Brunvand Wins Acquittal in Federal Murder Trial

tampa_courthouseStaring a life sentence in federal prison in the face, a St. Petersburg man is now awaiting sentencing on lesser crimes after a jury unanimously found him not guilty of murder.

Corey D. Harris, a twenty-five-year-old, was acquitted after a grueling three-month trial where he, along with five other men from Bradenton, stood accused of murder, kidnapping, robbery, extortion, drug trafficking, and racketeering. Federal prosecutors accused the group of being responsible for at least nine murders in Manatee and Sarasota counties between the spring of 2007 and late summer 2013.

Although each defendant was convicted of one count of conspiracy to distribute drugs (to which Harris pled guilty), only Harris, who was represented by Bjorn Brunvand, was not convicted of murder. Acquitted of both the murder of Brenton Coleman and of conspiracy charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), Harris does not face mandatory minimum sentences.

Much of Harris’ defense rested on a case of mistaken identity. Prosecutors claimed that several relevant cell phone communications from an individual named “Cory” referred to Harris. However, Brunvand showed that the government had already stipulated to the fact that the “Cory” who made the calls from the number in question was another man. In addition, Brunvand challenged witnesses who identified Harris, and posited that he may have been mistaken for another man whom the government called as a witness.

Corey Harris now awaits sentencing on the conspiracy count to which he pled guilty. Although the government has a series of guidelines for sentencing in such cases, the counts to which Harris pled guilty have no mandatory minimum sentences.

Bjorn Brunvand has been practicing criminal law in the Tampa Bay area for almost a quarter of a century. Call his offices today to discuss your state or federal charges.

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