TAMPA - While a judge continues to decide whether to follow a jury's decision and convict Cortnee Brantley for her role in the shooting deaths of two Tampa police officers, it's likely the case will be decided by a higher court, according to a legal analyst.
Brantley was found guilty of misprision of a felony, an obscure federal charge that was levied against her when state prosecutors failed to find a Florida law she had violated. U.S. attorneys accused Brantley of concealing information from police that her boyfriend, accused murderer Dontae Morris, was a felon in possession of a firearm with ammunition.
"It's clear that the judge is still troubled by this case," said John Fitzgibbons, a former U.S. prosecutor turned private attorney and legal analyst.
"The statute, misprision of a felony, is an ancient, almost bizarre statute," Fitzgibbons said. "It's clear that law enforcement wanted to do anything they could to prosecute Ms. Brantley for her despicable acts here," he said.
The problem prosecutors have faced all along is that Brantley had no obligation to help police under her constitutional rights. But morally, there's a strong argument she should have helped police arrest a potential cop killer.
That's the position of Tampa Police, and the department made it clear it was pleased with the jury's decision.
"She was there when two of our officers were murdered in cold blood and she did nothing to assist them," said Jane Castor, Tampa's Chief of Police.
Castor was uninterested in the fact that the judge withheld a decision whether to accept the jury's verdict. Instead, she said the families of the fallen officers, Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis, now have an opportunity to move on to the next chapter in the case: the murder trial of Dontae Morris.
"It's a relief for them to have some closure on this issue, and certainly they're satisfied with the guilty verdict," Castor said.
Fitzgibbons said Judge Moody has two options. He can accept the verdict and move forward with sentencing, where Brantley could get up to three years in prison. The second option is to overrule the jury verdict and declare Brantley not guilty.
In either case, the decision will likely be appealed, Fitzgibbons said.
Prosecutors declined comment in the case, as did Brantley as she left the courthouse. Her attorney, Grady Irvin, had no answer why the judge left the case open-ended.
"Legally, you all have to figure that out," Irvin said.
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