9 Investigates

Presidential pardon for incarcerated former-Democratic US Rep. Corrine Brown? Orlando businessman thinks it’s possible

ORLANDO, Fla. — A local Orlando businessman is behind an effort to try to convince President Donald Trump to pardon former-Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown.

Brown is serving five years in Coleman federal prison, about an hour outside Orlando, for duping people into donating to a fake charity she used as a personal slush fund.

Investigative reporter Daralene Jones sat down with businessman John Crossman, who recently visited Brown in prison.

READ: US Court of Appeals upholds former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown’s federal fraud convictions

Crossman said Brown walked up, gave him a hug and immediately started introducing him to other women in the prison and sharing their stories.

Crossman said he had to force the 73-year-old to talk about herself.

“What is your angle? Why are you doing this?” Jones asked Crossman.

“I do it because Christ calls me to do it. Why her? Because I know her, have a relationship with her,” Crossman said.

Crossman’s father, the late Rev. Kenneth Crossman, was outspoken about equality during the Civil Rights movement.

“My parents, they received death threats,” he said. “I feel like my parents did their part, and I want to do my part."

READ: Former Rep. Corrine Brown reports to prison

Crossman said he’s been doing prison ministry for 20 years and is passionate about prison reform for nonviolent offenders.

“I just think there’s a better way,” Crossman said. “We have talent in our community that’s being wasted, and we’re paying, as taxpayers, a lot of money to keep them incarcerated."

The well-connected Republican said talks are ongoing with senior Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C., about the possibility of a presidential pardon.

Brown, who served 12 terms in Congress, was convicted in 2017 on fraud charges.

She convinced people to donate to a fake charity under the guise of helping poor college students. But the money was used as a personal slush fund.

READ: Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown sentenced to 5 years in prison

“Some people have the mindset of lock them up and throw away the key, but I’m telling you I’ve seen healing. I’ve seen reconciliation,” Crossman said. “I’ve seen people turn their lives around.”

Even if he’s not successful in this effort, Crossman said there is a bigger goal.

“If the process gets people talking about: ‘Hey, wait a minute. What are we doing? What is this system? Why are these people in prison? What’s the purpose of having them there,’” he said.

On Tuesday, the president pardoned 11 people, including the former Democratic governor of Illinois, who is now all over TV calling himself a “Trump-o-crat.”

So Jones said if Trump were to pardon Brown, he could have her walking out of Coleman prison singing his praises to her base, which is right in the I-4 corridor, an area the president needs to win the state.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.