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Judge denies bid to ease bail restrictions for Curtis Reeves in theater shooting case

Retired Tampa police officer Curtis Reeves Jr., shown here during a hearing in February 2017, lost a bid to ease restrictions placed on him as he awaits trial for murder. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Jul. 26

A judge has denied a request to ease bail restrictions for Curtis Reeves, a retired Tampa police officer accused in the fatal shooting of a man in a Pasco County movie theater.

Reeves' defense attorneys had asked last month that he be released from the requirement he wear an ankle monitor as a condition of his release from jail. They also asked that he be allowed to move freely within the Tampa Bay area and to have his son take custody of his guns.

In a terse order issued Friday, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Kemba Johnson Lewis denied Reeves' request.

READ MORE: Theater shooter Curtis Reeves points to Drejka stand your ground case in asking judge to ease bail restrictions

Reeves, 76, remains confined to his Hernando County home, with permission to leave only for church, doctors' appointments, the grocery store or his lawyer's office. The restrictions on his movement were a condition of his 2014 release on $150,000 bail.

Back then, a judge had expressed concern that the retired lawman may be a danger to the community. But in asking that the restrictions be eased, his attorneys argued that he has not violated these conditions during the five years he has been awaiting trial.

The lawyers also noted that Reeves has paid a total of more than $15,000 for the costs of his ankle monitor. He has also had to pay storage costs to his lawyer to keep his guns secured.

GPS and storage costs could be used to help pay Reeves' legal defense, the lawyers said.

Reeves is charged with second-degree murder in the January 2014 shooting of Chad Oulson, 43. The two men argued after Reeves complained about Oulson's use of a cell phone during movie previews at the Cobb Grove 16 cinemas in Wesley Chapel. Popcorn flew. Reeves drew a handgun and shot Oulson in the chest.

The case became the subject of a two-week hearing in 2017 where Reeves claimed self-defense under Florida's stand your ground law. He claimed that Oulson threw an object at his face and that he was afraid the younger man was about to start beating him when he fired the fatal shot.

Prosecutors countered that the slaying was not an act of fear, but of anger.

READ MORE: Trial postponed in Pasco theater shooting due to stand your ground uncertainty

A judge denied Reeves' stand your ground claim. But shortly after the 2017 hearing, the state Legislature tweaked the law to put the burden of proof on prosecutors in stand your ground cases, rather than the defense. Courts have disagreed about whether the change should be retroactive to cases that were pending when the new law was passed. If it is declared retroactive, it would mean Reeves could have another immunity hearing.

As the Florida Supreme Court considers the issue, a trial for Reeves has been put on hold.

Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com. Follow @TimesDan.

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