• Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown found guilty on 18 of 22 counts in federal fraud trial

    By: Action News Jax , WFTV Web Staff

    Updated:

    Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown was found guilty of fraudulently taking hundreds of thousands from sham charity.

    The jury reached a verdict in Brown's federal fraud trial on Thursday, the day after a juror was dismissed and deliberations were restarted.

    The jury found Brown guilty on 18 counts and not guilty on 4 counts.

    Corrine Brown Trial: Breakdown of federal charges Brown faces

    She will not immediately go to jail, and her sentencing may happen in 90 days or more.

     

     

    Prosecutors argued Brown, a Democrat who represented the Florida district that included Jacksonville since 1993, funneled money from One Door for Education into her personal accounts.

    She pleaded not guilty, blaming her former chief of staff Elias "Ronnie" Simmons for stealing.

    Brown's defense attorney said he plans to seek a new trial.

    Brown released a statement about the verdict:

    “While I respect the jury's decision I disagree with it and I want to make it clear that I maintain my innocence. I did not commit these crimes and I intend to file a motion for a new trial. I will continue to stand on my record of decades of faithful service to this community and the nation. I have a long record of charitable service to the community and that will continue even during this process. I want to thank my family and friends for their prayers and support during this difficult time. I ask that you continue to pray for and support me. This fight is not over and as I'm sure you know I will continue to fight to clear my name and restore my reputation."

     

    Guilty verdicts:

    ·         Count 1: Conspiracy to commit mail & wire fraud (Conspiring to use One Door to defraud)

    ·         Count 2: Aiding & abetting mail fraud (FedEX of $5K donor check to One Door on 6/3/13)

    ·         Count 4: Aiding & abetting mail fraud (FedEX of $28,700 donor check to One Door on 9/10/13)

    ·         Count 6: Aiding & abetting mail fraud (FedEX of $10K donor check to One Door on 9/15/14)

    ·         Count 7: Aiding & abetting mail (FedEX of $10K donor check to The Alexander Agency on 9/16/14)

    ·         Count 8: Aiding & abetting mail fraud (FedEX of $10K donor check to One Door on 9/16/15)

    ·         Count 9: Aiding & abetting wire fraud (Email from Simmons asking for $5K donation on 6/18/13) 

    ·         Count 10: Aiding & abetting wire fraud (Deposit $3,055 One Door check to Alexander Agency on 8/5/13)

    ·         Count 11: Aiding & abetting wire fraud (Deposit $2,086 One Door check to Alexander Agency on 8/13/13)

    ·         Count 12: Aiding & abetting wire fraud (Deposit $2,500 One Door check to Alexander Agency on 9/3/13)

    ·         Count 13: Aiding & abetting wire fraud (Deposit $2K One Door check to Alexander Agency on 9/9/13)

    ·         Count 15: Aiding & abetting wire fraud (Deposit $10K check to Alexander Agency on 9/17/14)

    ·         Count 17: Aiding & abetting wire fraud (Email from Simmons seeking $10K donation to One Door on 9/16/15)

    ·         Count 19: Engaging in a scheme to conceal material facts (False congressional financial disclosure forms)

    ·         Count 21: Corruptly endeavoring to obstruct or impede the due administration of the Internal Revenue Laws

    ·         Count 22: Filing a false U.S. individual tax return for tax year 2012

    ·         Count 23: Filing a false U.S. individual tax return for tax year 2013

    ·         Count 24: Filing a false U.S. individual tax return for tax year 2014

    Not guilty verdicts: 

    ·         Count 3: Aiding & abetting mail fraud (FedEX of $5K donor check to One Door on 7/2/13) 

    ·         Count 5: Aiding & abetting mail fraud (FedEX of $7K donor check to One Door on 9/10/14) 

    ·         Count 14: Aiding & abetting wire fraud (Simmons email w/ FedEx label for $7K check to One Door on 9/10/14) 

    ·         Count 16: Aiding & abetting wire fraud (Email from Simmons seeking $10K donation on 9/9/15)

    Counts 18 and 20 were related to Ronnie Simmons only.

     

    Brown's defense attorney James Smith said her defense plans to file a motion for a new trial.

    He wouldn't say why but said they are confident there is chance to have the conviction overturned.

    The jury reached the verdict the day after the judge called an emergency hearing Wednesday morning after a juror made comments about Brown and "higher beings."

    The juror was dismissed and the jury restarted deliberations with an alternative on Wednesday.

    The judge called an emergency hearing on Thursday morning because a First Coast News reporter attempted to contact a juror on Wednesday.

    “In an effort to interview the juror who was dismissed yesterday, contrary to what I had asked, the First Coast News reporter inadvertently attempted to contact a sitting juror,” Judge Corrigan said Thursday.

    The juror had no contact with the reporter, First Coast News' attorney said.

    The jury asked the judge three questions during deliberations, two on Wednesday and one on Thursday. The verdict was reached just before 1:45 p.m. Thursday.

    The FBI Jacksonville Division released a statement about the verdict:

    "Former Congresswoman Brown took an oath year after year to serve others, but instead she exploited the needs of children and deceived her constituents to advance her own personal and political agendas. Corrupt public officials undermine the integrity of our government and violate the public's trust, and that is why investigating public corruption remains the FBI's top criminal priority.  I am proud of our special agents, analysts and support personnel who spent countless hours following the money trail in this case, and thank our law enforcement partners at the IRS-CI and U.S. Attorney's Office for their efforts to hold Brown and her associates accountable for their inexcusable actions."

    Rep. Al Lawson, who won Brown's seat in the November election, said his thoughts and prayers are with her and her family. 

    Before the verdict

    1:37 p.m. The attorneys are back in the courtroom. They are waiting to see if judge has made up his mind about transcript.

    11:04 a.m. -- The jury sent the judge another question Thursday asking for a transcript of witness Marva Johnson's testimony.

    Johnson, the regional vice president of Charter Communications and Florida Board of Education Chair, took the witness stand on the third day of testimony about two weeks ago.

    Her testimony relates to counts 8, 16, 17 -- aiding and abetting mail and wire fraud.

    Judge Corrigan told the jury: “We generally do not provide transcripts and instead ask that you rely on your own memory and notes. It also takes time to prepare a transcript. However, I will evaluate your request and give you a final answer when I can. In the meantime, you should continue your deliberations.”

    The judge said Johnson’s testimony has not been transcribed yet and it would probably take an hour and a half to transcribe it and would be about 50 pages long.

    Brown's defense attorney James Smith asked that the court to allow the transcript to be prepared because he wants the jury to have as much information as possible. 

    Prosecutor Tysen Duva said he wanted the judge to say no to the request for the transcript because “in all the trials I’ve had in this courthouse, it’s never been done.”

    He said he worries it will open the door to asking for multiple transcripts of witness testimony.

    Judge Corrigan told the jury he is considering their request and they should continue deliberating. He said in the meantime, court staff will begin to prepare the transcript.

    9:10 a.m. The judge presiding over former Congresswoman Corrine Brown’s federal fraud trial called an emergency hearing on Thursday morning because a First Coast News reporter attempted to contact a juror on Wednesday.

    Judge Timothy Corrigan said he received a phone call from Anne Schindler of First Coast News on Wednesday night saying fellow reporter Ken Amaro made a mistake.

    “In an effort to interview the juror who was dismissed yesterday, contrary to what I had asked, the First Coast News reporter inadvertently attempted to contact a sitting juror,” said Judge Corrigan.

    Amaro knocked on the door of the juror, received no answer, placed four business cards at various places around the home and left.

    Despite several on-air appearances outside the courthouse during Brown’s time in court, Amaro has not actually been in the courtroom for the trial or jury selection.

    First Coast News attorney Jennifer Mansfield said Amaro did not realize the jurors had been re-numbered after jury selection, calling it an "error in the juror number.”

    “No contact was made with the juror. It was an inadvertent error,” said Mansfield. 

    “Thank goodness there wasn’t actual contact,” said Judge Corrigan. “It can present problems, serious problems.”

    Judge Corrigan said the juror either wasn't home at the time or chose not to answer when Amaro came to the door.

    “I would think that if the juror felt pressured or aggrieved in some way, that he or she would likely have brought it to our attention. And since that did not happen, I am just speculating that he viewed it as an intrusion… but he kept himself compliant with the court’s orders,” said Judge Corrigan.

    Because of Amaro’s actions, Judge Corrigan added an order on Thursday morning prohibiting media contact with Wednesday's dismissed juror.

    Judge Corrigan had already entered an order last month prohibiting the media from contacting sitting jurors.
    “It appears that order was violated. Whether it was violated intentionally or mistakenly is certainly a question,” said Judge Corrigan.

    Judge Corrigan said that whether Amaro’s actions were a mistake or intentional could be the subject of future proceedings, but he wants to get Brown’s case resolved first.

    Jury deliberations resumed after Thursday morning’s hearing.

    The jury must decide on 22 verdicts:
    • One count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud
    • Seven counts of aiding and abetting mail fraud
    • Nine counts of aiding and abetting wire fraud
    • One count of engaging in a scheme to conceal material facts
    • One count of corruptly endeavoring to obstruct and impede the due administration of the internal revenue laws
    • Three counts of filing a false U.S. individual tax return

    The prosecution told the jury that Brown profited from so-called “bogus charity” One Door for Education, lied to donors, and lied on her taxes and congressional financial disclosure forms.

    Brown’s defense attorney James Smith argued that the jury should see the former congresswoman as a victim of her chief of staff Ronnie Simmons’ fraud.

    8:56 a.m. The judge in the Corrine Brown fraud case has officially barred any media contact with the juror who was dismissed from the case on Wednesday.

    Juror 13 was removed after comments about Brown and "higher beings" caused an emergency hearing Wednesday morning.

    During the hearing early on Wednesday morning, Judge Timothy Corrigan said Juror 8 called a courtroom deputy’s cellphone last night.

    “She was calling on her own behalf, but thought that other jurors were concerned as well,” said Judge Corrigan.

    Judge Corrigan said it is routine for a courtroom deputy to give jurors his or her cellphone number in case they are running late.

    Judge Corrigan said Juror 8 told the courtroom deputy that “this other juror was making a comment about higher beings and also mentioned Corrine Brown’s name.”

    8:50 a.m. For the second day in a row, an unscheduled hearing will be held in the courtroom where former Florida Rep. Corrine Brown faces fraud charges.

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