Former Rep. Corrine Brown to face federal judge on 22 charges

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown appeared in federal court Wednesday afternoon in Jacksonville.

Brown, who served 12 terms in Congress, faced a judge for a pretrial hearing on 22 federal charges, including mail and wire fraud.

'It's sad. I don't even want to talk about it at this time. It's like I've lost a son," Brown said.

Before the hearing, Brown gave out free ice cream at a nearby park.

Prosecutors will try to convince a jury that Brown helped create a charity called One Door for Education. The organization was described as a scholarship fund, but investigators said they could find proof of only two awarded scholarships.

An attorney for Brown said she will testify during her trial which is set to begin April 24.

Brown and her former chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, are accused of hiding income that should have been reported on financial disclosure forms and spending more than $800,000 in funds raised for the charity.

Prosecutors said the funds were spent on personal expenses, including parties in Washington, D.C., lavish trips, NFL games and shopping.

Brown, who said she played no formal role in the charity, said she is innocent and unwilling to accept a plea offer.

“I've been watching the news, and it seems as if that's what the prosecutors do. They go after people and make them (plead) out,” Brown said last month. “They say, 'You take three years, or we (are) going to give you 30 (years),' or in my case, 350 years."

Simmons and his ex-girlfriend, Carla Wiley, have already pleaded guilty to their roles in the fraud case. They're expected to testify in Brown's trial.

Brown's attorney, James Smith, is expected to request a delay in the scheduled trial, but a similar request in February was denied.

"I'm going to clear my name," Brown said. "I'm afraid that my name is all that you have. My name means something."

Brown also accused the FBI of threatening older people in her district, but when pressed further, she wouldn't release other details, investigators said.

"Elderly people in my district. (FBI was) going to their homes, saying, 'Make it easy on themselves,' saying, 'Where are your kids? Where are they, in jail?' And they're in college,"

Federal investigators would not comment on Brown's allegations or her trial.

Brown served part of Central Florida for more than 20 years but lost her bid for re-election last November.