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Crime & Courts

Cortnee Brantley remains free despite release violations

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Published:   |   Updated: October 30, 2013 at 11:51 PM

TAMPA — Cortnee Brantley will remain free on bond in spite of repeated violations of the conditions of her release.

Brantley, who was with Dontae Morris the night he is accused of killing two Tampa police officers, told a federal judge Wednesday she forgot to make her weekly call to her pretrial services officer 19 times. A prosecutor said Brantley also lied about where she was one of the days, fabricating a schedule to make it look like she was at work.

She also failed to report receiving a traffic ticket, then didn’t pay the fine and drove while her license was suspended.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Preston urged U.S. District Judge James Moody to revoke Brantley’s bond. The pretrial services officer who supervised Brantley repeatedly talked to her about failing to report and even put a poster up in her home reminding her of the time and day she’s supposed to make the call each week, Preston said.

Preston said the missed calls made up roughly a third of the times she was required to report.

“Two officers are dead because this defendant couldn’t follow the law and hang a tag on her vehicle,” Preston said, referring to the traffic stop during which Morris is accused of killing the officers. The prosecutor told Moody, “She is at liberty now because you allowed her to stay out, and she’s thumbing her nose at you.”

Defense attorney Grady Irvin later said that Preston failed to take into account all the time Brantley has been out on bond since her arrest.

“I think the judge said it best,” Irvin said. “There are no more excuses, but I also think the government suggestion that for a third of the time she’s been on supervision she failed to report is misleading.”

She’s reported more than 200 times, Irvin said. “Nine times she called in late the next day or so.”

Irvin told Moody there has been a lot going on in Brantley’s life.

“There was a lot of dysfunction,” he said.

Her mother’s house was foreclosed on, and her mother and sister had medical issues, he said. And Brantley had to have her appendix removed. For a time, Brantley was doing people’s hair out of her home but couldn’t set up a business because she wasn’t licensed.

Irvin urged Moody to give Brantley a stern warning and allow her to remain free.

“I don’t think she’s a danger to the community or a risk of flight,” he said.

Moody asked Brantley why she failed to report to pretrial services.

“As far as calling in is concerned, I just sort of kind of forgot,” she said.

The judge asked if Brantley forgets her hair appointments, and she said she didn’t. And so the judge wondered what he had to do to impress on her that her responsibilities on release are more important than her hair appointments.

“Do you realize being out of jail right now is a great privilege?” the judge asked.

“Yes,” Brantley replied.

Moody said he wasn’t too concerned that Brantley got a speeding ticket because it’s part of life to get a traffic ticket. But he said he was concerned about the facts that she failed to tell her pretrial services officer about it and continued to drive when her license was suspended because she didn’t pay the fine on time.

“That bothers me a lot,” he said. “When you lie to the probation officer, I generally put people in jail for that.”

He said he wants Brantley to understand that calling her officer is “at least as important as hair appointments.”

Ultimately, Moody said he wouldn’t jail her Wednesday, but if she violated the conditions of release one more time, he would throw her behind bars.

Brantley is out on a $25,000 signature bond cosigned by her mother and grandmother. Pre-trial Services is responsible for monitoring Brantley while she’s out on bond.

Under the condition of her bond, Brantley must submit to home detention with an electronic monitoring device and work curfew. She must live with her mother, work and have no direct or indirect contact with people involved in a criminal investigation. She can’t have access to a firearm.

Brantley was the driver of a car and Morris was the passenger in June 2010 when they were involved in a motor vehicle stop that ended in the slayings of officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab.

Brantley was charged under the rarely invoked misprision statute, with the government alleging she took steps to conceal that Morris was committing the federal offense of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

She was convicted in January and sentenced in June to one year and one day. But she was granted bail in July and allowed to remain free while she appeals.

Jury selection in Morris’ trial in the slayings of the officers is scheduled to begin Monday in Orlando. The trial is set to begin the following week in Tampa.

esilvestrini@tampatrib.com

813-259-7837

Twitter: @ElaineTBO

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