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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. Judge, attorneys visit Pasco theater where man was killed in cellphone dispute

    Criminal

    WESLEY CHAPEL

    One day three years ago, retired Tampa police Capt. Curtis Reeves sat in seat No. 9 of theater No. 10 of the Cobb Grove 16 cinemas. As previews rolled, he fired a gun during an escalating confrontation over a cellphone.

    On Friday, a circuit judge sat in seat No. 9, and for her benefit, the same previews rolled, starting with Sabotage.

    The fifth day of a high-profile "stand your ground" hearing opened at the movies before returning to Dade City's judicial center for an afternoon of testimony. Reeves, charged with second-degree murder in the death of Chad Oulson, 43, did not attend the outing, but attorneys did, and so did Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Susan Barthle....

    Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Susan Barthle sits Friday in seat No. 9, where Curtis Reeves sat on the day he fired a fatal shot at Chad Oulson during a confrontation at the Cobb Grove 16 Theaters in Wesley Chapel.
  2. Widow of man shot in Pasco theater says ex-cop was 'rude,' 'angry' and 'demanding' before he fired

    Criminal

    DADE CITY — Nicole Oulson, widow of the man who was killed in a Wesley Chapel movie theater, testified Thursday that Curtis Reeves was "rude," "angry" and "demanding" before he shot her husband.

    Oulson, who was seated next to Chad Oulson in a Cobb Grove 16 theater, said "it felt like an order" when Reeves asked her husband to turn off his cellphone during previews for the movie Lone Survivor....

    Curtis Reeves listens to court proceedings during State of Florida vs. Curtis Reeves at the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City, Fla., on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. Curtis Reeves shot and killed Chad Oulson in a movie theater dispute, but is seeking immunity from prosecution under the "Stand Your Ground" law. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  3. Wife of ex-cop says man he shot in Pasco theater was acting aggressively

    Criminal

    DADE CITY — Vivian Reeves, who sat beside her husband as he shot a man dead in a movie theater in 2014, testified in court Wednesday that the man had acted aggressively toward her husband and had cursed at him before gunfire erupted.

    "He used the word f- - - or f- - - - -," she said. "He was very loud."

    Her husband, Curtis Reeves, had asked the man to put away his cellphone during previews to the movie Lone Survivor....

    Vivian Reeves, wife of Curtis Reeves, makes her way to the witness stand during the "stand your ground" hearing at the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City on Wednesday, February 22, 2017, for her husband, who is charged with second-degree murder in the 2014 shooting of Chad Oulson. [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]
  4. 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.
  5. 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....

    Defendant Curtis Reeves, right, and his wife Vivian, center, talk to attorneys prior to his hearing on Monday at the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  6. 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....

    Pinky had served as one of the theme park's animal ambassadors. Her death generated outrage across Tampa Bay. [Busch Gardens Tampa Bay]
  7. 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, a former police captain, is arguing self-defense.
  8. 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....

    Kendrick Morris, now 25, committed two brutal rapes in east Hillsborough County at 16.
  9. 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....

    Rachael Brinton, a friend of Queena Vuong, pauses while reading a statement Thursday during the resentencing hearing for Kendrick Morris in Hillsborough Circuit Court.
  10. 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.
  11. 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 steps out of Orient Road Jail on Friday. He was picked up by Abe Brown Ministries, which will help him reintegrate into society. 
  12. 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]
  13. 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. ...

    From left, Kyle Moran, then 16, Michael Shawn DuPuis, then 15, and Floyd LaFountain, then 16, await a pretrial hearing in Tampa in the 1994 killing of Manny Huerta of Tampa.
  14. 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.
  15. 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....