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Updated: 6:02 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5, 2016 | Posted: 1:28 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5, 2016

Chief of Staff withdraws motion to sever from Rep. Corrine Brown fraud trial

Prosecutors seek to exclude most character evidence

Congresswoman Corrine Brown's Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons
Action News Jax
Congresswoman Corrine Brown's Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons

By Stephanie Brown

Jacksonville, FL —

The cases will move forward together.

On Friday, we told you the attorney for Congresswoman Corrine Brown’s Chief of Staff had filed a motion to sever the federal fraud case against them. Now, Ronnie Simmons’ attorney has withdrawn that motion.

The motion to withdraw gives no reasoning for the change. This was filed Monday, just on the other side of the weekend from the initial motion to sever their case.

In the motion to sever, Simmons’ attorney said Brown is a “flamboyant politician” who brings a lot of attention to the proceedings that Simmons wouldn’t garner himself. The motion further says jurors may have prejudices- known or unknown to them- against Brown, and it could be difficult to separate their feelings about Brown’s actions from those of Simmons.

The two are charged with collecting more than $800,000 in donations to an organization they promoted as a charity, “One Door for Education”. Prosecutors say the organization was not a charity, and the money was pocketed for the personal expenses of Brown, Simmons, and Carla Wiley- who previously pled guilty and has been cooperating with the US Attorney’s Office.

Brown and Simmons are currently set for trial in April.

The US Attorney’s Office filed its own motion Monday, seeking to exclude certain character evidence from the trial. The motion says they anticipate Brown and Simmons will try to introduce evidence of good works, like Brown’s accomplishments in Congress.

“Criminal defendants are not permitted to attempt to divert the jury’s attention from whether or not the government has sufficiently proven the elements of the charged offense by littering the trial record with information about irrelevant prior acts,” the motion says.

Prosecutors say there may be limited room to introduce evidence only about the reputation Simmons and Brown have for truthfulness, given that the nature of the charges is fraud.

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