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  • 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 22 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. This is a developing story that will be updated in to the afternoon.
  • The Stone Mountain Memorial Association this week denied a Ku Klux Klan request to burn a cross at the park in Dekalb County, Georgia, citing the trouble at a “pro-white” rally last year. >> Read more trending news Joey Hobbs, a Dublin man with the Sacred Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, wanted to hold a “lighting” ceremony on Oct. 21 with 20 participants, according to the application. This would have been to commemorate the KKK’s 1915 revival, which began with a flaming cross atop Stone Mountain on the evening of Thanksgiving. “We will light our cross and 20 minutes later we will be gone,” wrote Hobbs, who couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, in an application dated May 26. It wasn’t immediately clear if Hobbs holds a formal position with the group. >> Related: George H.W., George W. Bush condemn ‘racial bigotry’ in Charlottesville statement “We don’t want any of these groups at the park, quite frankly,” John Bankhead, spokesman for the association said Wednesday, referring to white nationalists groups and the KKK. “This is a family-oriented park.”  But since it’s a public park, the association created a permit process to consider each application individually. In a statement, the memorial group, which oversees the park, said it “condemns the beliefs and actions of the Ku Klux Klan and believes the denial of this Public Assembly request is in the best interest of all parties.” >> Related: Trump again blames ‘both sides’ for violence in CharlottesvilleWriting to deny Hobbs, CEO Bill Stephens cited the trouble at the “Rock Stone Mountain” rally of April 23, 2016. The park had to close that day as white power revelers, including KKK members, clashed with counter-protesters. Stephens said an event like Hobbs’ would require public safety resources beyond what park police could provide, and thus, would put guests, employees and public safety workers in danger.  Besides creating a potentially-dangerous scene, the cross-burning would’ve also been an act of intimidation, Bankhead said. >> Related: University of Florida denies request for white nationalist Richard Spencer to speak “I think anybody who knows about cross burning knows why it’s used,” Bankhead said, recalling the KKK’s track record of setting crosses on fire to intimidate African Americans. “We’re just not going to allow that.” Georgia's terroristic threats and acts statute also specifically bars the practice when it’s done with the intent to “terrorize.” The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that states can ban cross-burning, though it warned that the intent to intimidate must be proven in each case. Whatever Hobbs’ intent, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association CEO said the event would violate its ordinances against disruptions to the park and actions that present a “clear and present danger.”
  • Although many monuments to the Confederacy in the Unites States bear his name, image or both, Robert E. Lee was not in favor of Confederate monuments. >> Read more trending news According to documents from the University of Virginia, Lee declined and invitation to join officers at the site of the battle of Gettysburg to mark memorials, saying he “could not add anything material to the information existing on the subject.” “I think it wiser, moreover, not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered,” he said. Related: There are hundreds of Confederate monuments, not just in the South But it does not mean Lee opposed slavery. Lee simply thought it was best not to create monuments to remind the country of a time in which there was nationwide conflict.  Related: At least 109 schools named after Confederate figures, study says In an 1856 letter to his wife, Mary Anna Lee, he said of slavery, “I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things.” Lee died of heart disease in 1870 in Lexington, Virginia, five years after the end of the Civil War.
  • During ESPN’s 28-hour “Fantasy Football Marathon,” which began Monday, the network aired a questionable skit involving a live auction draft, where in one scene black players were sold to bidders -- which were composed of mostly white males. >> Read more trending news The skit garnered a lot of criticism with people pointing out the skit appeared eerily similar to what one would have see during a slave auction.   When asked for his thoughts by retired NFL player Dominique Hamilton, New York Giants player Odell Beckham Jr. replied, “Speechless.” Instead of a typical snake draft, where people will select a player by rounds, an auction draft is based on a budget and bids are taken for certain players. In the skit, the predominantly white audience bids for talented black football players. Many called the scene inappropriate, particularly given the recent race-fueled events in Charlottesville, Virginia.  CNN reported that ESPN released a video of a segment in which New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was up for auction. Brady is white. Some pointed out that white players were also in the segment, and that the skit simply reflected auction drafts that are part of fantasy football. In a statement to USA TODAY, ESPN apologized for the skit, saying, “Auction drafts are a common part of fantasy football, and ESPN’s segments replicated an auction draft with a diverse slate of top professional football players. Without that context, we understand the optics could be portrayed as offensive, and we apologize.” 
  • President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that he is disbanding a pair of White House councils after a receiving a rash of resignations in response to his failure to immediately and forcefully denounce white supremacists in the wake of violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. >> Read more trending news “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the manufacturing council (and) strategy (and) policy forum, I am ending both,” Trump wrote Wednesday in a tweet. “Thank you all!”

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