Patty Ryan, Times Staff Writer

Patty Ryan, a Florida native, grew up in Pinellas Park. For more than three decades, she has lived in Tampa, where she's a reporter for the Times. She joined the staff as an editor in 2001, after 22 years at the Tampa Tribune.

Her work has been honored by the American Association of Sunday and Features Editors and the Florida Society of News Editors.

She graduated from the University of South Florida.

Phone: (813) 226-3382

Email: pryan@tampabay.com

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  1. Pinellas Sheriff's Office pays $1.15 million in wrongful-death suit

    Civil

    TAMPA — The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office paid $1.15 million days ago to the estate of a mentally ill woman who died in 2009 after refusing food and medicine in the Pinellas County jail.

    The settlement ends all federal and state court claims against the jail and its employees by Michael DeGraw, whose late wife, Jennifer DeGraw, then 50, was found unresponsive in her cell on March 24, 2009, in a swill of cereal, bread and feces....

  2. Florida Supreme Court suspends lawyer 'tortured' by microchip fears

    Courts

    TAMPA — The Florida Supreme Court has suspended indefinitely a lawyer who drew attention with assertions that others controlled and tortured her through a microchip illegally implanted in her brain.

    Janice L. Jennings, 55, may not accept new clients and must cease representing existing ones after Aug. 1, the court ordered, acting on a emergency petition from the Florida Bar.

    She was ordered to undergo evaluation by the nonprofit Florida Lawyers Assistance organization and by a private psychologist or psychiatrist to be named by a Bar referee. ...

  3. Tampa day-trader firm accused of defrauding customers

    Criminal

    TAMPA — His peppy online profile tells of a passion for helping others reach their maximum potential. His day-trader firm, Traders Cafe, roosted briefly on the 26th floor of downtown Tampa's Rivergate Tower, touting low fees and high leverage for investors willing to pool their money.

    But Matthew Pasquale Ionno wasn't what he pretended to be, according to court records.

    Instead of helping people make money, he and a conspirator defrauded customers of $473,742, federal authorities say. More than $181,000 was withdrawn as cash from bank tellers and automatic teller machines, court records state....

  4. Probe of Tampa detective a windfall for Cortnee Brantley

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A year ago, a federal judge decided that prison could wait until a higher court ruled on Cortnee Brantley's appeal.

    Prison continues to wait.

    Her appellate brief hasn't even been filed.

    Brantley's life took a brutal turn in 2010 when a passenger in her car, Dontae Morris, killed two Tampa police officers on a traffic stop. Morris was sentenced to death. Brantley was sentenced to 366 days in prison for helping to conceal that he was a felon with a gun and bullets....

    Cortnee Brantley was sentenced in relation to Dontae Morris’ fatal police officer shootings.
  5. Onetime Pagan's Motorcycle Club 'enforcer' prison-bound on gun charge

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A man once known to law enforcement as the Florida "enforcer" for the Pagan's Motorcycle Club is headed back to federal prison to serve piggyback sentences for gun crimes.

    Kenneth DiFranco, 57, soured his federal probation last summer by getting caught with a .380-caliber semi-automatic pistol at a crash scene in Hudson.

    As a felon several times over — with five New Jersey convictions on charges that include burglary and aggravated assault — DiFranco can't legally own guns....

    Kenneth DiFranco gets four years in prison followed by  three years of supervised release.
  6. Slain Tampa detective's daughter pulls through transplant surgery

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Somewhere in anonymity this week, an organ donor died. But not without gifts for those left behind.

    Demetra Bell Jones, daughter of a police detective killed in the line of duty 16 years ago, emerged from four hours of surgery Wednesday afternoon with a freshly transplanted liver to replace one ravaged by disease.

    "Docs just updated. She's out of surgery and on her way to a new life. Thank God!" her uncle, Jeff Bell, texted a news reporter, adding, "Lots of tears of joy here in the waiting room."...

  7. Bar asks state Supreme Court to suspend lawyer over microchip claim

    Courts

    TAMPA —The Florida Bar on Tuesday asked the state Supreme Court to suspend a lawyer who asserts that others hurt and control her through a microchip illegally implanted in her brain.

    The emergency petition contains a transcript of a May 16 hearing in U.S. District Court in Tampa, during which lawyer Janice L. Jennings, 55, voiced a belief that the opposing counsel in a case before the court had used the microchip to torture her....

  8. Donor liver found for slain Tampa detective's daughter

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — After months of waiting for a match, the daughter of a slain Tampa police detective is expected to undergo potentially life-saving liver transplant surgery today at Florida Hospital in Orlando.

    Demetra Bell Jones, 39, has autoimmune hepatitis. She has endured immune disorders since childhood, but her failed liver was by far the most critical.

    "Her condition worsened over the weekend, and the doctors decided she needed to be No. 1 on the transplant list," said her uncle, Jeff Bell. ...

    Demetra Bell Jones’ father, Randy Bell, and his partner were killed by Hank Earl Carr in May 1998.
  9. Lee Bentley nominated for U.S. Attorney post in Tampa

    Courts

    TAMPA — President Barack Obama has nominated Arthur Lee Bentley III to be U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, the White House announced Thursday.

    Bentley, 55, has held the job on an interim basis since the departure last summer of Robert "Bobby" O'Neill.

    The U.S. Attorney oversees federal prosecutions in a 35-county swath of Florida that stretches from the Georgia border to south of Naples....

  10. Doomsday prepper Martin Winters surrenders, held without bail

    Crime

    TAMPA — Federal authorities sought doomsday prepper Martin Winters for two days in the woods of east Hillsborough County, attempting to arrest him on weapons charges.

    On the third day, agents didn't need to look far at all.

    Winters, soggy-shoed and hungry, waited with a daughter in a car outside the FBI field office on Gray Street in Tampa on Wednesday morning as his attorneys stepped up to a reception desk and arranged his surrender....

    A judge called Martin Winters a danger to the community. 
  11. Tampa man accused of shining laser at police helicopter now federally charged

    Criminal

    TAMPA —A man whose green laser caught the attention of a Tampa police helicopter crew in February now faces a federal criminal charge.

    Jeremy Wayne Sumpter, 29, who lives in the central Tampa neighborhood of Riverside Heights, was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury on a charge of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.

    Such conduct became a crime in 2012 when President Barack Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act. The law allows a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. ...

  12. Valrico doomsday prepper plotted confrontation with government agents, FBI says

    Criminal

    A federal gun probe erupted into a manhunt in a rural stretch of Valrico on Monday, as authorities attempted to arrest a man accused of building unregistered destructive devices as part of an end-of-times plan to kill government agents.

    Martin Howard Winters, 55, remained at large late Monday. He and five other people were indicted June 5 by a federal grand jury on sealed charges that arose from an investigation of a group called the River Otter Preppers, which Winters headed, according to court records....

    Martin Howard Winters, 55, remained at large late Monday.
  13. A Bartow lawyer's private struggle spills into public domain

    Civil

    TAMPA — In 2003 and again this spring, a Bartow lawyer told a federal judge that people are torturing her through a microchip illegally placed in her head.

    The personal challenges of civil attorney Janice L. Jennings intruded upon two of her clients' lawsuits last month after she alleged that opposing counsel John W. Campbell had used special technology to make her miss a court date....

  14. Former detective at center of TPD corruption probe expects vindication

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Eric Houston investigated cold cases for the Tampa Police Department.

    As a cop, he learned this: First appearances can be deceiving.

    Now he is on the other end of scrutiny. Houston, 53, is a target in a federal grand jury investigation. He has not been charged, but a court document released in May suggests that he used law enforcement databases to obtain identities for tax refund fraud. ...

    Eric Houston is a target in a federal grand jury investigation, and a document released in May suggests that he used official databases to obtain identities for tax refund fraud.
  15. Dontae Morris sentenced to death for 2010 murders of Tampa officers

    Criminal

    TAMPA — The long, hard four years ended Friday for families of two Tampa police officers killed during a traffic stop in 2010.

    Dontae Rashawn Morris, 28, was sentenced to die.

    A jury said months ago that he should. After poring over trial transcripts, Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente agreed, finding little in the turmoil of Morris' past to offset the premeditated murder of two law enforcement officers....

    Family and law enforcement pack a Tampa courtroom Friday morning for the sentencing of Dontae Morris, inset, in the murders of police officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab. [SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times]