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    One of the co-conspirators in a fraud scheme that involved then-Northeast Florida Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown, is getting out of federal custody this month. Her release comes about three months shy of the full term she was sentenced to serve. WOKV confirmed that Carla Wiley was actually released from Federal Prison Camp Alderson in West Virginia on June 5th. At that time, she was transferred to a Residential Reentry Center, or halfway house, according to the Bureau of Prisons. The BOP says these centers provide assistance to inmates who are nearing release, including employment counseling, job placement, financial management assistance, and more. The BOP confirms she will be released from federal custody on July 25th, although court records show her sentence calls for supervised release once she’s out. FULL COVERAGE: Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown’s fraud case Wiley surrendered January 29th, 2018, for her one year and nine month sentence, which would have put her release date at the end of October, had she served the full sentence. The US Attorney’s Office says this July release date reflects roughly 85% gain time. Wiley’s attorney, D. Gray Thomas, tells WOKV that a slightly shortened sentence like this will generally happen with an inmate that has not had disciplinary violations. With Wiley specifically, he says this sentence is consistent with one a compliant inmate would receive, and reflects that she poses no risk of disciplinary violations. Thomas declined to comment on what Wiley plans to do after her release. Wiley was the founder and leader of “One Door For Education”, a sham charity that brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, but that Wiley, Brown, and Brown’s Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons used for events and their own expenses. Wiley was the first to plead, and then helped the US Attorney’s Office build their case against Brown and Simmons, who were jointly indicted. Simmons later pleaded guilty as well and cooperated in the case. Because of this cooperation, prosecutors recommended leniency in their sentencing, although District Judge Timothy Corrigan gave Simmons a term that’s longer than what the advisory guidelines called for. Brown went to trial, and was found guilty in May 2017 on 18 of 22 charges. Brown surrendered for her five year prison sentence on January 29th, 2018. She is serving her sentence at Federal Corrections Institution Coleman’s minimum security satellite camp in Sumterville. Her convictions represent both the fraud scheme and filing false tax returns and financial disclosures. Prosecutors had sought up to nine years in prison for Brown. Simmons surrendered January 8th, 2018 for his four year sentence at Federal Corrections Institution Cumberland’s minimum security satellite camp in Maryland. In addition to a fraud count, he had also pleaded to theft of government funds for getting his sister a “ghost” government job and taking some of the salary she collected. Brown continues to appeal her convictions and sentence, saying she mismanaged her finances and put too much trust in Simmons. Her appeal centers on whether it was proper to remove a juror from deliberations after they had begun. The US Attorney’s Office declined to comment on Wiley’s release.
  • Former Northeast Florida Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown has surrendered to start her five year prison sentence. Brown was found guilty last year of 18 of 22 federal fraud-related charges, and she was denied her efforts to stay out of prison on bond while appealing those convictions and sentence. She turned herself in just ahead of a noon deadline today at Federal Corrections Institution Coleman’s minimum security satellite camp in Sumterville. While we first received confirmation of her surrender from a bishop who was with Brown and spoke after to our partner Action News Jax, WOKV has since confirmed with the Bureau of Prisons as well. A federal judge agreed to honor Brown’s request to recommend to the Bureau of Prisons that she serve her time in a facility close to Northeast Florida. The Bureau of Prisons website says FCI Coleman’s satellite camp has 391 inmates. It’s part of a larger complex, which includes two high security penitentiaries and a low security federal correctional institution, in addition to the medium security correctional institution that’s adjacent to the satellite camp.  The Admissions and Orientation Handbook says there are five counts on weekdays at the satellite camp, during which inmates are required to be in their room, and inmates and their property can be searched for contraband at any time. For visitation, inmates can have up to 30 people on their approved list- 20 family members and 10 friends and associates. Visitors are subject to a dress code and other requirements. Telephone calls by the inmate are subject to monitoring and recording, except for legal calls. Mail is allowed, and the facility is part of an electronic mail pilot as well, but inmates must apply for access to that. There are television rooms, and personal radios are allowed, but must be played with headphones and at a volume that doesn’t disturb others. There are also table games in the activities/recreation room, including cards, checkers, dominoes, billiards, and shuffleboard. “Quiet time”- which also includes lights going out- begins at 10:30PM, and the Handbook says excessive noise after that is not tolerated. Inmates can apply to be a part of the “Hobby Craft Program”, with any completed crafts being mailed out of the institution. There are also leagues for sports at varying competitive levels, including basketball, soccer, softball, and volleyball. The facility includes areas for worship services, prayer, study, and a religious library. There are full-time Chaplains available, and both personal counseling and religious services take place. Every inmate there is assigned a job in the prison complex once they complete orientation and are medically cleared. Inmates can establish a savings account, but money can’t be withdrawn from that while the inmate is in prison, except for in emergencies. “Performance pay” and “meritorius good time” are available for inmates who have exceptional work performance, according to the Handbook. Inmates are issued green shirts and pants to wear at most times. Basic hygiene items are issued by the facility, and more can be purchased at the commissary. Inmates can spend up to $275 per month at the Commissary, if they have the funds available in their inmate account. Food is served cafeteria style, and inmates are encouraged to complete their meal within twenty minutes, because of space and time limitations. FULL COVERAGE: The case against former Congresswoman Corrine Brown Brown, her former Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons, and the President of the sham charity they funneled money through Carla Wiley, were all involved in scheme that solicited hundreds of thousand of dollars from donors who believed they were giving to education, scholarship, and similar purposes- but instead, the money was used for personal expenses and lavish events. Brown was also found guilty of over-reporting charitable donations and under-reporting income on tax and financial disclosure forms. She continues to say she’s innocent, claiming she mismanaged her office and finances. Brown’s ongoing appeal is based largely on the dismissal of a juror during deliberations. That juror said at the outset of deliberations that the “Holy Spirit” told him Brown was not guilty. The judge ultimately ruled that while praying for guidance is within the right of a juror, receiving instruction from an outside force was not. The judge further said that while it appeared the juror was trying to participate in deliberations, the fact that he made this statement in the beginning showed he was not following court instruction to withhold final judgement until full deliberations took place. Simmons has already surrendered for his four year prison sentence that is being served in Maryland. Wiley also surrendered Monday, but she is serving her one year nine month sentence at Federal Prison Camp Alderson in West Virginia, which is minimum security. Both of them pleaded guilty ahead of Brown’s trial and cooperated with the government’s case, including testifying against Brown. Our partner Action News Jax reports Brown spent the beginning of Sunday at Bethel Baptist Church, where she is a member. The pastor reportedly held a prayer for Brown, and church members say they’re praying for her as well. WOKV will have continuing coverage through Monday. Action News Jax is in Sumterville, and you can get updates on CBS 47 and Fox 30 throughout the day.  Comment on our Facebook post with your reaction to her prison sentence:
  • The request had already been denied by the District Court in Jacksonville, but now the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected former Congresswoman Corrine Brown’s motion to remain out of prison pending her appeal. Brown must surrender to the Bureau of Prisons to start serving her five year sentence next Monday, January 29th. FULL COVERAGE: The trial of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown Brown was convicted on 18 of 22 fraud-related charges for her role in soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars to a sham charity and using the money on personal expenses instead. The convictions also include that Brown under-reported income and over-reported charitable donations on tax filings and financial disclosure forms. Two other people pleaded guilty in the case- the President of the sham charity, Carla Wiley, and Brown’s former Chief of Staff, Ronnie Simmons. Simmons surrendered earlier this month to serve his four year prison sentence, while Wiley must turn herself in Monday as well, to serve a sentence of one year and nine months. Through this process, Brown has maintained she is innocent, saying she mismanaged her office and finances but never knowingly participated in the fraud. She is appealing her convictions and sentence, saying a juror was improperly dismissed during deliberations. The District Court has already denied her motions for a new trial and judgement of acquittal. Brown asked the Court to allow her to continue to remain out of prison on bond, pending the appeal. After the District Court rejected that, Brown’s defense formally filed in front of the appellate court last month. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals today denied her request as well. Brown’s attorney had filed an additional motion in District Court today requesting a 30 day extension for Brown to surrender. That has been denied by District Judge Timothy Corrigan as well, with his order saying Brown should direct that request to the 11th Circuit instead.
  • Former Northeast Florida Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown’s ex-Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons has surrendered to serve his federal prison sentence. The Bureau of Prisons confirms to WOKV that Simmons went in to BOP custody at Federal Correctional Institution Cumberland’s satellite camp today, which was his scheduled surrender date. The BOP website describes this facility as a minimum security satellite camp adjacent to FCI Cumberland, which is medium security. The facility is in Maryland, which is where Simmons lives. The BOP confirms Simmons is assigned to the satellite camp, but per policy, they will not discuss if Simmons faces any future transfer to a different facility. FULL COVERAGE: The case against former Congresswoman Corrine Brown Brown, Simmons, and the President of “One Door For Education” Carla Wiley were all involved in a federal fraud case. Simmons and Wiley both pleaded guilty and testified against Brown, who was ultimately convicted on 18 of 22 federal charges. The trio solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to “One Door”, but used the money instead on personal expenses and lavish events, according to the evidence and testimony laid out at trial. In addition to pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge in connection to the “One Door” scheme, Simmons also pleaded guilty to theft of government funds. He admits to getting his sister a ghost job with the House of Representatives, where she collected a salary- from which Simmons took money- while doing little to no work in return. Simmons was sentenced to four years, which is actually more than what the guidelines in the case called for. Wiley was sentenced to one year and nine months, and Brown was sentenced to five years. Both Brown and Wiley have been told to voluntarily surrender later this month. All three had been hoping to avoid prison outright, and prosecutors had recommended some leniency for Wiley and Simmons because of their cooperation in the case. Brown continues to maintain her innocence, saying she put too much trust in Simmons and mismanaged her personal finances and her office. She is appealing her sentence and convictions. Brown previously motioned for a new trial or judgement of acquittal, but was denied by the US District Judge who oversaw the trial and sentencing.
  • A US District Judge has ordered former Northeast Florida Congresswoman Corrine Brown’s Chief of Staff now serve home confinement ahead of surrendering himself for his four year prison sentence. Ronnie Simmons had been allowed to remain out of prison with certain conditions ahead of his voluntary surrender date. A newly filed court order says Simmons is now facing a new District Court case in Anne Arundel County, MD, though, so a federal judge in Florida is modifying his conditions of release as a result.  FULL COVERAGE: The trial of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown Simmons is no longer permitted to travel, under these new modified conditions. He has also now been ordered to a home confinement program that includes electronic monitoring or GPS. Under home confinement, Simmons will be required to be in his home at all times except attorney visits, medical appointments, religious services, court appearances, and court ordered obligations. Pretrial Services must approve all of those trips out of his home. Anne Arundel District Court records show Simmons faces a “peace order” case. There will be a hearing on that Wednesday in Maryland. The Florida court order says Simmons will report to begin serving his prison sentence on January 8th. Simmons, Brown, and a third co-defendant Carla Wiley all funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars through Wiley’s sham charity “One Door For Education” and used the money on themselves instead. Simmons and Wiley both pleaded guilty ahead of trial, while Brown was convicted on 18 of 22 fraud-related counts, although she still maintains her innocence. Simmons was sentenced to four years in prison, which is actually more than what guidelines had called for after adopting the prosecution’s recommendation of leniency because of his cooperation with their case. Wiley was sentenced to one year and nine months, and Brown was sentenced to five years- both of them were told to report to the Bureau of Prisons January 29th. In addition to appealing her convictions and sentence, Brown is appealing the District Judge’s ruling to not allow her to stay out on bond pending her appeal.
  • A federal judge has denied former Northeast Florida Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown’s motion to stay out of prison pending her appeal. The new court order shows Brown must report to the institution designated by the Bureau of Prisons on January 29th by noon to serve her five year sentence. FULL COVERAGE: The trial of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown Brown was convicted on 18 fraud-related charges for funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to a sham charity and using the money on personal expenses and lavish events instead. She was also found guilty of overreporting charitable donations and underreporting income on financial disclosure and tax filings. Her two co-defendants- her former Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons and the President of the sham charity “One Door For Education” Carla Wiley- both pleaded guilty and testified against Brown at trial. Brown was sentenced to five years in prison, Simmons got four years, and Wiley got one year and nine months. All three had hoped to avoid any time behind bars. Brown has continued to maintain her innocence and is appealing her convictions and sentence. She recently filed a motion to stay out of prison pending that appeal, with her defense focused on what they call the “substantial” question of whether the judge improperly dismissed a juror during deliberations. According to the court transcript from the closed interview of that juror, he said at the outset of deliberations that the “Holy Spirit” had told him Brown was not guilty. Because of that, the judge believed that- while the juror intended to follow the court’s instructions- he was not fully and openly participating in the deliberations process. “While the issue of whether to replace a deliberating juror comes up relatively infrequently, when it does, there is Eleventh Circuit precedent that guides the Court in its decision-making. The Court followed that precedent,” says the order from US District Judge Timothy Corrigan. Brown already motioned for a new trial and acquittal, largely on these grounds, but was denied. The government disputed that issue was “substantial” as required by the statute, and therefore said Brown’s motion had no grounds. The judge has now ruled that, while it’s customary for a first-time nonviolent white collar offender like Brown to be allowed to voluntarily surrender for her sentence, it is not customary that she be allowed to remain free pending appeal. The court order further says the juror dismissal is not a “substantial” question which would warrant her release pending appeal. “Ms. Brown has been accorded all the consideration she is due, she has not met the standard to remain on release pending appeal, and it is in the interest of justice that she begin serving her sentence,” the order says. The order further says Brown could petition the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on this issue. If she chooses to do so, that motion must be filed by December 29th. 
  • Former Northeast Florida Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown wants to remain out of prison while she appeals her 18 fraud-related convictions and five year prison sentence, but now, prosecutors are making it clear they’re opposed to that. During Brown’s sentencing pronouncement, the government did not object to her being allowed to voluntarily surrender on a date to be determined by the Bureau of Prisons, no sooner than early next month. Last week, Brown formally filed a notice she would appeal to the 11th Circuit US Court of Appeals as well as a motion to remain on bond while that appeal moves forward.  In a Sunday court filing, prosecutors call Brown’s motion for release on bond pending appeal “without merit” and ask the judge to deny that request. The government says the only issue raised by Brown is the dismissal of a juror during deliberations, and that issue in itself is not one that justifies her release pending appeal.  FULL COVERAGE: Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown convicted, sentenced in fraud case After jury deliberations were underway, a juror contacted court personnel to express concerns about another juror, number 13. Juror 13 ultimately confirmed in closed session questioning by the judge that he said at the outset of deliberations that the “Holy Spirit” had told him Brown was not guilty. While he appeared to still be taking part in deliberations, the judge ultimately determined that he was violating the court’s instruction to not make a determination on guilt or innocence until the jury had vetted all of the evidence and conducted deliberations. The judge narrowly worded the ruling, saying that while it’s permissible for jurors to pray for guidance, this juror saying he had received a specific determination of innocence crossed a line, because it meant that juror was not basing his decision solely on the evidence and law.  An alternate juror was seated, and that panel convicted Brown on 18 charges, while acquitting her on four, about a day and a half later.  The government’s response says a trial court is within its right to remove a juror who does not follow the court’s instructions, and this does not- therefore- present a “substantial” question of law, which is what the defense is calling it as grounds for Brown to be allowed to remain out of prison. The response says jurors were questioned during the selection process about whether they had any personal views that would prevent them from rendering a fair and impartial verdict, and none of those impaneled said they did.  Brown has previously moved for a new trial and judgement of acquittal, in part because of the juror being removed from deliberations. Both of those motions were denied.  Prosecutors are not disputing that Brown is not likely to flee and does not pose a danger to the community. They’re specifically disputing Brown’s claim that the juror dismissal issue raises “a substantial question of law or fact”, which is required under the law in order to allow for release pending appeal. The government says a “substantial question” is one that could likely be overturned at an appellate level.  “It would be extraordinary for an appellate court to review trial transcripts and reverse the factual findings of this Court, which had the first-hand opportunity to question Juror No. 13, observe his demeanor, and assess his ability to discharge his duties,” the government’s filing says.  Prosecutors say the Court was within its authority and used the proper legal standard in its decision to remove the juror.  Through this process, Brown has maintained her innocence. Even during her sentencing hearing, she apologized to supporters for putting them through this and asked the judge for “compassion and mercy”, but maintained that her only fault was putting trust in the wrong people. The judge cited her lack of taking accountability as one of the factors he considered in sentencing Brown to five years.  Brown, her former Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons, and the President of a sham charity called “One Door For Education” Carla Wiley, solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to One Door, but used the money for personal expenses and lavish events instead. Wiley was the first to plead guilty and help the government build its case- ultimately leading to the indictments of Brown and Simmons. Simmons pleaded guilty ahead of trial, and both he and Wiley testified against Brown.  Wiley was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison, and Simmons was sentenced to four years. Both were also allowed to voluntarily surrender at a date to be determined and have had travel restricted until then. The judge has agreed to Wiley’s request to recommend she serve her time in a facility near family in Virginia. Wiley, Simmons, and Brown had all hoped to avoid prison outright. There is no indication in the court docket when the judge will rule on Brown’s motion.
  • Following through on intent declared during her sentencing, former Northeast Florida Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown has filed a notice to appeal. The notice filed in federal court Monday declares Brown will appeal to the 11th Circuit US Court of Appeals, dealing with the district court’s judgement, sentence, and all pretrial rulings in this case.  FULL COVERAGE: The case around former Congresswoman Corrine Brown Brown is also seeking to remain out on bond while this appeal is pending. She was recently sentenced to five years in prison, connected to her 18 fraud-related convictions, but was allowed to voluntarily surrender for that sentence at a date to be determined by the Bureau of Prisons, but no sooner than January 8.  The motion for release on bond pending appeal says Brown has not had any violations through the time she has been under pretrial services supervision. The motion says the Court has already determined Brown is not likely to flee and does not pose a danger to the community.  Brown’s appeal will focus on the dismissal of a juror during deliberations, according to the motion. Her defense says this is a question that could be decided in her favor, and therefore the court needs to decide if this substantial question could ultimately result in a new trial or sentence.  The judge already denied Brown’s motion for a new trial, which also raised the issue of the dismissed juror. While deliberations were underway, a juror contacted the court to express concerns about another juror and statements he had made. That juror was ultimately questioned by the court and said he had been told by the “Holy Spirit” that Brown was not guilty. While he said he believed he was participating in deliberations with the other jurors, the court noted that his comment was made at the outset of deliberations, and he was therefore not following court instructions to avoid reaching a determination until all the evidence and testimony had been vetted by the jury. That juror was replaced with one of the alternates, and the jury then unanimously convicted Brown on 18 charges and acquitted on four.  The convictions relate to a scheme where Brown, her former Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons, and the President of the sham charity “One Door For Education” Carla Wiley raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for One Door from donors who thought their money was going to charitable purposes, when in fact, the trio was using it for personal expenses instead. Brown was also found guilty of lying on her financial disclosure forms and tax returns by overreporting charitable contributions and underreporting income. She has maintained her innocence,  claiming she mismanaged her office and her finances, but didn’t intentionally engage in criminal activity. Both Simmons and Wiley pleaded guilty in connection to this scheme and testified against Brown during her trial. Simmons was sentenced to four years in prison and Wiley to one year and nine months- both were also allowed to voluntarily surrender. The government had recommended leniency as a result of their cooperation. The defense motion says they have contacted prosecutors, who have indicated they object to Brown being allowed to remain out on bond pending this appeal.
  • The three people involved in a fraud scheme that involved a sham education charity sat within feet of each other in front of a federal judge, but didn’t exchange any words or even looks as the federal judge sentenced each to time in prison. Former Northeast Florida Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown will serve five years, after  being convicted on 18 charges connected to the fraud, which involved soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars to a sham charity organization and using the money for personal expenses and lavish events instead.  Her two co-defendants both pleaded guilty and testified against Brown. Her former Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons has been sentenced to four years, and the President of “One Door For Education”- the organization they funneled money through- Carla Wiley, will serve one year and nine months. All three had been hoping to avoid any time in prison outright. The judge is allowing the co-defendants to voluntarily surrender for their prison term at a date to be determined by the Bureau of Prisons, but no earlier than January 8th. Until then, the travel of Simmons and Wiley is restricted to Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC, and Brown is restricted to the Middle District of Florida, unless they get approval from pre-trial officers. They will also surrender their passports and will report to pre-trial services. The government did not object to any of these terms. All three additionall will face supervised release after their prison terms, as well as forfeiture and restitution totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars- which the Judge ordered be paid in $250 per month installments upon release from prison. FULL COVERAGE:  The federal fraud case of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown WOKV has been following this case since early last year, when Wiley pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and agreed to cooperated with the government as they continued to build their case. In July, Brown and Simmons were indicted- Brown on 22 charges and Simmons on 19.  Earlier this year, Simmons pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and theft of government funds, and also agreed to cooperate with the prosecution. Brown then faced trial in May, and was convicted on 18 charges, including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, aiding and abetting mail fraud, aiding and abetting wire fraud, scheme to conceal material facts, corrupt endeavor to obstruct and impede the due administration of internal revenue law, and filing false tax returns. Wiley founded One Door with good intentions, but it was essentially dormant until Simmons- her boyfriend at the time- took control. Judge Timothy Corrigan says one of the victims in this case is One Door itself, because financial records show more than $800,000 moved through the organization, but it didn’t go to the charitable purpose donors expected. “Just think of the good that could have been done with that money,” says Corrigan, adding that the defendants “systematically looted” the funds. Wiley’s theft came through online transfers from One Door’s bank account, which were conducted separately from the scheme involving Brown and Simmons. Corrigan says there  were no indications Wiley would have stopped had she not been caught, and she was also aware of the theft by Brown and Simmons and did nothing to stop it. “A sentence of probation would not be sufficient to account for such audacious and long-term misconduct,” he says. Simmons would withdraw money from One Door’s account and deposit it in to Brown’s account or give her cash, according to the case that was presented. He would also sometimes give Brown blank, signed One Door checks, and took One Door money for his own use as well. Simmons and others testified that the transactions involving One Door’s account were performed at Brown’s direction, and prosecutors say Brown abused the public’s trust and duped donors. Corrigan, with his sentencing, agreed. “One Door For Education was operated as a criminal enterprise by Carla Wiley, Ronnie Simmons, and Corrine Brown,” Corrigan says. Simmons additionally admitted to getting his sister a salary from the House of Representatives, even though she did little to no actual work. Simmons further took some of the money that his sister was receiving through the ghost job. All these factors considered, the judge actually recommended Simmons for a sentence above what his advisory guidelines called for. Brown was separately found guilty of lying on her financial disclosure forms and tax returns by underreporting income she received from One Door and overreporting her donations to charity, including claiming donations to One Door. “Having routinely converted One Door money for her own personal use, Ms. Brown turned around and falsely state on her tax returns that she had actually donated money to One Door for which she claimed a substantial charitable deduction. Brazen barely describes it,” Corrigan says. Brown continues to maintain her innocence, saying she was duped by Simmons and mismanaged her office and personal finances but never intended to engage in criminal acts. During her sentencing hearing a few weeks ago, she asked for “mercy and compassion” from the Judge. Her defense asked the Judge to consider her history of public service, age, lack of criminal history, and other factors in his sentencing. But Corrigan found Brown and Simmons abused their positions and traded on Brown’s position and the trust people had in her, for their own financial benefit. “The public had a right to expect that Ms. Brown, as an elected member of Congress, and Mr. Simmons, her longtime Chief of Staff, would not abuse their positions of public trust and responsibility,” Corrigan says. Simmons and Wiley both accepted responsibility in front of the Judge and apologized for their actions. The government recommended leniency as a result of their substantial cooperation and other factors. While the judge noted that as significant, he did not think justice would be achieved with any of the defendants avoiding prison outright. He did also find it notable that Brown continued to not accept responsibility. “While Ms. Brown is of course free to maintain her innocence, because she stands before the Court at sentencing unrepentant, she cannot be accorded the same sentencing considerations as someone who accepts responsibility for her wrongful action, expresses remorse, and promises to make amends,” he says. Brown’s attorney says they plan to not only appeal, but ask that she remain out on bond pending that appeal. Simmons and Wiley both have the right to appeal their sentences, but neither have indicated if they will do that. Despite these ongoing legal problems, Brown has continued to draw in supporters. Corrigan says he has received “hundreds” of letters in support of Brown, and that he read every one in his consideration of her sentence.  When the courtroom doors opened Monday for the sentencing pronouncement, there were dozens of people waiting to get in, and the courtroom itself filled up within minutes. An overflow courtroom was also open, as it has been through the trial and many of the proceedings. The US Attorney’s Office declined to comment about today’s sentencing pronouncement. The FBI Jacksonville has issued a statement  Special Agent in Charge Charles P. Spencer. 'It is incredibly disappointing that an elected official, who took an oath year after year to serve others, would exploit the needs of children and abuse the charitable hearts of constituents to advance her own personal and political agendas, and deliver them with virtually nothing. I am proud of the exceptional work of the special agents, analysts and support personnel who spent countless hours following the money trail in this case. Their work is some of the most complex, tedious, and significant work we do for the American public. It is an exceptionally difficult task, but rooting out public corruption is a priority for which the FBI will continue to dedicate the resources necessary to investigate, because the impact on everyday people is real. We thank our law enforcement partners at the IRS-CI and U.S. Attorney’s Office for their efforts to hold Brown and her associates accountable for their inexcusable actions.” This is a developing story that will be updated through the day. Get frequent updates on 104.5FM/AM 690 and on Twitter.

The Latest News Headlines

  • Police in Jacksonville Beach are investigating after more than a dozen cars were broken into over the course of a few days. It started last weekend along 5th Street South where several of those burglaries took place.  Police reports said there were 14 burglaries that happened Saturday through Monday.  Joseph Rennie said he’s hoping this weekend they don’t see a repeat.  “All in all, this is a pretty safe neighborhood. But occasionally, you have things like this happen and come up, but it’s definitely a little bit unnerving,” Rennie said.  Police said someone was going around smashing out windows of vehicles and looking for valuables inside. Wallets, credit and debit cards were taken.  Some people had nothing taken, but were left with a broken window. It happened to 6 cars on 5th Street, 4 cars on 12th, and several others on the surrounding blocks.  Rennie, like many others who live in the area, said he’s thankful he wasn’t a victim, but was surprised it happened to so many people in the area.  “There is a sense of just making sure you’re being smart about it, not leaving stuff of value in your car, kind of anywhere. But yeah, its really unfortunate to see that that’s happened, especially around the holiday season,” Rennie said.  As always, police are urging people not to leave valuables in their cars.
  • Florida, along with 29 other states, has been accepted for membership into the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), according to Governor Ron DeSantis' office. ERIC is a multi-state partnership that uses a data-matching tool to help enhance election security and make voter rolls more accurate.  The governor's office says through ERIC, member states can share information from voter registration systems, motor vehicle databases, social security death records, and US Post Office records, to help identify voters who have moved, passed away, or changed their name.  Additionally, the governor's office says ERIC will help boost voter registration as it will provide member states better information on how to contact potentially eligible, but unregistered voters.  Governor DeSantis says he has set aside an estimated $1.3 million in his 2020-2021 recommend budget to conduct outreach to these unregistered voters with a direct mailer prior to the 2020 general election.  But the governor's office says Florida's full participation in ERIC will be contingent on the state legislature signing off on his budget. Being a member of ERIC requires annual dues of around $75,000.
  • In response to a smash-and-grab burglary at a Fernandina Beach gun store where thieves stole 57 guns in 60 seconds, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the National Shooting Sports Foundation announced a reward of up to $5,000 for tips leading to the arrest of suspects or recovery of stolen guns. The burglary happened Sunday, Dec. 8 at TNT Firearms and Accessories off State Road 200 in Nassau County.  Security footage shows 3 suspects smash through a glass door before breaking glass display cases and ransacking the store of 57 rifles and handguns.  The ATF is offering a reward of up to $2,500, which will be matched by the NSSF for a total of up to $5,000.  The ATF and NSSF are working together in a national campaign to fund rewards in cases involving guns being stolen from federally licensed dealers.
  • A Virginia mother is wanted on abduction charges after authorities say she took her four children on vacation six months ago and never brought them home. The woman alleges she is saving the children from sex trafficking by their father and grandfather. Along with four misdemeanor abduction charges, Melody Bannister, 34, of Stafford, is charged with felony violation of a court order and filing a false police report, a news release from the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office said. A warrant was issued for her arrest Aug. 23, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Her children are identified as Genevieve Bannister, 13; Janelle Bannister, 12; Vivienne Bannister, 11; and Peter Bannister, 7. Genevieve is described as 5 feet, 3 inches tall and 110 pounds with brown hair and hazel eyes, according to the NCMEC. Janelle is described as 5 feet, 1 inch tall and 115 pounds. Like her older sister, she has brown hair and hazel eyes. Vivienne is listed as 4 feet, 11 inches tall and weighing 95 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes. Peter is described as 4 feet, 1 inch tall and 90 pounds. He also brown hair and blue eyes. Bannister is described as 5 feet, 2 inches tall and 110 pounds. Like her two youngest children, she has brown hair and blue eyes. The children and their mother were last known to be traveling in a blue-green 2002 Honda Odyssey with Virginia license plate number VBH7123, Stafford County Sheriff’s Office Detective James Wright said during a segment about the case on “Live PD” on A&E. Finding Bannister and the children has become more urgent after “recent developments in the investigation have led investigators to believe the children may now be in danger,” the Sheriff’s Office’s statement said. Wright, who is lead investigator on the case, said on “Live PD” that authorities believe the missing family might be in danger due to the “clandestine nature” of the religious organization they belong to. “We’re concerned about the welfare because they are unable to take care of themselves. They don’t have any means to take care of them. Melody doesn’t have means to take care of them,” Wright told host Tom Morris Jr. Sheriff’s Office spokesman Amanda Vicinanzo said investigators believe Bannister has had help along the way from members of a religious group of which she is purportedly a member, according to the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg. The newspaper reported that the family’s pets, a white Great Pyrenees dog and white ragdoll cat, were left at one of the stops Bannister has made since leaving Virginia. “After months on the road, we had to say goodbye to our beloved pets: Our giant, bounding bundle of puppy-faced joy and our fluffy cat, whose soothing whirr often assuaged our soreness of heart,” Bannister wrote on her blog. “It is a comfort to know they are in good, loving hands, since they can no longer be in ours.” “Live PD” pointed out that Bannister has written about her religion previously, describing it as a “cult.” According to a blog she began in 2016 called Lady Adelaide’s Realm, Bannister grew up in a Quiverfull household. Followers of the Quiverfull movement believe that the men with the most children will earn the most favor from God. They shun all forms of contraception, believing that it is only God who “opens and closes the womb,” follower Kelly Swanson told NPR in 2009. The movement advocates stringent gender roles, and women are not allowed to question their husbands’ authority. They cannot work outside the home, wear pants or cut their hair. According to some of Bannister’s friends -- and a second blog the missing woman appears to have written since going on the run with her children -- the danger toward the children lies not with their mother, but in their father’s home. Bannister’s blog devoted to the allegations is subtitled “American Outlaws: The Plight of Child Sex Trafficking Victims Living Underground.” Her most recent blog post on Lady Adelaide’s Realm, dated June 28, names six men, including her father-in-law, as her children’s alleged abusers. The men are not being named because they have not been charged with a crime. ‘Will justice triumph over lawlessness this Christmas?’ A Change.org petition begging for help from Virginia and Alabama officials claims that the children’s father “conspired with (Bannister’s) father-in-law to perpetuate some of the most horrifying sexual and physical abuse imaginable upon her children.” “When local law enforcement failed to protect these children, ordering them back to live with their abuser, Melody chose to live on the wrong side of the law. What else could a truly desperate mother do?” the petition reads. Bannister has accused her husband of “deliver(ing) the children up for torture to the barn of his father.” She has accused her father-in-law of not only sexually abusing the children, but of offering them up for abuse by his friends. “The children have spoken of being given strange substances in the barn that made the world swim before their eyes and caused the taunting faces of their abusers to converge together in a dizzying blur,” Bannister wrote. She wrote on the blog that her only crimes were “believing (her) children when they disclosed a lifetime of ongoing abuse” and “reporting (it) to the Stafford, Virginia, police.” Stafford County officials said that an investigation into the allegations brought to them by Bannister in June found no evidence of abuse against the children. “A joint investigation with Stafford County law enforcement and Child Protective Services determined the allegations were unfounded,” according to the statement from the Sheriff’s Office. “Shortly after the conclusion of the investigation, Bannister left Virginia with the children on a planned vacation and never returned.” Bannister wrote on her blog that she and the children left town for a vacation June 14, the day after she reported the abuse, in part out of fear of reprisal from the accused. She said she called the Sheriff’s Office detective, Wright, a few days later to check up on the investigation. “We spoke briefly once, when he told me that he had interviewed my husband and would soon interview my father-in-law,” Bannister wrote. “After that, he stopped answering my phone calls.” She wrote that Wright and a CPS caseworker chalked the sex abuse claims up to children’s “vivid imaginations.” She described fleeing Virginia with the “rancid hot breath of child predators” on her back. “We left home with barely a week’s worth of summer clothes and are practically penniless, living off the kindness of friends who, one by one, have taken us under their wings,” Bannister wrote. She said her husband drained their joint bank account and cancelled her credit cards when she did not bring the children back to Virginia. Read Bannister’s entire, five-part blog here. Warning: It includes graphic details of alleged child sex abuse. Stafford County’s Juvenile, Domestic and Relations Court granted sole custody of the children to their father the following month, Stafford County authorities said. Their father, identified in court records as William Joseph Bannister, filed for divorce last month. “(Melody) Bannister refused to return the children and subsequently petitioned the courts in Alabama requesting custody be issued to her there,” a Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said. “The courts in Alabama heard the case and also ordered Bannister to return her children to their father back in Virginia. “Bannister absconded from the state of Alabama with her four children and has not been seen since.” Bannister and the children were last seen Aug. 20 in Moulton, a small city in northwest Alabama. “We set up residence in Alabama and made it our new home, where we obtained a protective order against the man formerly known as Daddy,” Bannister wrote on her blog. “This was swiftly snatched away when the judge deferred to the Virginia ruling, which ordered me to return the children to him.” Bannister wrote that a family court hearing was held in Virginia without her presence Aug. 19, with a judge ruling in her husband’s favor. She claimed she was never served with a summons for the hearing. She and the children vanished from Alabama the next day. US marshals issue alert Aside from Alabama, potential sightings of the family have been reported in Wisconsin, Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Texas. The U.S. Marshals Service and the NCMEC have been involved in the case over the past few months, the Sheriff’s Office said. The Marshals Service issued an alert this week seeking help from the public in finding Bannister and the missing children. A friend of Bannister, Julie Lampkins, shared a story on Facebook about the missing family, saying it was “with a heavy heart” that she shared the link about the mother’s alleged abduction of her children. “We all have questions, but no answers,” Lampkins wrote. “Help the authorities find her and her (four) kids.” Meanwhile, Bannister is appealing for help on the state and federal levels, according to the Change.org petition. It quoted additional portions of Bannister’s blog. “The mental health and credibility of my children and me have been assessed and verified by two of the most prestigious forensic psychiatrists in the country: Dr. Michael Stone and Dr. Carole Lieberman,” Bannister wrote on her blog. “Naturally, the abusers did not take kindly to such a development and are seeking to have the reports stricken from the record. ‘Eliminate all threats’ seems to be their motto. Hence our position of living underground.” Followers on her blog wrote this week that they believed her and her children. “Many people believe you and are praying and sharing the news and asking God to vindicate and protect. Praying that true justice will be served,” Carrie Brownell wrote. A friend, identified as Lana, told Bannister she was praying for her, as well as sharing her story and contacting a list of law enforcement officers listed on the blog on Bannister’s behalf. Another friend named Rachael offered similar well wishes. “Oh Melody…my heart is so broken for you and your sweet kids,” the woman wrote. “I will be keeping you in my prayers and doing what I can. Locally.” A third friend named Petra Carden wrote that Bannister and her children have a place in her home “any time, day or night, no questions asked” if Bannister has to return to Virginia. Others who read her story offered her help in other locations throughout the country, including Alabama, where she and the children were last seen. Many people who believe Bannister’s allegations of abuse urged caution in reporting the family’s whereabouts. “If the news articles released regarding Melody Bannister’s children being in danger is all people know, they will report them when they see them and put them back in danger,” one woman wrote on Twitter. A cult? Bannister’s Facebook profile lists her as manager of a website called Recovering Daughters. The description of the site on its corresponding Facebook page states it is about “healing from Vision Forum, authoritarianism and the Quiverfull Movement.” The Recovering Daughters website is no longer available because the domain has recently expired. Vision Forum was a Texas-based ministry that promoted a patriarchal lifestyle, in which the husband rules the family, and home-schooling its children. The ministry was shut down by its board in 2013 after leader Doug Phillips admitted to an extramarital affair, the Huffington Post reported. Phillips has been a friend of and influence on Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, whose TLC show “19 Kids and Counting” focused on their beliefs against birth control and that large families are a gift from God, the news site said. The Duggars, who lost their show after their eldest son, Josh Duggar, was publicly accused of sexually molesting multiple young girls, including some of his sisters, have also been associated with the Quiverfull movement, though the Huffington Post reported in 2015 that the couple does not formally consider themselves members of the movement. The Quiverfull movement gets its name from a Bible passage: “Children are a heritage from the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” Hännah Ettinger, a young woman raised in the movement who had left that world behind, told Cosmopolitan in 2015 that her first big break from the religion came when her father told her she “didn’t have the spiritual discernment” to choose her own boyfriend, a man she met at her Christian college. “Later, I got utterly fed up with the churches I’d grown up in because I kept finding out that they’d protected child abusers, rapists, and men who’d beaten their wives, all in the name of redemption stories, ‘biblical’ male headship and complementarian theology,” Ettinger told the magazine. Vyckie Garrison, another former Quiverfull member, told Vice in 2016 that, with no central leader, the movement isn’t a cult, per se. It’s more of a mindset “in which each family becomes a cult unto itself with Daddy enshrined as the supreme patriarch,” Vice reported. Garrison founded a website called No Longer Quivering, which is designed to help other women in her situation escape the movement. In April 2015, the American Atheists Convention named her its 2014 Atheist of the Year. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Bannister and her children is asked to call the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office at 540-658-4400, the U.S. Marshals Service at 877-WANTED2 or the NCMEC at 800-THE-LOST.
  • Money is helping put local veterans in Northeast Florida back to work. Hundreds of people filled the inside of a warehouse at a former Navy base to celebrate a milestone.  It was 20 years ago when the U.S. Navy handed over ownership of Cecil Field Naval Air Station to the city of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Aviation Authority.  The air station is now being operated by Boeing Global Services.  Friday, Boeing made a $55,000 check presentation to Veterans Florida to help put local veterans back to work.  Samuel Leeca is a Navy veteran and was one of the first people hired by Boeing back in 1999.  “We first only had one aircraft. Then they started filtering in. It was rough at first, but then we started to get it rolling,” said Samuel Leeca.  “When I see the Blue Angels, I don’t even bother anymore because I was sharing with someone that all 6 of them, I’ve physically touched them. I’ve physically put the cell in and taken it out,” Leeca explained.  Boeing Cecil Field site leader Warren Helm says the site is one of the most successful closed bases in the country.  “We have a great mix about 70% veterans on this site. It’s a great mix between people who have been here since day one,” Helm said.  Leeca says after working here for over 20 years, he heads a team of mostly young people who disassemble and repair aircraft.  “I just look at it as, not so much someone has to do it, but someone always did it. We live in a world now where it is so dangerous, I said, ‘I can’t leave them, I have to keep going to help the newer guys keep the jets flying,’” said Leeca.

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