Jacksonville, FL - Just over two weeks after opening statements were presented, now-former Congresswoman Corrine Brown has been convicted on 18 of 22 federal charges she faced. She was found not guilty on the remaining four counts.
These charges all stem from the bogus “charity” One Door For Education. Brown, her Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons, and One Door President Carla Wiley were all implicated in a scheme to solicit donations to the group and use the money instead for personal expenses and to host events. Simmons and Wiley previously pleaded guilty.
Brown has been convicted 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 specifically connected to the solicitation of donations. She was found not guilty on two charges of aiding and abetting mail fraud and two counts of aiding and abetting wire fraud- collectively, counts 3, 5, 14, and 16.
First count for former Rep Brown had special findings, required jury decide conspiracy on mail fraud or wire fraud or both. They found both. pic.twitter.com/pgeIRPpiaA— Stephanie Brown (@SBrownReports) May 11, 2017
Each of the mail and wire fraud charges connect to a specific transaction and solicitation for One Door funds. While it’s unclear exactly why the jury acquitted on some of those counts and convicted on others, they are expected to have weighed Brown’s level of involvement in the solicitation for each specific instance, whether the donor believed the money would go solely for charitable purposes, and similar factors.
Brown faced five more charges connected to underreporting her income- not disclosing the money she received from One Door. She was convicted of one count of engaging in a scheme to conceal material facts for not listing this income on her financial disclosure forms, which are required of a Congressperson. She was also convicted of one count of corruptly endeavoring to obstruct or impede the due administration of the internal revenue law and three counts of filing a false tax return for the underreported income, as well as for overreporting charitable contributions.
Prosecutors have said from the outset that this case was about a corrupt politician. The presented a case that said Brown was a full and willing participant in the scheme, and that the solicitations were only effective because of the trust donors had in Brown and her reputation.
BREAKING NEWS: Statement from the US Attorney's Office on fmr Rep Corrine Brown conviction on 18 of 22 charges pic.twitter.com/SAJNUAnO4g— Stephanie Brown (@SBrownReports) May 11, 2017
Simmons would withdraw money from One Door and deposit the cash in to Brown’s account. There were also checks funneled from One Door through the business of one of Brown’s part-time staffers and ultimately deposited as cash with Brown and occasionally her daughter. While Brown claimed she wasn’t sure where the money deposited in her account had come from, prosecutors maintain she knew exactly what she was doing when she solicited the donations.
Brown continues to maintain her innocence, though. She says any wrongdoing was not intentional, but rather the result of her not closely managing her office and finances because of her busy schedule as a Congresswoman. Her attorney says they plan to file for a new trial, although he would not detail the grounds for the motion.
Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown releases new statement after being convicted of 18 counts. pic.twitter.com/iRS6bfx8sm— WOKV News (@WOKVNews) May 11, 2017
District Judge Timothy Corrigan, who presided over the trial, says Brown has complied so far with the conditions of her release, so he is allowing her to remain out of prison pending her sentencing hearing. Brown has been out on bond since first being indicted and arrested in July 2016. Brown will have a probation officer, who will gather information to be used at her sentencing hearing, which isn’t expected to be scheduled for at least another three months.
During the sentencing hearing, Brown will be allowed to present evidence and testimony in an effort to lessen the penalty she faces. Simmons and Wiley both testified at Brown’s trial with the hope of getting a sentencing recommendation from the government which would result in less- or possibly no- jail time. Their sentencing hearings have also not yet been scheduled.
Guilty on 18 of 22 charges. Now-former Congresswoman Corrine Brown has been convicted of a scheme for soliciting donations to a sham charity to use for her personal expenses.Posted by News 104.5 WOKV on Thursday, May 11, 2017
Simmons was jointly indicted with Brown and was individually charged with 19 counts. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and theft of government funds.
Wiley- Simmons’ girlfriend at the time- was separately funneling money from the group in to her own account. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Over the course of eight days of testimony, prosecutors presented 40 witnesses and the defense offered four, including Brown herself. On Wednesday, one of the jurors was excused from the panel after another juror raised concerns to the court about comments he was making about “higher beings”. An alternate juror was immediately installed, and the jury was instructed to start their deliberations from scratch.
FULL COVERAGE: The federal fraud trial of now-former Congresswoman Corrine Brown
The timing of the verdict was actually a small surprise to the courtroom, because it came at a time when the session was reconvening for Corrigan to answer a juror question he had received earlier in the day. Less than a minute before he took the bench, there was a knock from the jury deliberation room to notify the court they had reached a verdict.
In addition to confirming with the foreperson that the jury had reached the verdict unanimously, Corrigan individually polled each juror to confirm the verdicts read were the ones they had each reached.
WOKV has been inside of the courtroom through ever minute of testimony and the multi-day jury deliberation. Stay with us for continuing developments in the aftermath of these verdicts.