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Judge Tosses Case Against Driver In FL Officer Deaths

Judge Tosses Case Against Driver In FL Officer Deaths

Officer David Curis (Left) and Officer Jeffrey Kocab (Right)

Tampa Bay Tribune via YellowBrix

October 29, 2010

TAMPA – A judge has dismissed the federal case against Cortnee Brantley, who authorities say was the driver during a traffic stop that left two Tampa police officers dead.

Brantley, 22, was charged with failing to report a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. She had been free on bail.

Police say Brantley was driving the 1994 Toyota Camry pulled over by Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab in East Tampa on June 29; Dontae Morris was her passenger.

Morris, 25, is charged in state court with first-degree murder in the officers’ deaths.

Authorities say Brantley drove away after the shootings and later exchanged texts with Morris.

But at a hearing today, U.S. District Judge James Moody said prosecutors had to prove Brantley acted to conceal the felony in order to support the charge.

In a seven-page order issued hours later, Moody concluded none of Brantley’s actions concealed the possession of a firearm or ammunition by Morris, a convicted felon.

Federal prosecutors haven’t decided whether to appeal.

“We’re reviewing the judge’s order at this time,” said U.S. Attorney Robert E. O’Neill.

The Hillsborough County state attorney’s office has not decided whether to charge Brantley in state court, spokesman Mark Cox said.


Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor badge is covered with a black and blue stripe as she addresses the media during a news conference Wednesday, June 30, 2010 in Tampa, Fla. [AP]

“We’ve been in contact with the Tampa Police Department, and we’re reviewing the case,” Cox told The Tampa Tribune.

In arguing for the federal indictment to be dismissed, defense attorney Grady Irvin said the case should be handled in state court. He contended Brantley has a Fifth Amendment right not to give authorities information about the slayings because doing so might implicate her in state crimes, such as being an accessory after the fact or tampering with evidence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Preston said Brantley hid the commission of a federal crime.

According to documents, Morris sent Brantley a text after the shooting telling her to “just lean bak stay loyal.”

“Of course,” responded Brantley. “Til death do us part.”

Moody ruled the texts weren’t enough to support the charge: “An act of concealment must be carried out, not merely talked about.”

Preston said Brantley removed evidence and a witness – her car and herself – from the scene. He also said the scene was disturbed when the car came in contact with the officers’ bodies.

Moody found the government presented no evidence Brantley altered, cleaned or tried to hide the car, “or even attempted to delay law enforcement in any way from locating the vehicle (other than leaving the location of the shooting).”

To support the criminal charge, the judge said at the hearing, the prosecution had to show more than the fact that Brantley failed to tell authorities about Morris.

“She’s not required to tell,” Moody said.

“Yes, she is,” Preston said. “She still has a duty to report. It’s just not a crime until there’s an act of concealment.”

When Brantley texted that she would be loyal, “she is agreeing to affirmatively conceal the crime,” Preston argued.

Moody also said Brantley’s refusal to divulge Morris’ name “is not actively concealing.”

Preston said courts have ruled that concealing a perpetrator’s identity satisfies the requirement. He said Brantley “absolutely, I’d say over 100 times, refused” to name Morris.

That’s not a crime, Moody ruled, citing the Fifth Amendment.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    it is some one will do a crime and go away from the crime area and dont press charges or let them free like no thing.if you do crime you pay for it the law is one and is for all peopel who comeet a crime.that is why the world is full of criminales.

  • Sfa_iv_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Thanks for the insight cplmsta.

  • 1125081211_max50


    over 3 years ago


    I did not know Jeff very well, but Dave was my friend.... Hopefully this ruling will prove to be an example of "charge on conviction". As much as this decision pains me, I would rather she be charged with a crime she will be convicted of, rather than a crime she will beat. In this case, we have time to investigate and choose the right charge, as the pain is already here. If she beats a charge, it will be very hard to convict on a lesser included. God bless these two "Zone partners forever", they are and will be forever missed.

  • Photo_user_banned_big


    over 3 years ago


    That juge should be disbarred. Shame on the juge, that officers family should take that juge for all he ownes and all he's got. That juge is a tarrable man!

  • Jof-00010_thumb_max50


    over 3 years ago


    This is another GREAT reason to go VOTE.... Run the liberals out of town and lets get OUR country back on the right path...

  • Dscn1017_max50


    over 3 years ago


    These libtard hippy judges are destroying this country. Cases like this are what make movies like THE PUNISHER so successful. Shackling society with garbage like this is too normal.

  • Im000112_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Congratulations to the judge on this one. This incident in no way should have ever involved the Feds. State law already covers aiding the escape of a fugitive as well as tampering with evidence, which is what the driver could be charged with under state law. That decision rests with the Hillsborough County attorney's office. I hate when the Feds get involved since they inevitably screw it up. Why they felt the need to intervene here is beyond me.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    In a seven-page order issued hours later, Moody concluded none of Brantley’s actions concealed the possession of a firearm or ammunition by Morris, a convicted felon.

    So does this mean that removing evidence from the scene is now merely considered just basic housecleaning? This judge is living proof that evidence of education does not equal intelligence.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    I think we need to send the Judge back to school so he can learn the law!!!!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    Have a plan to kill everyone in the room.

  • 2010-10-03_17


    over 3 years ago


    It has been a tough pill to swallow what Judge Moody has done here. Our department is working hard to make sure we have everything in place for when State charges get filed. This has everyone in the department both hurt and furious!

  • Image_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Brantley is with Morris when he shoots two police officers in cold blood (WITH A FIREARM). She then drives away, refuses to divulge the murderer's name and later exchanges the above mentioned texts, affirming her loyalty to him - but she's not concealing anything? Are you f-ing kidding me? What is wrong with these judges? Are they blind, ignorant or both? If Brantley had done the same in Arkansas, she'd be under the jail by now. What a blatant slap in the face of my deceased brother officers....

  • Badge_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Another self-rightious liberal yuppie judge.

  • American_first_responder2_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Do Not Even get me started on this one...There You have IT...The SYSTEM over rules again, after all in the Judicial System its' all about money and power; sad to say but with these attorneys and courts it's about "Who you are or how much you have to offer in payoffs" as to what you get! These are two Police Officer's Killed in the Line of duty and during the commission of a felonious crime said accomplice passenger: Brantley fled the scene and text back and forth with the gunman she with holds crucial evidence pertinent to the crime whereas she is an eye witness...This decision to release her smells to much like BS to me...just my take!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago


    According to documents, Morris sent Brantley a text after the shooting telling her to “just lean bak stay loyal.”

    “Of course,” responded Brantley. “Til death do us part.”

    Moody (the Judge) ruled the texts weren’t enough to support the charge:... “An act of concealment must be carried out, not merely talked about.”

    I'm not an attorney, nor am I an English Major but it would seem to me that the quote confirms that "an act of concealment" WAS carried out and confirmed by the words "STAY LOYAL."
    The moment she left the scene knowing he committed a felony with the firearm and shouldn't have had a weapon to begin with, was an act of "loyalty" to criminal activity AND Morris's actions and her response, "till death do us part" is just the confirmation of CONTINUED ACTION.


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