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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.

  • 21_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Election time is coming up, We have to take a stand against ignorance

  • Shrel-only_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Not having all the information i can not judge the findings. However, i hope the state has enough to convict all the parties involved.
    We can only pray for the family & friends of the officers.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago


    Joe NYPD ..............Remember NOVEMBER 2, 2010 get them all out.

  • Pic-0246_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    thank god this same idiot-ass judge isnt presiding over the murder trial of the scumbag that killed the officers. god only knows what kind of chaos that would create

  • Angel_kincaid_park_2014_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    BUMP! Migs!!!!!
    So very sad their is not justice for our Fallen Heros.
    Rest in peace Godspeed officers, This news just makes me physically ill.....

  • Profile1_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Sounds like she was charged with the wrong crime.

    Why have judges if they can't use thier common sense.
    Just use a computer program to sentence or let free criminals?

    The law does not force anyone to report a crime or enforce the law for anyone other then themselves and to do so even in this case would be a slippery slope because it does not accommodate special exceptions due to the way our judicial system is set up.

    for example: If I saw a homeless person shoplift a candy bar I would not report it- but if this lady was convicted of not being a ' tattle tale, which is basically what the DA attempted to do' it sets the law in motion that I could be charged if I paid for the candy bar (proof I knew he stole one) after the shoplifter left. Because the DA could reference a past case where someone got convicted for not telling.

    Having blabbered on about that (and I am not an attorney) - it seems she stepped over the line and actively obstructed justice BY removing evidence from the crime scene in order to benefit the criminal and in doing so made her self an accomplice.

    My condolences go out to the officers families and loved ones. Is does not feel like full justice was served - which is horrible. RIP

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago


    I sent this to Megyn Kelly. Hopefully she will read it and expose this on their show. this judges ruling is Incredible! He should be tossed off the bench!!

  • Chief_instigator_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Just like when I was active-duty. Perps get extra breaks, especially when they can murder a law enforcement officer. Only in America! We straight-arrows had to keep doing our jobs just to live with ourselves. Meanwhile collegecop_WA nailed it below - it is NOT a "justice system". We have no such thing in America.

  • Mandy_and_me_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Once again the US legal system coddles and protects the criminals and spits in the face of the true victims. Isn't the first time and surely won't be the last.

  • Big_mo_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    But, we'll continue to do our job. Even if the courts keep letting them out. Crazy decisions.

  • 2011_range_day_2-19-10_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    In all my years, this is one of the worst decisions I've ever seen. I hope there's an appeal.
    Somebody should forward this story to Foxnews, and Pam Bondi.

  • Photo_user_banned_big


    almost 4 years ago


    That is beyond comprehension, what this judge is doing.

  • Roses_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Wow that is all I can say it is judges like this cuz we have one that should never be allowed to execute punishment but if if was his family member he would be throwing the book at this lil b#$%@.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago


  • Policememorial---a_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    It is judges like this who affirm my belief that we no longer have a justice system in this country, merely a legal system.

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