Court of Appeals Reinstates Courtnee Brantley's Indictment From the Shooting of Tampa Police Officers Curtis and Kocab
Atlanta, Georgia - U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announces that the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit yesterday reinstated the federal indictment against Courtnee Brantley, which the district court in Tampa had dismissed in October 2010. Brantley had been charged with misprision of a felony based on her alleged involvement in a traffic stop in which her boyfriend, Dontae Morris, allegedly shot and killed Tampa police officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab. Morris has been separately charged with murder in the officers' deaths and is awaiting trial in state court.
The indictment against Brantley alleges that she knew that Morris had committed a federal felony offense (possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon), but concealed it and did not report it to the authorities as soon as possible. The crime of misprision requires knowledge of a crime and some affirmative act of concealment or participation. The United States had also filed a "bill of particulars," which further alleged that Brantley had: (1) fled the crime scene after witnessing a convicted felon shoot two police officers; (2) removed evidence from the crime scene by relocating her car; (3) disturbed the crime scene while fleeing; (4) had telephone contact with her boyfriend after the shooting; (5) sent text messages to her boyfriend after the shooting, in which they discussed concealing her car; (6) sent text messages to her boyfriend confirming her loyalty to him; (7) sent text messages to various other people instructing them to conceal her involvement in the shooting and her whereabouts; and (8) refused to identify the shooter.
After the district court's dismissal of the indictment, the United States appealed the case to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in Atlanta. Yesterday, that court reversed the district court's decision and reinstated the indictment, ruling that the district court had no authority to dismiss the indictment before trial based on its view of the sufficiency of the evidence. As the Court of Appeals explained, "the indictment was sufficient and should not have been dismissed." The court of appeals also concluded that "nothing on the face of the indictment commanded a conclusion that Brantley's Fifth Amendment Rights were implicated."
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.
The appeal was handled by Assistant United States Attorneys David Rhodes and Yvette Rhodes. The underlying case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jim Preston.