Breaking News:

Overland Bridge traffic shift set for overnight Friday

ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
76°
Mostly Clear
H 79° L 70°
  • cloudy-day
    76°
    Current Conditions
    Mostly Clear. H 79° L 70°
  • clear-night
    71°
    Morning
    Mostly Clear. H 79° L 70°
  • cloudy-day
    82°
    Afternoon
    Mostly Cloudy. H 83° L 72°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

Local
Verification of former Rep. Brown’s charitable donations dropped off as deductions for “One Door” climbed
Close

Verification of former Rep. Brown’s charitable donations dropped off as deductions for “One Door” climbed

Verification of former Rep. Brown’s charitable donations dropped off as deductions for “One Door” climbed
Photo Credit: Action News Jax
Now-former Congresswoman Corrine Brown at the federal courthouse for her trial Tuesday

Verification of former Rep. Brown’s charitable donations dropped off as deductions for “One Door” climbed

 

While the focus of now-former Congresswoman Corrine Brown’s federal trial so far has been the fraud and related charges she’s facing, the tax violations facing her took center stage Tuesday. 

One of Brown’s tax preparers says she became increasingly uncomfortable as the amount of documentation to support Brown’s alleged charitable giving fell off over the years. A staffer was also found to have some documentation that hadn’t been submitted, but she says everything she gathered and turned in- or didn’t- was at the direction of Brown.

Brown gets her taxes done through Portnoy CPA, and Dawn Wright has worked on those returns for a number of years. Overall, she described Brown’s individual income tax returns as “relatively straightforward”, except for the fact that they were filed in October of the following year- when all of the extensions had been maxed out. 

When the returns were taken one year at a time, though, prosecutors started to highlight some questions. Overall, they’re accusing Brown of both under-reporting her income and over-reporting her charitable giving.

Much of the information reflected in the tax returns was compiled by Brown’s Area Director in Jacksonville, Carolyn Chatman, who would communicate directly with Brown. She told the court that any of the information she wrote for charitable giving, including how much was given to charity, she got straight from Brown.

FULL COVERAGE: Federal fraud trial of now-former Congresswoman Corrine Brown 

For all of the returns in question, Brown’s only reported sources of income have been her salary from the House of Representatives- which has ranged between about $160,000 and $180,000- and her pension from the state of Florida from her time as a state lawmaker. Prosecutors asked Wright on several occasions whether Brown had reported any income from other various sources, and her answer was consistently no. The government believes Brown should have reported money she was allegedly receiving from a group she promoted as a charity, One Door For Education. The focus of the trial is that she and two others raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations for that group, but used the money instead on personal expenses.

FBI Forensic Accountant Kimberly Henderson there were several other entities that gave money which ultimately wound up in Brown’s bank account as well- although testimony showed it wasn’t declared as income. Henderson tracked checks from the Community Rehabilitation Center non-profit, Northwest Support Services Inc for-profit, and Lapool Transportation and Education for-profit, which she believes were converted to cash and deposited with Brown. The CRC’s Executive Director Reginald Gaffney is behind Northwest, and a former CRC official Stanley Twiggs founded Lapool.

With charitable giving, there were questions not only with the paperwork backing some of the claimed donations, but with what Brown was actually trying to deduct.

There have been multiple witnesses testifying on these returns. WOKV has compiled them in to this comprehensive look.

2008

On her 2008 return, Brown claimed about $23,505 in cash or check donations to various churches, Edward Waters College, and the Community Rehabilitation Center. That year, she did not make any “in kind” contributions- or donations of tangible items, like furniture- rather than money.

Included in the documents prosecutors received as a result of a subpoena on Portnoy, though, was a letter from EWC thanking Brown for her “generous gift of conference room furniture and accessories” for the Presidential Conference Room, which was valued at $12,000. The letter indicated the donation was made in 2008, but the letter itself was dated July 2010- which is well after the return itself was filed.

To give context to the date, IRS revenue agent Tracy Lane testified about an audit she did of Brown’s 2008 return, in 2010. She was tasked with looking at specific areas, including charitable contributions, to ensure there was documentation and verification to support the deductions.

Lane says she met with a few people representing Brown- including an attorney and a tax preparer- on July 9, 2010, which was two days after the date on the EWC letter. She acknowledged that the amount on the EWC letter and what Brown claimed did not match, and there was also a discrepancy between whether she contributed cash/check or in kind items. Because the amount Brown claimed is less than what the letter attested to, Lane says she ultimately signed off on the audit, which found the return did not need to change.

She says she took the supporting documents at face value.

2009

Brown’s 2009 return includes a letter from EWC with the same date on it as the letter submitted for 2008, and it appears to say the same thing, but instead the value of the donated property is $8,000. This year’s return did reflect an $8,000 in-kind contribution, in addition to $18,120 in various cash and check donations. 

The largest donation was $12,000 to the Community Rehabilitation Center, but emails between the Portnoy team and Brown’s assistant, Carolyn Chatman, show Brown had not provided the paperwork to support that donation by the time they were ready to file the return. On October 13, 2010, a Portnoy staffer emailed that they were filing the return without the CRC donation, and that would mean a lower refund Brown would get back. The file then indicates that on October 14th, Portnoy got a letter from the CRC thanking Brown for her donation. That letter was dated March 30, 2010, and signed by the CRC Executive Director Reginald Gaffney, who is now a Jacksonville City Councilman.

2010

Two key questions in 2010’s return are first, a deduction Brown claimed for her time, and second, a substantial donation that was only declared after Portnoy sent Brown her return- which showed that she would only be getting back $756 dollars.

In the initial return, Brown had claimed $5,221 cash and check donations, and $10,000 in kind. A letter from the CRC dated August 17, 2011 thanks Brown for her contribution of “time”, which is valued at $10,000.

“You have contributed to helping to establish a brighter future for the multitude of people in need of every possible ray of hope,” the letter says.

Wright told Brown that time could not be deducted, though. When they were set to file the return itself, there was a new letter from the CRC which had the same date as the prior letter, but thanked Brown instead for her $10,000 donation of household goods, law equipment, computers, and other like items.

When the government subpoenaed the files of Chatman- who is the staffer that helped Brown compile information for these returns- we’re told they found several versions of this CRC letter, including one that was not signed and one that did not have a donation amount written in. Chatman says she’s unsure how that got in her file.

Another difference from the draft to the final return was a $9,500 cash or check contribution to EWC that wasn’t disclosed on the initial return. The addition of that donation boosted Brown’s anticipated refund from the IRS to $3,416- or $2,660 more than what she was initially sent.

Still a third potential complication with the 2010 return actually came almost two years after the return itself was filed. Brown filled out an amended return because of a few changes in connection to her mortgage rate. The change resulted in Brown owing the government $2,057. 

Prosecutors have previously alleged that she paid that bill with money that was funneled from One Door For Education, and there is a check Brown wrote to the IRS that’s been shown a few times through the trial. Chatman, however, says Brown told her to hold the amended return, rather than file it- so it’s unclear at this point whether that was actually submitted.

2011

Brown’s 2011 return claimed another in kind donation to the CRC- $9,000 worth of jewelry, clothing, and other items. That came with $19,720 in cash or check contributions to a variety of churches and a few other organizations, including FAMU, EWC, Urban League, and Bethune Cookman.

Of the cash and check contributions, Wright says they didn’t have documentation to support all of the claims. While they prefer to have paperwork backing all of the claims, she says they were willing to take Brown at her word for the balance, because they didn’t have any reason to believe it wasn’t accurate.

Giving some level of increased confidence is the fact that- for all of these years of returns- Brown authorized electronic filing. To do that, she had to sign a form that included her verifying the accuracy of the return, under the penalty of law.

2011 was another year there was an amended return required because of mortgage rate changes, but Portnoy’s records can not definitively conclude whether Brown actually filed that return. It is the responsibility of Brown, not Portnoy, to file the amended returns.

2012

For 2012’s return, Brown’s donation claims were submitted a slightly different way- the list from the prior year was a foundation on which a few things were crossed out and a few more added by staff, and that was sent to Wright. This is the first time that One Door appears, with Brown saying she donated $12,500.

Henderson, the FBI Forensic Accountant, says her analysis of thousands of pages of financial information connected to Brown and One Door show Brown did not make any donation to the organization at any point.

Wright says she spoke with Brown to confirm the list of donations, which included Brown telling her to bump up the estimated value of an in kind donation to the CRC.

This is also the first return where there was no documentation submitted to back the donation claim to Bethel Baptist. Later testimony showed, however, that there was a receipt available- but the amount didn’t match. It’s the first of a few years where this discrepancy was found.

Chatman’s file for this year showed Bethel Baptist verified a $3700 donation. The amount claimed on Brown’s return was $3980. Chatman says she wrote the amount for the return to reflect whatever Brown told her.

2013

Several entities Brown had not donated to in the prior few years surface on this year’s return, including $35 to the Alzheimer’s Association, and $20 to the University of Florida. Wright says several of the donations again did not have documents submitted backing them up, including a $5,000 contribution to One Door and $6,100 donation to Bethel Baptist.

Chatman’s file shows a receipt for $3,445 for Bethel Baptist.

Of the letters that were submitted, the one from the CRC issued 2/27/14 acknowledged her contribution in 2013, but was signed by a different party than all of the prior CRC letters.

2014

The verification of the accuracy of this year’s tax return and permission to electronically file was not signed in the appropriate space. While prosecutors started to question Wright on whether the signature looked like Brown’s to begin with, that line of questioning was stopped after an objection by the defense.

This is one of only a few occassions prosecutors showed Chatman actively communicating with Brown’s Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons in an effort to gather some of the information needed to complete the return, specifically asking for some of the new numbers in regard to the amount of charitable giving.

There were no documents to support a $3500 donation to the Clara White Mission, $7200 donation to Bethel Baptist, $6500 donation to the CRC, $7000 donation to One Door, or $2500 donation to New Destiny which were all claimed in the return. As with the last few years, there was a Bethel Baptist receipt in Chatman’s file, showing $4,378.

Prosecutors asked Wright if she was comfortable only getting verbal confirmation on all of these donations, and she was not.

“Because it was so late in the year, and previous years it was late in the year, and we were starting not to get documentation as years progressed,” Wright says.

Brown’s defense

Brown’s defense attorney, James Smith III, pointed out that Wright generally communicated with Chatman- and on a rare occasion Simmons- when putting together these returns. While Chatman says she got almost all of the information she used in this process from Brown, she said that would occasionally funnel through Simmons, or she would sometimes seek his help. 

The defense has continually blamed Simmons for the core issues in this case, saying Brown relied on him to handle her finances and many other matters, and that Simmons betrayed that trust. Smith has been working to put distance between Brown and knowledge of any wrongdoing.

Smith also questioned whether Wright had ever told Brown about her concerns about the decreasing amount of documentation to back up the donations. She says she never told Brown personally, although someone else in her firm might have. Generally, she would instead seek documentation from Chatman.

With the audit which showed some discrepancy in the donation claimed to EWC in amount and type, Smith pointed out that the amount that was claimed by Brown was less than what was reflected in the letter, and therefore she submitted for a smaller deduction than she would conceivably be allowed.

WOKV is inside of the courtroom following all of the latest testimony. Follow our reporter Stephanie Brown on Twitter for updates as new information is available.


It's all about the money today at the federal fraud trial of now-former Rep Corrine Brown. We're breaking down tax return details and how checks allegedly went from donors to Brown's bank account.

Posted by News 104.5 WOKV on Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

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. 

The Latest News Videos