Meet the Staff

Julianne M. Holt Public Defender

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A lifelong resident of Tampa, Julianne M. Holt has served as the elected Public Defender since January 1993. Prior to being elected as the Public Defender, she served as Special Court Appointed Public Defender from 1987-1992 and was in private law practice from 1981-1992.

Ms. Holt graduated summa cum laude from the South Texas College of Law, where she was listed in the Who’s Who of American College Students. She also graduated from the University of South Florida, Hillsborough Community College, and Leto High School.

Julie Holt proclamation certification As the Public Defender, Ms. Holt manages the largest criminal defense firm in Hillsborough County, which employs 223 employees, including approximately 120 attorneys.

She also directs the representation of over 60,000 cases annually.

As an advocate for the indigent accused, Ms. Holt has worked with many state and national organizations and has personally participated with numerous committees, councils, and boards focused on issues within the criminal justice system.

Ms. Holt and her employees are also dedicated to serving the community. Since 1993, her office has consistently donated their time, financial support, and talent to aid organizations, students, and citizens both locally and nationally.

In addition to her duties as the Public Defender, Ms. Holt also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida and the University of Phoenix.

The logo of the Public Defender of Hillsborough County 13th Judicial Circuit
  • Pepin Academies Peregrine Falcon Award (2014)
  • Mayor’s Alliance For Persons with Disabilities Employer of the Year Award (2014)
  • Florida Association of Women Lawyers “Leaders in the Law Award”, 2014
  • The Legal Network’s “Top Lawyer” Recognition for ethical standards and professional excellence (2014)
  • George Edgecomb Bar Association Diversity Award (2014)
  • HAWL Trailblazer Award (Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers, 2013)
  • South Texas College of Law Public Service Award (2013)
  • Florida Division of Career Development and Transitions “Marking a Difference Award”, 2012
  • E.J. Salcines Lifetime Leadership Award, 2007
  • Florida Tax Watch Davis Productivity Awards: 2010, 2007, 2005, 2003-1996
  • Equal Opportunity Council Equal Opportunity Employer Award, 2002
  • Hillsborough County Hispanic Woman of the Year, 2002
  • The Human Rights Council Hank Warren Memorial Award, 1999
  • The Chief Justice’s Outstanding Law Firm Commendation, 1998
Legal Memberships
  • American Bar Association
  • Florida Bar
  • Texas Bar
  • District of Columbia Bar
  • Association of Trial Lawyers of America
  • Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • George Edgecomb Bar Association
  • Hillsborough County Bar Association
  • Hillsborough County Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • Hillsborough Association of Women Lawyers
  • National Bar Association
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • United States Supreme Court
  • United States Court of Appeals; Eleventh Circuit
  • United States District Court; Middle and Southern Districts
Professional Activities Committees
  • DUI Counter-Attack Board of Directors
  • Florida Public Defender Association
  • Hillsborough County Partners in Crisis
  • Long Term Funding for Drug Court Committee
  • National Association of Drug Court Professionals
  • National Legal Aid and Defender Association
  • Public Safety Coordinating Council
  • Hillsborough County Domestic Violence Task Force
  • Hillsborough County Juvenile Civil Citation Task Force
Mike Peacock Bureau Chief - Non-Capital Litigation

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Mike Peacock serves as the Non Capital Litigation Division Chief. An attorney since 1980, Mr. Peacock has served as an assistant state attorney in the Sixth, Eighteenth and Thirteenth Circuits, worked in private practice handling complex civil litigation, and in his own private practice. Mr. Peacock was part of Ms. Holt’s first administrative staff in 1993, supervising lawyers in Intake and overseeing office work processes, before leaving for private practice. Mr. Peacock returned to the office in 2009. Mr. Peacock graduated from the Stetson College of Law in 1980. During this time, he also served for six years with the St. Petersburg Police Department. Mr. Peacock also graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary, and has been a part-time instructor at the University of South Florida, Pinellas Police Academy, and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

Rocky Brancato Bureau Chief - Felony

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Rocky Brancato manages the Felony, Misdemeanor, Juvenile and Intake Bureaus while also heading our attorney recruitment and training program. He joined Ms. Holt’s office in 2003 and has worked in nearly every bureau in the office. He began his career as an assistant public defender in the First Circuit. He was also a part-time instructor at the police academy in Pensacola, Florida. Mr. Brancato is AV rated in criminal law and criminal defense by Martindale-Hubbell.

Mr. Brancato serves on the board of directors of the Pace Center for Girls Hillsborough, DUI Counterattack and the Hillsborough Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (HCACDL). He is a member of the Circuit 13 Juvenile Justice Advisory Board. Mr. Brancato serves as a vice chair of the Safe and Sound Hillsborough Youth and Gun Violence Committee. He is admitted to practice law in the Supreme Court of the United States and the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. He is a member of the Hillsborough County Bar Association (HCBA), the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (FACDL) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL).

Mr. Brancato graduated from the University of North Dakota, School of Law, where he was a published member of the North Dakota Law Review and a Student Director of the Legal Aid Clinic.

Chris Watson Bureau Chief - Misdemeanor/ Juvenile

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As the Misdemeanor/Juvenile Bureau Chief, Chris Watson supervises the assistant public defenders assigned to the County Criminal and Circuit Juvenile courtrooms. He rejoined the office in 2018. Previously he was the Felony Bureau Chief here from 2004 until 2017. Prior to that he spent over fifteen years with the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office serving as a Felony Division Chief, Misdemeanor Bureau Chief, and as the head of the Homicide Unit. Mr. Watson also worked with the State Attorney’s Office in Polk County, Florida and for some time ran a private criminal defense firm. Mr. Watson is Board Certified by the Florida Bar in Criminal Trial Law.

Mr. Watson is a member of the Hillsborough County Bar Association, The Hillsborough County Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys.

Mr. Watson is a graduate of Stetson University College of Law where he participated in the Public Defender Clinic and worked part-time as an interviewer with the Pinellas County Public Defender’s Office. Mr. Watson received his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia. He is admitted to practice law in Florida and Virginia.

Tom Forward Chief Investigator

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Bio coming soon.

Dana Tilton Mitigation Specialist

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Dana Tilton is an original member of the Social Services department, implemented in 1993. Ms. Holt’s vision to expand the services in her office to include: Social Services, Investigations, Process Service and Mitigations has come to fruition shortly following her election to office. Ms. Tilton has a 24+ year history of working with juveniles and adults suffering from an array of substance abuse, emotional, behavioral and mental health issues. Ms. Tilton firmly believes in a “holistic” approach in the representation and support of our clients.

Dana is a proud alumna from the University of South Florida, holding a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, a master’s degree in Education and Addictions, and also a master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling. Ms. Tilton is a certified teacher with endorsements in reading and ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages).

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” -Mahatma Gandhi

Daniel Raysin CIO / Accounting Finance Director

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Daniel Raysin was appointed by Public Defender Julianne Holt in 1998. During that time he has served as the agency’s Director of Accounting and Finance, Director of Human Resources and is currently the Administrative Director responsible for the overall operations of the office. He is a graduate of St. Leo University and received his Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with concentration in Finance and Accounting. He also holds certification in Human Resource Management from the University of South Florida. Prior to joining the Public Defender’s office, Mr. Raysin worked for South Florida Baptist Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital(s), and John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital as Director of Patient Financial Services.

Daniel has served on numerous boards and advisory panels, and currently represents the office on the Safe and Sound Community Violence Prevention Collaborative.

Brandon Selph Training Director/ Division Chief - Division O

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Brandon Selph currently manages our Intake bureau as well as heading our office training program. He began his legal career when he joined Ms. Holt’s office in September 2004 and has worked in each bureau at the office. In addition to his duties with the Office of the Public Defender, Brandon is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Tampa and a former Chair of the Bar Grievance Committee 13B.

Brandon graduated in 2001 from The Florida State University with a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature and received his Juris Doctorate from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in 2004. He has called Tampa home since 1996.

Antina Mobley Division Chief

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Catisha Smith Division Chief

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David Hall Division Chief

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Joe Kudia Division Chief

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John Grant Division Chief

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Lillian Odongo Division Chief

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Rene Palomino Division Chief

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Theda James Senior Counsel

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Ms. James attended Rollins College on an academic scholarship and graduated in 1974 with High Distinction and Department Honors in the area of Behavioral Science. She was a member of Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. She attended law school at the University of Florida where she received a Council on Legal Education Opportunity Grant and a Minority Student Graduate Grant. During her final year in law school she served as a legal writing instructor where she mentored her peers in legal writing and appellate advocacy.

After graduating from law school in June 1978, she was admitted to the Florida Bar in December 1978, she has since worked for various government agencies including: Assistant State Attorney, Miami, Florida (1979-1981); Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Appeals Division, Miami and Tampa Offices (1981-1987); Assistant Federal Public Defender, Middle District of Florida (1987-1992); Theda joined the staff of Julianne M. Holt, Public Defender for the 13th Judicial Circuit in 1992 where she has served in several capacities, including Bureau Chief and Senior Legal Counsel.

Ms. James has practiced exclusively in the area of criminal law for the past 36 years. She is currently responsible for handling death penalty cases and other high profile cases. Ms. James is admitted to practice law in the Supreme Court of the United States, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Middle District of Florida. In addition to the Florida Bar, she is a member of the Hillsborough County Bar Association and is a founding member of the George Edgecomb Bar Association (GEBA). Ms. James and her husband, Alfred Milton, have been active members of the First Baptist Church of College Hill since July, 2005. Ms. James has one son, Goliath Davis, IV who has followed in his mother’s foot step by also receiving his law degree from the University of Florida.