa police officer pleads guilty to theft of treasury check

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A retired lawman and husband of a disgraced Tampa police detective admitted Thursday that he cashed a U.S. Treasury check his wife had stolen from an evidence room.

    Thomas A. Hevel pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to a single charge of theft of government property related to the disappearance of the $4,550 check.

    His plea agreement tied the theft to his wife, Jeanette Hevel, a former Tampa police sergeant who was convicted in 2013 of stealing several tax refund checks that were made payable to other people....

  2. Seeking to break legal logjam, judge asks for list of Scientologists to arbitrate church lawsuit

    Civil

    TAMPA — More than two years ago, a federal judge in a high profile lawsuit against the Church of Scientology told both sides to settle the matter outside court.

    Since then, the case has gone nowhere because neither party can agree on an arbitrator.

    So now the judge in Tampa plans to pick three random Scientologists in California and ask them to resolve the case.

    "Candidly, my sense is that you are not cooperating in the selection of an arbitrator," U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore told the parties in a court hearing this month. "This case will be arbitrated and I have explored avenues that I can follow, if you will, in forcing you to do this."...

    The Church of Scientology's seven-story Flag Building (decorated with red ribbon) dominates an entire block of downtown Clearwater, west of South garden Avenue, south of Pierce Street. Also known as the "Super Power" building, the structure is to Scientologists what the Vatican represents for Catholics or the Mormon Tabernacle to Mormons, according to church spokeswoman Pat Harney. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times

  3. Man with alleged ISIS sympathies accused of plotting to kill federal judge in Tampa

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Jason Jerome Springer hated a federal judge so much that he talked about flying an "explosive-packed drone" into her office, court papers say. He tried to learn her home address and told an inmate at the Pinellas County Jail that he considered it his mission to kill her.

    The 39-year-old Valrico man is an ISIS sympathizer, federal authorities say, one who has previously written on Facebook that "death is the best teacher."...

    Jason Jerome Springer, 39, is accused of threatening to kill U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich, 80.
  4. Richard Lilliston convicted in scheme to divert $683,599 from disabled clients of HARC

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Richard Lilliston said he knew nothing about the financial misdeeds that occurred during his tenure as chief executive of the Hillsborough Association for Retarded Citizens.

    He didn't know his chief accountant, Frank Pannullo, was diverting their disabled clients' Social Security deposits.

    A federal jury didn't buy it.

    On Wednesday, jurors convicted Lilliston of conspiring to defraud the Social Security Administration, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore scheduled his sentencing for September....

    Here's the "before" photo in a pair of before-and-after photos that former HARC CEO Richard Lilliston once used to illustrate renovations to group homes operated by the now-defunct program. Lilliston has previously said he raised more than $10 million for the agency in about 15 years. But handling of Social Security money brought federal charges.  [Times file]
  5. Ex-CFO of Hillsborough program for disabled adults says ex-CEO knew of fiscal misdeeds

    Criminal

    TAMPA — The man who for years managed the finances of a Hillsborough County program for the disabled said Wednesday that his boss knew they were diverting funds from their clients' Social Security payments to cover operating expenses.

    Frank Pannullo, who was the chief financial officer for the now-defunct Hillsborough Association for Retarded Citizens, testified at the federal trial of the agency's former chief executive, Richard Lilliston, who is charged with conspiring to defraud the Social Security Administration....

    Richard Lilliston was CEO of the now-defunct Hillsborough Association for Retarded Citizens.
  6. How might 'stand your ground' changes have affected the Curtis Reeves theater shooting case?

    Criminal

    The story is a familiar one by now: A retired Tampa police captain asked a fellow moviegoer to shut off his phone. Popcorn flew. The ex-cop pulled a gun.

    Curtis Reeves, 74, claimed it was self-defense in 2014 when he killed Chad Oulson in a Pasco County movie theater. But he couldn't prove it to a judge earlier this year.

    The Florida House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday making it less difficult for people like Reeves to make such claims using the state's "stand your ground" law. The burden, instead, would be on prosecutors to prove that a criminal case should proceed if a person accused of violence against someone else claims they acted in self-defense....

    Curtis Reeves’ “stand your ground” case may have been different if the burden of proof wasn’t his.
  7. Former St. Petersburg postal worker gets nine years in prison for theft of Social Security checks

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A former U.S. Postal Service mail handler was ordered to serve nine years in prison Wednesday for stealing close to $3 million in Social Security checks from a St. Petersburg mail-processing facility.

    Stacy Darnell Mitchell, 48, once worked at the St. Petersburg Processing and Distribution Facility, where over the course of several months in 2012, he stole more than 3,000 checks. Their intended recipients were all Pinellas County residents....

    Stacy Darnell Mitchell worked at a 
St. Petersburg  mail facility.
  8. Former accounting firm owner gets two years in federal prison for tax fraud scheme

    Criminal

    TAMPA — The former owner of a national accounting firm that did business in Tampa Bay was sentenced to two years in federal prison Monday for orchestrating a complicated tax fraud scheme that netted more than $4 million.

    Walter Drakeford, 72, pleaded guilty to a charge of interfering with the administration of Internal Revenue laws. His defense had asked for a community-based sentence, citing Drakeford's frail health....

  9. Eric Houston enters guilty plea, but will the ex-Tampa cop now testify against his wife?

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Will Eric Houston testify against his wife?

    It was one of the questions a federal district judge couldn't get answered last week before rejecting the former Tampa police detective's plea agreement.

    Another judge asked the same question this week.

    The answer: No one seems to know. Not Houston's attorney. Not the federal prosecutor leading the tax fraud conspiracy case against the couple. Not even LaJoyce Houston herself. ...

    Former Tampa police officers Eric Houston and his wife LaJoyce Houston enter federal court in Tampa in October 2015. They were indicted on charges involving stolen identity and tax refund fraud. [Times file (2015)]
  10. Cortnee Brantley, former girlfriend of Dontae Morris, ends latest string of court appearances with plea deal

    Courts

    TAMPA — The long legal odyssey of Cortnee Brantley, the infamous former paramour of a notorious Tampa cop-killer, reached a quiet conclusion Tuesday morning in a crowded courtroom.

    Donning a black-and-white striped blouse, her hair fixed in close-cropped waves, the one-time girlfriend of Dontae Morris pleaded guilty to a criminal mischief charge. Circuit Judge Lisa Campbell sentenced her to time already served, with credit for the 31 days she spent in jail after her January 2016 arrest....

    Cortnee Brantley, center, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor criminal mischief charge, stemming from an incident in January 2016.   [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  11. Man accused of mother's murder will be held without bail

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Joshua Carmona, the man accused of beating and stabbing his mother to death last week in Riverview, will stay in jail as the case against him moves through court.

    A defense attorney announced in a brief hearing Monday morning that Carmona would not contest the state's request that he be held without bail. Hillsborough Circuit Judge Margaret Taylor subsequently issued an order that Carmona continue to be detained....

    Joshua Leon Carmona fatally beat 39-year-old Tahirih Lua D’Angelo with a baseball bat then stabbed her in the neck with a butcher knife at the townhouse where they lived, 6916 Hawthorne Trace Lane, according to an arrest report. [Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office]
  12. USF defensive back Hassan Childs arrested in Tampa road-rage incident

    Crime

    TAMPA — University of South Florida football player Hassan Childs has been arrested on assault and marijuana-possession charges in the wake of a suspected road-rage incident late Saturday that left him with gunshot wounds.

    Tampa police said Monday that Childs, 22, was shot after he twice pointed a gun at a car carrying a family of three.

    He faces three counts of aggravated assault and one count of misdemeanor marijuana possession. He was placed under arrest at a local hospital, where he was undergoing treatment....

    USF defensive back Hassan Childs was shot three times in the arm and torso Saturday night.
  13. Tampa Bay's state attorneys say 17 local death row inmates could be eligible for resentencing

    Criminal

    One man raped a woman, slit her throat, then tried to wash his DNA off her body with cleaning chemicals and lighter fluid.

    Another raped and mutilated a 94-year-old woman in her home, then set her body on fire.

    A third stabbed his wife and stepdaughter to death, donning a painter's suit to dispose of their remains.

    All were sentenced to death, but not by unanimous juries.

    More than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court declared Florida's death penalty law unconstitutional, the men are among at least 17 death row inmates from the Tampa Bay area whom local state attorneys have identified as likely to be resentenced....

    Charles Peterson shot and killed a man during a robbery at a Big Lots store in St. Petersburg on Christmas Eve 1997. The jury voted 8-4 for death.
  14. Tampa mother freed after judge finds 'deceptive police practices' in child's death investigation

    Criminal

    TAMPA — When a 1-year-old boy died after suffering massive internal injuries, Tampa police pointed to his 24-year-old pregnant mother as the killer.

    Quanyisha Thompson, they said, admitted punching her son in the stomach before he died three years ago. She was arrested on murder and child abuse charges.

    But those charges were quietly dropped this week, days before Thompson was to go to trial. Instead, she pleaded guilty to a charge of child neglect....

    Quanyisha Thompson has pleaded guilty to child neglect in the death of her 1-year-old.
  15. Florida Supreme Court overturns Hillsborough man's death sentence in woman's 2007 stabbing

    Criminal

    The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the death sentence of a man who raped and fatally stabbed a Seff­ner mother of three in 2007.

    While the court upheld the murder conviction of Kenneth Ray Jackson, it ordered that he be resentenced because the jury's recommendation that he receive the death penalty was not unanimous.

    Jackson's is the first Hillsborough County death sentence to be overturned as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Hurst vs. Florida, which invalidated the state's procedure for imposing the death penalty. ...