Cortnee Brantley, the girlfriend of Dontae Morris now awaits her fate as Middle District of Florida jurors deliberate in her Misprison of a Felony trial. Brantley was with Dontae Morris on June 29, 2010 during a tragic traffic stop where Tampa Police Department officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis were murdered by Dontae Morris. After Morris is said to have shot Officer Kocab and Officer Curtis, Cortnee Brantley fled the scene via car and Dontae Morris fled the scene on foot. At issue in the trial is whether Cortnee Brantley knew whether or not her boyfriend, Dontae Morris, was a convicted felon carrying a firearm. This case has gone to trial in one previous attempt, resulting in a hung jury when the empaneled jury at the time could not come to a decision after deliberating for nearly eight hours.
Ask any Tampa criminal lawyer with any Federal criminal court experience and you’ll likely be told that a misprison of a felony charge is rarely a crime charged directly. Just as a reckless driving charge is generally a reduction from driving under the influence, misprison of a felony is something we, as Tampa Federal criminal attorneys, use in an effort to convince the United States Attorney’s Office to reduce a more serious crime to. Frankly, misprision of a felony is an odd charge as it is not one typically found at the State court level. Federal in nature, misprision of a felony is an old common law charge held over from old English courts who used this charge to prosecute those for failing to report a crime. Even in England the charge was considered a misdemeanor and carried with it an exception for those who could be incriminated by divulging the subject crime. Like old England, the 5th Amendment to the Constitution prevents Brantley from being forced to report the subject shooting. Rather, the charges against Brantley are based on the United States Attorney’s allegation that she had a duty to report that Dontae Morris was a felon in possession of a firearm, contrary to Florida Statute 790.23. Per Federal Statute 18 USC 4 one who has knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
So did she know? Evidently Dontae Morris was relatively fresh out of the Florida State Prison system and it is alleged that Brantley visited him while there. Under Florida law only those who have committed a felony can go to prison. Whether Brantley knew that could be the threshold issue in this case in that she may not have known he was a felon. Candidly, I believe it is likely she did know he was a felon but it is very possible that she didn’t know Morris was carrying a gun while she was with him that particular night. I believe it would be reasonable to believe that she didn’t know. Don’t mistake that for any opinion on her guilt or innocence but I do believe it is possible that Morris didn’t show her the gun or mention that he had a gun on his person and that it wouldn’t be unreasonable for Brantley to be in the dark on the issue.
What the end result of this trial will be is unknown at the time of this blog. What I can say is that she is represented by excellent counsel in Grady Irvin, a Tampa criminal attorney I’ve come to know through representation of co-defendants on a prior case. A jury will do what they do and all we can do as Tampa criminal lawyers is put on the best defense we have and put it in their hands. That’s where this is and what will come of it will likely be known by the end of the day. Time will tell.
Jason Mayberry is a Tampa criminal lawyer and the founder of The Mayberry Law Firm, a Federal and State criminal defense firm practicing in Florida and Tennessee. If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense contact us at 813-444-7435 or 727-771-3847. We’re available from 9AM to 5PM, Monday through Friday.