Congresswoman Corrine Brown is a “flamboyant politician” who people may have “subconscious prejudice” against, according to her Chief of Staff.
An attorney for Ronnie Simmons has officially filed a motion to separate the federal fraud case they’re facing from that of Brown, saying there’s a “tremendous” risk of “prejudicial spillover” that would hurt Simmons.
Both Brown and Simmons have been indicted on numerous counts for a fraud case around a group they represented as a charity. The US Attorney's Office says they, along with a third person Carla Wiley, collected more than $800,000 in donations for an organization called "One Door For Education" but used the money for personal expenses instead. Wiley, who was the head of the organization, has already pleaded guilty and, per her plea agreement, has been helping the government with their case.
The motion for severance filed by Simmons’ attorney says Brown is high profile and consistently draws supporters to demonstrate in her favor outside of the courthouse. The motion says that attention in itself could be prejudicial. He also notes that, because of Brown’s notoriety, the case has attracted a lot of media attention.
Additionally, Simmons is concerned about the spillover from notions people have already formed about Brown.
"The high-profile nature of Ms. Brown makes the selection of a jury more difficult and allows for the 'spill over' of resentment of jurors who may hide animosity and resentment, or have subconscious prejudice toward Ms. Brown for being a well-known and flamboyant politician. This is prejudicial to Mr. Simmons because it presents the possibility that jurors would be unable to distinguish the actions of Mr. Simmons from the actions of Ms. Brown and render a fair verdict for Mr. Simmons," the motion says.
Finally, the motion says Brown is facing additional counts relating to tax fraud which Simmons is not, and that could also bring spill over resentment because each juror “has experience with filing tax returns”.
Brown and Simmons are currently set for a joint trial to begin in April.
Brown is an outgoing Congresswoman, after losing her re-election bid at the primary level. Democrat Al Lawson is taking her seat. Brown blamed the attention she had to pay to the federal indictment, along with newly redrawn Congressional district lines, for her re-election loss.