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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. 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.
  2. 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. ...

  3. Man accused in death of Busch Garden flamingo ordered to in-home competency training

    Criminal

    TAMPA — The man accused of killing a beloved Busch Gardens flamingo drinks alcohol frequently, doesn't always take his psychiatric medication and has a history of trouble with the law, attorneys told a judge Wednesday.

    Those issues were the focus of a court hearing at which Circuit Judge Tom Barber ordered Joseph Corrao to undergo in-home competency training before the animal cruelty case against him can continue....

    Police arrested a man in the death of Pinky the flamingo. Joseph Anthony Corrao was visiting the park with his family, police said. [Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, via Associated Press]
  4. Judge rejects plea deal in fraud case against former Tampa cop Eric Houston

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A judge refused to accept a plea agreement Wednesday in the case of a former Tampa police detective accused of conspiring with an informer to commit tax refund fraud.

    Senior U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara said the agreement prosecutors negotiated with Eric Houston "does not reflect the seriousness of the case."

    Houston, 56, appeared in court to admit to one charge — that he used money a former police informer obtained through stolen-identity tax refund fraud to pay off a credit card debt. ...

    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)]
  5. Tampa man gets seven years in scheme to sell $3 million in stolen Social Security checks

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A man who admitted to his role in a scheme to sell almost $3 million in Social Security checks was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in federal prison.

    Richard Lee Anderson, 38, claimed he wasn't aware of just how serious his crime was.

    "I'm sorry for everybody that I hurt," Anderson said. "I was drinking … I didn't realize I was I was in this much trouble, sir."

    Prosecutors said Anderson was involved in fencing the stolen checks, which he obtained from Stacy Darnell Mitchell, a former Postal Service employee who worked at a mail processing facility in St. Petersburg....

    Richard Lee Anderson, 38, said his troubles were the result of falling in with the wrong crowd.
  6. Trevor Summers, accused of holding wife in captivity, to remain jailed

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Trevor Summers, who is accused of kidnapping his estranged wife, holding her against her will for two days and trying to kill her, will not be getting out of jail anytime soon.

    Summers, 39, was scheduled to appear Monday morning for a bond hearing, but his public defender said he would not challenge a prosecutor's request that he be held in jail.

    His wife, Alisa Summers, attended the brief court hearing, flanked by a victim's advocate from the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office....

    Trevor Summers’ lawyer did not challenge the request.
  7. Father's note to kids of kidnapped mom: We'll be watching from heaven

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Investigators searching an SUV after the rescue of Alisa Summers on Monday found a chilling letter written by her captor-husband, addressed to their five children.

    In it, Trevor Summers rued the divorce that had torn the family apart.

    "So we have ended it for your sake," he wrote, according to court documents. "We wish you the best in everything you do and will be watching you from heaven."...

    Trevor Summers also admitted holding his wife against her will Feb. 18, detectives say.
  8. Former Tampa police detective admits in plea agreement to using stolen money to pay debt

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A disgraced Tampa police detective admitted in a federal plea agreement that he used money from fraudulently obtained tax refunds to pay off more than $5,000 in credit card debt.

    The agreement was filed late Tuesday in the case of Eric Houston, a once-respected homicide detective with the Tampa Police Department. He was fired in 2014 amid revelations that he was the target of a federal investigation....

    Former Tampa Police officers Eric Houston and his wife LaJoyce Houston walk into the Sam Gibbons U.S. District Courthouse in Tampa in 2015. The couple face charges relating to stolen identity tax refund fraud. On Tuesday, Eric Houston admitted in a federal plea agreement that he used money from fraudulently obtained tax refunds to pay off more than $5,000 in credit card debt. [SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES]
  9. W. Stephen Muldrow becomes acting U.S. Attorney for Middle District of Florida

    Courts

    TAMPA — W. Stephen Muldrow, a federal prosecutor best known for handling the case of a doctor's son who tricked a woman into taking an abortion pill, will serve as the acting U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida.

    Muldrow, 52, previously served as the first assistant to U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III. Bentley resigned Monday at the request of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who asked for the resignations of 46 U.S. attorneys nationwide appointed under former President Barack Obama....

  10. Man gets 12 years in DUI crash that killed Plant City mother

    Criminal

    TAMPA — One evening in 2015, a Dodge Avenger sped east along a rural stretch of State Road 60, south of Plant City, topping 90 mph. In the passenger area was an empty Bacardi bottle and receipts for wine. At the wheel was Brian DeFreitas, a Brandon dance instructor who was heading home to Lakeland. He was drunk.

    Near the intersection of Cable Road, the Avenger slammed into the back of a Chevrolet pickup truck, sending it tumbling out of control. Its driver, Maria Luisa Olivas, 45, was thrown out. Her 9-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter were injured. The mother later died at a hospital....

    Brian DeFreitas is seen during a plea hearing in front of Hillsborough Circuit Judge Samantha Ward, during which he pleaded guilty to counts of DUI manslaughter and DUI causing serious bodily injury, at the Hillsborough County courthouse in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, March 13, 2017.  [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  11. Judge rejects 'stand your ground' in Curtis Reeves case, pushing case toward trial

    Criminal

    Circuit Judge Susan Barthle didn't buy the argument that Curtis Reeves killed Chad Oulson in self-defense.

    She didn't believe the former Tampa police captain was scared of Oulson, that Oulson threw a cell phone at Reeves or punched him in the face, or that Oulson was "virtually on top of him" in a crowded Wesley Chapel movie theater when Reeves drew a gun.

    On Friday, the judge issued an order denying Reeves' request for immunity from prosecution under Florida's "stand your ground" law....

    Curtis Reeves Jr. takes the stand to testify during his "stand your ground" hearing in Dade City on Feb. 28. The former Tampa Police Department captain shot and killed Chad Oulson in 2014 over the use of Oulson's cellphone during a confrontation inside a Wesley Chapel theater. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  12. Convicted Bloomingdale rapist Kendrick Morris sentenced to life in prison

    Criminal

    TAMPA — In the same spot where he stood six years ago, the Bloomingdale rapist raised his chin and closed his eyes.

    Before the same judge, Kendrick Morris listened, once again, to the details. He heard how he had raped a day care worker at knifepoint, how he had later done the same to a high school senior outside a library.

    The last time Morris was here, the judge's hands were tied....

    Anna Donato, sister of the Bloomingdale library rape victim, wipes a tear from her eye during the resentencing hearing.
  13. Defense says Reeves 'stand your ground' shooting case about 'perception,' state says 'retaliation'

    Criminal

    DADE CITY — To the defense, Curtis Reeves' "stand your ground'' case is about perception — how the retired Tampa cop perceived the danger he faced before he drew a gun in a crowded movie theater and shot Chad Oulson in the chest, killing him.

    To the state, the Reeves case is about retaliation — how a former authority figure with a bruised ego wanted to get back at Oulson for throwing a bag of popcorn in his face....

    Defense attorney Richard Escobar, left, talks with client Curtis Reeves before the start of his "stand your ground" hearing at the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City, Florida, on Tuesday, February 28, 2017. Reeves, a retired Tampa Police Department captain, shot and killed Chad Oulson, 43, over the use of his cellphone during a confrontation inside the Cobb Grove 16 theaters in Wesley Chapel, Florida in 2014. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  14. 'Throw popcorn in my face,' some heard Reeves say at time of movie theater shooting

    Criminal

    DADE CITY — Right about the time that Curtis Reeves drew a pistol and shot Chad Oulson in the chest, killing him, three different people heard Reeves say something about popcorn.

    "Throw popcorn in my face," was what Mark Turner, a retired Air Force officer, recalled hearing from his spot at the end of Reeves' row inside Cobb Grove 16 cinemas three years ago.

    Charles Cummings, one row down from Reeves, heard the popcorn comment, too. So did Derek Friedhoff, a few rows down. He said it was prefaced by "show you" or "teach you."...

    Circuit Court Judge Susan Barthle presides over the State of Florida versus Curtis Reeves "stand your ground" hearing at the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City, Florida, on Tuesday, February 28, 2017. Reeves, a retired Tampa Police Department captain, shot and killed Chad Oulson, 43, over the use of his cellphone during a confrontation inside the Cobb Grove 16 theaters in Wesley Chapel, Florida in 2014. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  15. ‘I realized I was in a life-or-death struggle,' Curtis Reeves says of theater shooting

    Criminal

    DADE CITY — In the darkened theater, the older man shrunk back in his seat as the younger man lurched from the row in front of him, hurling obscenities.

    Something had struck the older man in the face, he recalled. He thought the younger man was going to punch him.

    "It looked to me like he was out of control," 74-year-old Curtis Reeves said Tuesday, explaining why he shot 43-year-old Chad Oulson in the chest, killing him....

     Defense attorney Richard Escobar questions his client Curtis Reeves while on the stand during his "stand your ground" hearing at the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City, Florida, on Tuesday, February 28, 2017. Reeves, a retired Tampa Police Department captain, shot and killed Chad Oulson, 43, over the use of his cellphone during a confrontation inside the Cobb Grove 16 theaters in Wesley Chapel, Florida in 2014. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]