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The Latest Story From The Trial

  • Now-former Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown has been denied a new trial, after being convicted on 18 of 22 federal fraud-related charges in May. A judge has also issued an order denying a motion for acquittal. Brown’s sentencing has now been set for November 16th. Brown was found guilty of soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars for a sham charity called “One Door For Education”, using the money for personal expenses and lavish events instead. Her Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons and the President of One Door Carla Wiley both pleaded guilty and testified against Brown at trial. Simmons has now been formally adjudicated guilty and his sentencing has been set for November 15th. Wiley was adjudicated shortly after entering her plea in March 2016, but her sentencing has now also been set for November 15th, to take place in the same courtroom at the same time as Simmons. FULL COVERAGE: Federal fraud trial of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown Brown had sought a new trial by claiming the judge improperly dismissed a juror after deliberations had already started, because that juror said at the outset of deliberations that the “Holy Spirit” had told him Brown was innocent. In the initial order dismissing the juror, District Judge Timothy Corrigan had carefully worded his ruling, saying that it would not have violated the jury process to pray for guidance, but to have an influence that prevents the juror from considering only the evidence- like a determination of innocence from a “Holy Spirit”- crosses the line. “Had Juror No. 13 simply stated to his fellow jurors that he was praying for guidance during the deliberations, that would not have been problematic,” Corrigan’s order says. “But that’s not what happened here.” Jurors are instructed only to consider the evidence of the case presented at trial and the court’s instruction on the law in determining a verdict. Some of that instruction included that jurors must discuss the case with one another and only make their verdict determination after considering all of the evidence with the other jurors. During the jury selection process, they also all agreed they had no religious or moral beliefs that would preclude them from serving in a fair and impartial panel.  Corrigan says he believes the juror felt he was obeying the court’s instructions on deliberations, but that he violated it by holding this conviction before deliberations even started. Corrigan further says he would have come to the same determination if the “Holy Spirit” had told Corrigan that Brown was guilty as well. An alternate juror was seated and the panel was instructed to start deliberations from scratch. The verdicts of guilty on 18 counts and not guilty on 4 counts were unanimously reached after about eleven hours of deliberations. “Corrine Brown is entitled to a fair trial with an impartial jury that reaches a verdict in accordance with the law. That is what she received,” Corrigan’s ruling says. Brown’s motion for acquittal said that prosecutors had not shown she had criminal intent, claiming instead that she had poorly managed her finances and office, but never intended to defraud anyone. Corrigan’s ruling detailed some of the evidence laid out by prosecutors and said the jury could reasonably infer guilt from that. Brown’s attorney further contended that the fact that Brown was found not guilty on four of the charges diminished the government’s proof. Corrigan belives that shows the jury carefully deliberated the evidence and merits of each specific charge. “Suffice it to say, there was more than sufficient evidence to justify the jury’s verdict on each count of conviction,” Corrigan’s ruling says. Brown’s attorney James Smith tells us she’s “understandably saddened and disappointed” by the judge’s rulings, but she remains strong and maintains her innocence. She further wants supporters to know that she appreciates their prayers and will continue fighting. While Smith said Brown is planning to pursue “any and all available legal options”, he declined to get in to many specifics on what those avenues include. He says their focus right now is geting her the best sentence possible, and a motion for reconsideration is something they could look at in the future. The US Attorney’s Office declined to comment about the rulings at this time.

Recent Headlines

  • Now-former Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown has been denied a new trial, after being convicted on 18 of 22 federal fraud-related charges in May. A judge has also issued an order denying a motion for acquittal. Brown’s sentencing has now been set for November 16th. Brown was found guilty of soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars for a sham charity called “One Door For Education”, using the money for personal expenses and lavish events instead. Her Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons and the President of One Door Carla Wiley both pleaded guilty and testified against Brown at trial. Simmons has now been formally adjudicated guilty and his sentencing has been set for November 15th. Wiley was adjudicated shortly after entering her plea in March 2016, but her sentencing has now also been set for November 15th, to take place in the same courtroom at the same time as Simmons. FULL COVERAGE: Federal fraud trial of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown Brown had sought a new trial by claiming the judge improperly dismissed a juror after deliberations had already started, because that juror said at the outset of deliberations that the “Holy Spirit” had told him Brown was innocent. In the initial order dismissing the juror, District Judge Timothy Corrigan had carefully worded his ruling, saying that it would not have violated the jury process to pray for guidance, but to have an influence that prevents the juror from considering only the evidence- like a determination of innocence from a “Holy Spirit”- crosses the line. “Had Juror No. 13 simply stated to his fellow jurors that he was praying for guidance during the deliberations, that would not have been problematic,” Corrigan’s order says. “But that’s not what happened here.” Jurors are instructed only to consider the evidence of the case presented at trial and the court’s instruction on the law in determining a verdict. Some of that instruction included that jurors must discuss the case with one another and only make their verdict determination after considering all of the evidence with the other jurors. During the jury selection process, they also all agreed they had no religious or moral beliefs that would preclude them from serving in a fair and impartial panel.  Corrigan says he believes the juror felt he was obeying the court’s instructions on deliberations, but that he violated it by holding this conviction before deliberations even started. Corrigan further says he would have come to the same determination if the “Holy Spirit” had told Corrigan that Brown was guilty as well. An alternate juror was seated and the panel was instructed to start deliberations from scratch. The verdicts of guilty on 18 counts and not guilty on 4 counts were unanimously reached after about eleven hours of deliberations. “Corrine Brown is entitled to a fair trial with an impartial jury that reaches a verdict in accordance with the law. That is what she received,” Corrigan’s ruling says. Brown’s motion for acquittal said that prosecutors had not shown she had criminal intent, claiming instead that she had poorly managed her finances and office, but never intended to defraud anyone. Corrigan’s ruling detailed some of the evidence laid out by prosecutors and said the jury could reasonably infer guilt from that. Brown’s attorney further contended that the fact that Brown was found not guilty on four of the charges diminished the government’s proof. Corrigan belives that shows the jury carefully deliberated the evidence and merits of each specific charge. “Suffice it to say, there was more than sufficient evidence to justify the jury’s verdict on each count of conviction,” Corrigan’s ruling says. Brown’s attorney James Smith tells us she’s “understandably saddened and disappointed” by the judge’s rulings, but she remains strong and maintains her innocence. She further wants supporters to know that she appreciates their prayers and will continue fighting. While Smith said Brown is planning to pursue “any and all available legal options”, he declined to get in to many specifics on what those avenues include. He says their focus right now is geting her the best sentence possible, and a motion for reconsideration is something they could look at in the future. The US Attorney’s Office declined to comment about the rulings at this time.
  • There is no decision yet on whether now-former Congresswoman Corrine Brown will get a new trial or potentially be acquitted outright in connection to the 18 federal charges for which she’s been convicted. During a motions hearing Monday, Brown’s attorneys argued their case. WOKV has previously told you that the motion for a new trial looked heavily at the judge’s decision to dismiss a juror during deliberations, because that juror had said the “Holy Spirit” told him Brown was not guilty. That juror was replaced by the first alternate, and the jury rendered its verdicts soon after. In deciding to dismiss the juror, District Judge Timothy Corrigan drew a dividing line, saying a juror is allowed to have deeply held religious beliefs, but the problem in this case is the juror had been directed on a verdict. In the motion for a new trial, Brown’s attorney argued the court improperly interpreted the juror’s statements as external forces, where it could have indicating his gut and instincts. The arguments around the motion to acquit were based on whether Brown actually had any criminal intent, or if she was just negligent in managing her finances and office- which was a theme the defense had argued in the trial itself. FULL COVERAGE: The trial of now-former Congresswoman Corrine Brown On both counts, government prosecutors stood by the arguments previously made and the decisions already rendered by the court. Corrigan said he will issue his rulings in writing, but there’s no clear timeline when they will be filed. Brown was convicted in May on 18 of 22 charges. The convictions show that a jury believed she was actively involved in soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to a sham charity called One Door For Education, knowing the money would be used for lavish events and personal expenses instead. Brown’s Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons and his then-girlfriend- the President of One Door- Carla Wiley, were also indicted in the scheme. They both pleaded guilty and testified at Brown’s trial. In addition to the fraud related counts connected to One Door, Brown was also found guilty of lying on tax returns by inflating charitable contributions and under-reporting income, as well as filing false financial disclosures required by public officials. No sentencing date has yet been set for any of the three defendants.
  • The US Attorney has filed two motions in response to former Congressman Corrine Brown’s pursuit of a new trial.  Brown was found guilty on 18 of 22 federal charges. Her attorney says Brown’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury of her peers and to a unanimous verdict were violated with the removal of a juror during deliberations. An alternate juror was seated, and the verdicts were rendered about a day and a half later.  FULL COVERAGE:  The federal case of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown  In its response, the Acting US Attorney Stephen Muldrow says the self-serving view of the facts is belied by the record, which supports the Court’s decision to strike Juror 13, and the Court should deny the motion.  And he says the Court was well within its discretion to remove the juror based on a finding that there was no substantial possibility that the juror could render a verdict determined solely on the facts and the law.  In a separate motion, the US Attorney’s Office opposes Brown’s request for a judgment of acquittal. Motion for a new trial  WOKV was in the courtroom throughout the trial, including a hearing after a day and a half of jury deliberations where District Judge Timothy Corrigan told attorneys that a juror had contacted him about concerns with another juror. While much of the nature of that juror’s concerns were initially discussed in a closed session of court, WOKV has since obtained the transcript, which shows Juror 13 had said at the outset of deliberations that the “Holy Spirit” told him Brown was not guilty on all charges.  Juror 13 was questioned by Corrigan and told the court he believed he was following instructions to consider the evidence presented at trial and the law as instructed. He further said his religious or moral believes were not interfering with his ability to decide the case as instructed. The juror who initially raised a concern to the court even said Juror 13’s statements weren’t getting in the way of the deliberations, according to the transcript.  Corrigan carefully worded his ruling in his decision to remove that Juror 13, saying sincerely held religious beliefs and prayers for guidance are not ground for dismissal, but Juror 13 making the statement that he did before the deliberations took hold show inconsistencies with the instructions. Corrigan also noted that Juror 13 said specifically that the “Holy Spirit” had directed him on the verdict.  Corrigan ruled that, while it seemed Juror 13 was “very earnest, very sincere” in his belief and attempt to follow the court’s instructions, his statement about the “Holy Spirit” directing his verdict was a “disqualifying statement”. That further led to the conclusion that there was “no substantial possibility” the juror could follow the court’s instructions and that he using an “external force” in his decision making.  Case in review  Brown was convicted on May 11th of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, five counts of aiding and abetting mail fraud, and seven counts of aiding and abetting wire fraud in connection to her soliciting money for a sham charity organization called “One Door For Education”. Prosecutors argued Brown, her Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons, and One Door President Carla Wiley raised money for the group, but used the funds for personal expenses and lavish events.  Brown was also convicted of engaging in a scheme to conceal material facts, corruptly endeavoring to obstruct the due administration of internal revenue law, and three counts of filing a false tax return- generally involving Brown not reporting income she received from One Door and over reporting her charitable contributions.  Simmons and Wiley pleaded guilty ahead of Brown’s trial, and both testified for the prosecution. Brown took the stand in her own defense, claiming she was taken advantage of by Simmons. Sentencing dates have not yet been set for any of the three, with all remaining out of prison as the court proceedings continue.
  • Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown was found guilty on 18 of 22 federal charges, but now, she’s pushing for a new trial.  Brown’s attorney has filed a motion that says her Sixth Amendment right to a jury of her peers and to a unanimous verdict were violated with the removal of a juror during deliberations. An alternate juror was seated, and the verdicts were rendered about a day and a half later.  FULL COVERAGE: The federal case of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown A motion for a judgement of acquittal has also been filed. These come as the defense notifies the court that a new attorney, Samuel Walker, will be joining Brown’s legal team. He’s from the same firm as the attorney that’s taken her through trial, James Smith III. Motion for a new trial WOKV was in the courtroom throughout the trial, including a hearing after a day and a half of jury deliberations where District Judge Timothy Corrigan told attorneys that a juror had contacted him about concerns with another juror. While much of the nature of that juror’s concerns were initially discussed in a closed session of court, WOKV has since obtained the transcript, which shows Juror 13 had said at the outset of deliberations that the “Holy Spirit” told him Brown was not guilty on all charges.  Juror 13 was questioned by Corrigan and told the court he believed he was following instructions to consider the evidence presented at trial and the law as instructed. He further said his religious or moral believes were not interfering with his ability to decide the case as instructed. The juror who initially raised a concern to the court even said Juror 13’s statements weren’t getting in the way of the deliberations, according to the transcript.  Corrigan carefully worded his ruling in his decision to remove that Juror 13, saying sincerely held religious beliefs and prayers for guidance are not ground for dismissal, but Juror 13 making the statement that he did before the deliberations took hold show inconsistencies with the instructions. Corrigan also noted that Juror 13 said specifically that the “Holy Spirit” had directed him on the verdict.  Corrigan ruled that, while it seemed Juror 13 was “very earnest, very sincere” in his belief and attempt to follow the court’s instructions, his statement about the “Holy Spirit” directing his verdict was a “disqualifying statement”. That further led to the conclusion that there was “no substantial possibility” the juror could follow the court’s instructions and that he using an “external force” in his decision making.  In the motion for a new trial, Brown’s attorney, James Smith III argues that the record does not support the court’s conclusion that the “Holy Spirit” is an external force.  “There is a substantial possibility the holy spirit was actually the juror’s own mind or spirit telling him that one or more witnesses had not testified truthfully,” the motion says.  Smith focuses on the fact that Juror 13 believed he was deciding the case based on the evidence and the court’s instructions, and that he believed he was receiving “guidance” from “his father in heaven”. The motion argues that the court must find the juror’s dissent isn’t based on the evidence- beyond a reasonable doubt- and that wasn’t done here. Smith distinguishes Brown’s case from two cases which were cited in the decision to dismiss, because both of those cases involved eleven jurors testifying that the twelfth juror was refusing to follow the court’s instructions.  In his claim that Brown’s right to a unanimous verdict was violated, Smith argues the other jurors did not testify that Juror 13 wasn’t following the court’s instructions, and in fact one of the jurors had testified the statement wasn’t interfering in deliberations. According to Smith, Juror 13 showed his decision would be based on his thoughts and beliefs, and his determination of not guilty was based on his assessment of witness credibility.  Because of that, Smith argues the record doesn’t show beyond a reasonable doubt that Juror 13’s “not guilty” verdict was based on anything but the evidence, so Brown’s right to a unanimous verdict was violated.  Smith further argues Brown’s right to a jury of her peers was violated. In these arguments, Smith focuses on Corrigan’s statement that “there’s nothing wrong with praying for guidance”.  “If there is nothing wrong with praying for guidance from the holy spirit, then there can be nothing wrong with receiving guidance from the holy spirit,” Smith says in the motion.  He called on a Fourth Circuit case over the presence of a Bible in the deliberation room to further his argument, quoting portions of the ruling which speak to the interaction between religious beliefs and jury service.  “To ask that jurors become fundamentally different people when they enter the jury room is at odds with the idea that the jury be ‘drawn from a fair cross section of the community’,” the portion of the Robinson v. Polk case reads.  This builds to Smith’s argument that Juror 13’s reference to a “Holy Spirit” may not be an outside force, but may instead be evidence of his “appreciation of the seriousness of his duty” and “an aspect of their identity”.  “Indeed, for some, the holy spirit, whether one exists or not, may provide the strength to render whatever verdict the law and the evidence compel,” Smith argues in the motion.  He adds that dismissing a juror because of reliance on a “Holy Spirit” could risk excluding much of the population from jury service.  To close, Smith says determining the “Holy Spirit” is an external force is a “philosophical determination”.  “Accordingly, justice requires a new trial,” he says.  Motion for acquittal A second motion filed by Brown’s legal team says the government’s case didn’t establish “the essential elements” of the charges Brown faced. Several references are made to the testimony of Brown’s Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons. Brown’s defense was built on the argument that she became increasingly reliant on Simmons, and he took advantage of that trust. The defense argued Simmons controlled Brown’s finances and managed her office, and while she was negligent in handling her personal affairs, there was no intent of criminal wrongdoing. “Had she paid closer attention to her finances she might have discovered Mr. Simmons misdeeds,” the motion says. Instead, Smith argues the prosecution asked the jury to speculate about what Brown was thinking and to rely on “guilt by association”. “The government presented a purely circumstantial evidence case,” the motion says. Smith says a portion of Simmons’ testimony “eviscerated” the government’s theory about Brown’s guilt. “To the surprise of the government, Mr. Simmons provided exculpatory on behalf of the defendant. One of the government’s primary theories of guilt was that the defendant never intended to use any of the funds solicited from donor for charitable or legitimate purposes. Mr. Simmons testified it was in fact the intent with regard to the funds raised for the events and despite the government’s attempt to impeach him on that point he remained resolute,” the motion reads. That is referring to a portion of Simmons’ testimony where he said they always intended to use events to raise money for a sham charity organization called One Door For Education, but never could because of high costs. When asked by  prosecutors how long he would let the alleged mismanagement go on before changing something, Simmons could not give a definitive answer. The motion additionally says Brown never controlled One Door accounts or even served on the organization’s Board. She also had only met a third alleged co-conspirator, the President of One Door Carla Wiley- on a few occasions. Brown says she didn’t know that One Door was not a legitimate charity when she solicited donations, and in fact did see at least one example of their work paying off- when almost two dozen students were sent on an exchange trip to China. Finally, the motion argues that Brown’s innocence is boosted by the fact that she was acquitted on four of the charges. Smith writes it doesn’t make “logical sense” to believe Brown was involved in this scheme, but be acquitted on these charges. Case in review Brown was convicted on May 11th of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, five counts of aiding and abetting mail fraud, and seven counts of aiding and abetting wire fraud in connection to her soliciting money for a sham charity organization called “One Door For Education”. Prosecutors argued Brown, her Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons, and One Door President Carla Wiley raised money for the group, but used the funds for personal expenses and lavish events.  Brown was also convicted of engaging in a scheme to conceal material facts, corruptly endeavoring to obstruct the due administration of internal revenue law, and three counts of filing a false tax return- generally involving Brown not reporting income she received from One Door and overreporting her charitable contributions.  Simmons and Wiley pleaded guilty ahead of Brown’s trial, and both testified for the prosecution. Brown took the stand in her own defense, claiming she was taken advantage of by Simmons. Sentencing dates have not yet been set for any of the three, with all remaining out of prison as the court proceedings continue.

The Latest On-Air Coverage

The Trial of Corrine Brown

Former congresswoman Corrine Brown has returned to Duval county to answer federal charges of conspiracy and fraud. We go in-depth to dissect the latest from inside the courtroom

Corrine Brown denied new trial

Topics: A judge set a sentencing date for former Congresswoman Corrine Brown.
Posted: August 16, 2017

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The Latest News Headlines

  • Neighbors in St. Johns County are outraged after hearing about plans to possibly build a massive gas station right across the street from where they live. The Texas based chain Buc-ee’s filed a pre-application to open the convenience store near World Golf Village. A massive gas station called Buc-ee's that houses 120 fuel stations could be coming to St. Johns Co @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/ctx1x71VuD — Danielle Avitable (@DanielleANjax) October 19, 2017 'I don't want it, it's getting too congested now,' neighbor Nancy Kohlbeck said.  And hundreds of people living in World Golf Village feel the same way about the Texas convenience store chain. 'Trying to be upscale and this will just kill the whole flavor of the neighborhood,' neighbor Michele Thomas said.  I spoke to neighbors about the site plans & they tell me they don't want it to be built in their area @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/Lqxr2HPw0Y — Danielle Avitable (@DanielleANjax) October 19, 2017 In less than 48 hours, close to 1,000 people signed a Change.org petition to stop it from being built near their neighborhood.  'I know that development is inevitable here, but I think it's our chance to control what kind of development we have,' neighbor Aaron Enos said.  The Texas based chain Buc-ee’s filed a pre application to open the convenience store near WGV https://t.co/wPVhW1YKmx @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/yvL1El3auV — Danielle Avitable (@DanielleANjax) October 19, 2017 Buc-ee’s filed a pre-application for the 120 gas pump station and at about 53,000 square feet, it’s about the size of a football field.  'It will drive down our property values. There's no way people will want to live near something that huge,' Thomas said.  The property off Interstate 95 near World Golf Village is where the gas station would be built.  'I'm not against business, but put it in the right area,' Kohlbeck said.  Some neighbors call this a sign of the unstoppable growth in St. Johns County.  'It's just progress, it’s going to happen,' neighbor, Van Fuller said.  Others just wish the growth would come at a little smaller pace. 'Maybe we can have something like local businesses,' Enos said.  The petition will go before county commissioners in hopes of halting the construction. Michael Ryan, Communications Manager for the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners, released the following statement on the proposed Buc-ee's station: “We are aware of community interest in the proposed service station project, but at this point in time we are only in possession of a pre-application and have not been provided with specific details related to the project. Once an application is filed, the project will undergo development review and will be subject to land use and zoning requirements. Should the developer request variances, those items will be considered by the Board of County Commissioners, where the public will have an opportunity to provide feedback. Residents are encouraged to email or call County staff or their Commissioner with any comment they may have about this project.”
  • A man accused of murdering a New Orleans police officer in 2015 halted jury selection in his trial Wednesday by smearing feces on his face, head and mouth, horrifying potential jurors and courtroom spectators.  Travis Boys, 35, apparently put the feces, wrapped in tissue, in his pocket during a bathroom break earlier in the day, NOLA.com reported. He was seated at the defense table with his attorneys when he pulled the tissue out and silently rubbed the waste on himself.  >> Read more trending news Boys is charged with first-degree murder in the June 20, 2015, shooting death of Officer Daryle Holloway. The officer was transporting Boys to jail when Boys allegedly shot him inside his police SUV.  Boys escaped custody and was at large for about 24 hours before being recaptured. If convicted, he faces life in prison.  The Advocate reported that criminal defense lawyer David Belfield, who is Holloway’s uncle, witnessed the incident. Belfield said he believed Boys was trying to sway potential jurors.  “It’s calculated, and it shows that he’s not insane, not crazy,” Belfield told the newspaper.  Boys has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity, the Advocate reported. District Court Judge Karen Herman ruled last month that Boys was competent to stand trial in Holloway’s slaying.  After halting the proceedings Wednesday, however, Herman ordered that another competency hearing be held on Thursday. His attorneys have argued that Boys suffers from low IQ and mental health problems.  Though Herman ruled him competent to stand trial, she is allowing the defense to present evidence of schizophrenia in Boys’ family, the Advocate said.  The judge dismissed the panel of potential jurors who witnessed Boys’ actions on Wednesday.  The Advocate reported that the odor of bleach clung to the air an hour after the incident. 
  • Former President George W. Bush warned Americans to be wary of growing trends toward nativism and isolationism on Thursday during a speech at the Bush Institute’s national forum. >> Read more trending news “Bigotry seems emboldened,” Bush said. “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism – forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade – forgetting that conflict, instability and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.” The speech was widely interpreted as a veiled message aimed at the politics of President Donald Trump, who has often touted an “America first” view of world politics. However, Trump was not named in the speech. Read Bush’s full remarks from the forum, “Spirit of Liberty: At Home, in the World”: Thank you all. Thank you. Ok, Padilla gracias. So, I painted Ramon. I wish you were still standing here. It’s a face only a mother could love – no, it’s a fabulous face. (Laughter.) I love you Ramon, thank you very much for being here. And, Grace Jo thank you for your testimony. And, big Tim. I got to know Tim as a result of Presidential Leadership Scholars at the Bush Center along with the Clinton Foundation, with help from 41 and LBJ’s libraries. I am thrilled that friends of ours from Afghanistan, China, North Korea, and Venezuela are here as well. These are people who have experienced the absence of freedom and they know what it’s like and they know there is a better alternative to tyranny. Laura and I are thrilled that the Bush Center supporters are here. Bernie (Tom Bernstein), I want to thank you and your committee. I call him Bernie. (Laughter.) It’s amazing to have Secretary Albright share the stage with Condi and Ambassador Haley. For those of you that kind of take things for granted, that’s a big deal. (Laughter and applause) Thank you. We are gathered in the cause of liberty this is a unique moment. The great democracies face new and serious threats – yet seem to be losing confidence in their own calling and competence. Economic, political and national security challenges proliferate, and they are made worse by the tendency to turn inward. The health of the democratic spirit itself is at issue. And the renewal of that spirit is the urgent task at hand. Since World War II, America has encouraged and benefited from the global advance of free markets, from the strength of democratic alliances, and from the advance of free societies. At one level, this has been a raw calculation of interest. The 20th century featured some of the worst horrors of history because dictators committed them. Free nations are less likely to threaten and fight each other. And free trade helped make America into a global economic power. For more than 70 years, the presidents of both parties believed that American security and prosperity were directly tied to the success of freedom in the world. And they knew that the success depended, in large part, on U.S. leadership. This mission came naturally, because it expressed the DNA of American idealism. We know, deep down, that repression is not the wave of the future. We know that the desire for freedom is not confined to, or owned by, any culture; it is the inborn hope of our humanity. We know that free governments are the only way to ensure that the strong are just and the weak are valued. And we know that when we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed. It is the failure of those charged with preserving and protecting democracy. This is not to underestimate the historical obstacles to the development of democratic institutions and a democratic culture. Such problems nearly destroyed our country – and that should encourage a spirit of humility and a patience with others. Freedom is not merely a political menu option, or a foreign policy fad; it should be the defining commitment of our country, and the hope of the world. That appeal is proved not just by the content of people’s hopes, but a noteworthy hypocrisy: No democracy pretends to be a tyranny. Most tyrannies pretend they are democracies. Democracy remains the definition of political legitimacy. That has not changed, and that will not change. Yet for years, challenges have been gathering to the principles we hold dear. And, we must take them seriously. Some of these problems are external and obvious. Here in New York City, you know the threat of terrorism all too well. It is being fought even now on distant frontiers and in the hidden world of intelligence and surveillance. There is the frightening, evolving threat of nuclear proliferation and outlaw regimes. And there is an aggressive challenge by Russia and China to the norms and rules of the global order – proposed revisions that always seem to involve less respect for the rights of free nations and less freedom for the individual. These matters would be difficult under any circumstances. They are further complicated by a trend in western countries away from global engagement and democratic confidence. Parts of Europe have developed an identity crisis. We have seen insolvency, economic stagnation, youth unemployment, anger about immigration, resurgent ethno-nationalism, and deep questions about the meaning and durability of the European Union. America is not immune from these trends. In recent decades, public confidence in our institutions has declined. Our governing class has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs. The American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who feel left behind in a changing economy. Discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts. Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication. There are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned, especially among the young, who never experienced the galvanizing moral clarity of the Cold War, or never focused on the ruin of entire nations by socialist central planning. Some have called this “democratic deconsolidation.” Really, it seems to be a combination of weariness, frayed tempers, and forgetfulness. We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other. We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism – forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade – forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism. We have seen the return of isolationist sentiments – forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places, where threats such as terrorism, infectious disease, criminal gangs and drug trafficking tend to emerge. In all these ways, we need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have a great advantage: To renew our country, we only need to remember our values. This is part of the reason we meet here today. How do we begin to encourage a new, 21st century American consensus on behalf of democratic freedom and free markets? That’s the question I posed to scholars at the Bush Institute. That is what Pete Wehner and Tom Melia, who are with us today, have answered with “The Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In The World,” a Call to Action paper. The recommendations come in broad categories. Here they are: First, America must harden its own defenses. Our country must show resolve and resilience in the face of external attacks on our democracy. And that begins with confronting a new era of cyber threats. America is experiencing the sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country’s divisions. According to our intelligence services, the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other. This effort is broad, systematic and stealthy, it’s conducted across a range of social media platforms. Ultimately, this assault won’t succeed. But foreign aggressions – including cyber-attacks, disinformation and financial influence – should not be downplayed or tolerated. This is a clear case where the strength of our democracy begins at home. We must secure our electoral infrastructure and protect our electoral system from subversion. The second category of recommendations concerns the projection of American leadership – maintaining America’s role in sustaining and defending an international order rooted in freedom and free markets.  Our security and prosperity are only found in wise, sustained, global engagement: In the cultivation of new markets for American goods. In the confrontation of security challenges before they fully materialize and arrive on our shores. In the fostering of global health and development as alternatives to suffering and resentment. In the attraction of talent, energy and enterprise from all over the world. In serving as a shining hope for refugees and a voice for dissidents, human rights defenders, and the oppressed. We should not be blind to the economic and social dislocations caused by globalization. People are hurting. They are angry. And, they are frustrated. We must hear them and help them. But we can’t wish globalization away, any more than we could wish away the agricultural revolution or the industrial revolution. One strength of free societies is their ability to adapt to economic and social disruptions. And that should be our goal: to prepare American workers for new opportunities, to care in practical, empowering ways for those who may feel left behind. The first step should be to enact policies that encourage robust economic growth by unlocking the potential of the private sector, and for unleashing the creativity and compassion of this country. A third focus of this document is strengthening democratic citizenship. And here we must put particular emphasis on the values and views of the young. Our identity as a nation – unlike many other nations – is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility. We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence. We become the heirs of James Madison by understanding the genius and values of the U.S. Constitution. We become the heirs of Martin Luther King, Jr., by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed. (Applause.) And it means that the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation. We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools. And our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them. Finally, the Call to Action calls on the major institutions of our democracy, public and private, to consciously and urgently attend to the problem of declining trust. For example, our democracy needs a media that is transparent, accurate and fair. Our democracy needs religious institutions that demonstrate integrity and champion civil discourse. Our democracy needs institutions of higher learning that are examples of truth and free expression. In short, it is time for American institutions to step up and provide cultural and moral leadership for this nation. Ten years ago, I attended a Conference on Democracy and Security in Prague. The goal was to put human rights and human freedom at the center of our relationships with repressive governments. The Prague Charter, signed by champions of liberty Vaclav Havel, Natan Sharansky, Jose Maria Aznar, called for the isolation and ostracism of regimes that suppress peaceful opponents by threats or violence. Little did we know that, a decade later, a crisis of confidence would be developing within the core democracies, making the message of freedom more inhibited and wavering. Little did we know that repressive governments would be undertaking a major effort to encourage division in western societies and to undermine the legitimacy of elections. Repressive rivals, along with skeptics here at home, misunderstand something important. It is the great advantage of free societies that we creatively adapt to challenges, without the direction of some central authority. Self-correction is the secret strength of freedom. We are a nation with a history of resilience and a genius for renewal. Right now, one of our worst national problems is a deficit of confidence. But the cause of freedom justifies all our faith and effort. It still inspires men and women in the darkest corners of the world, and it will inspire a rising generation. The American spirit does not say, “We shall manage,” or “We shall make the best of it.” It says, “We shall overcome.” And that is exactly what we will do, with the help of God and one another. Thank you.
  • There’s an active investigation underway in Fleming Island, where we’re told a person was stabbed. The condition of that victim isn’t clear at this time. The Clay County Sheriff’s Office says they’re speaking with several people, but there have not been any arrests at this time. This appears to be an incident between acquaintances, so there is no ongoing threat to the community. CCSO doesn’t yet know the motive. Initially, CCSO reported this incident as two people who were stabbed. They’ve since revised that to show one of the victims had been cut in a prior, unrelated incident that didn’t take place in Clay County.
  • An Alabama man gunned down outside a gas station in broad daylight Tuesday afternoon had previously been shot 10 times in a six-month period.  Antoine “Twin” Collier, 29, of Birmingham, was killed when two unidentified gunmen fired more than 40 bullets in the parking lot of an Exxon service station in the city, AL.com reported. He died on the sidewalk in front of the store.  A Birmingham police spokesman said the shooting took place just before 1:30 p.m., as Collier and his girlfriend were entering the convenience store. AL.com reported that Collier’s girlfriend was not injured, but a female bystander who had just gotten food at a pizza place adjoining the Exxon was struck multiple times. The unidentified woman was rushed to a local hospital in critical condition.  >> Read more trending news Police officials were familiar with Collier, who investigators believe was the target in the shooting that ultimately took his life. “These guys were looking for him,” Lt. Sean Edwards, a police spokesman, told AL.com. “It’s obvious they were looking for him. They definitely targeted him.” In at least two of the previous shootings in which Collier was injured, he was accused of stealing illegal drugs from another person, police officials said. Birmingham police Chief A.C. Roper said the circumstances that may have led to his killing do not matter. “It’s a tragedy for his family, but regardless of the circumstances that led to his murder, we need to bring the killers to justice,” Roper told AL.com.  In April, Collier’s mother, Kimberly Flowers, spoke out about her son’s past.  “I’m the mother who hates to answer the phone,” Flowers said at the time. “You worry about your child.” Her son, whose name was not made public at that time because he was a target for harm, had been released from prison a year before, but kept finding himself in trouble. The most recent shooting prior to Tuesday’s fatal one had been the most serious, with Collier suffering a gunshot wound to the face.  At the time of Flowers’ April media interview, Collier was still recovering from that shooting in a protective rehabilitation facility, AL.com reported. In a text message, Collier expressed hope that participation in the city’s Violence Reduction Initiative could help him turn his life around. “I’ve cried till I can’t cry anymore, ‘cause I’m blessed,” Collier wrote, according to AL.com. “I think when my health gets better, I wanna speak to young black males about violence.”  Collier was released from the rehab facility this summer. 

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