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    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.
  • For prosecutors, this is a case that makes a statement that public corruption will not stand. “Imprisonment in this case is unequivocally necessary,” says Assistant US Attorney A. Tysen Duva. But in the eyes of the defense, a longtime Congresswoman- Corrine Brown- needs to be credited for her decades of public service. “If you balance this offence with all of the good that she has done, it doesn’t just outweigh it, it substantially outweighs it,” says Brown’s attorney James Smith III. FULL COVERAGE: The federal fraud case of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown 16 character witnesses presented before US District Judge Timothy Corrigan during the sentencing hearing for the now-former Northeast Florida Democratic Representative. For some, Brown was the godmother to a child, to others she was a tireless public servant, to still others she was an inspiration. “Devoted, faithful, committed,” says Bishop Kelvin Cobaris, the President of the African American Council of Christian Clergy, in central Florida. “She means the absolute world to me,” says a longtime friend of Brown. “It was not just saving people’s homes, she was saving people’s lives,” says Neighborhood Assistance Cooperation of America founder and CEO Bruce Marks. Corrigan says he’s also received likely more than 100 letters about Brown’s case, 99% of which were in support of her and pleading for leniency in her sentencing, as the defense seeks probation. “The sentence that we are asking for is extraordinary, but that sentence is being asked for on behalf of someone who’s extraordinary and has lived an extraordinary life,” Smith says. But prosecutors have now confirmed they’re recommending Corrigan adopt what the advisory sentencing guidelines call for in this case- up to nine years in prison. If the Court seeks to give Brown a lighter sentence, the government wants her to serve no less than five years. “This was a significant criminal case,” Duva says. Duva says Brown obstructed justice during the trial proceedings through several statements she made while testifying in her own defense.  He says she improperly shifted blame to others like her CPA, denied knowledge about the fraud scheme which prosecutors say she had, and gave explanations for cash payments that didn’t make sense. “Corrine Brown committed crimes on that witness stand. She lied for hours on end,” Duva says. Corrigan says this is something he plans to very carefully consider, after Smith raised an objection to classifying any of Brown’s testimony as obstruction of justice. “Just because a person testifies at trial and is convicted, doesn’t mean they committed perjury,” he says. Duva also read several statements Brown has made pre-indictment, post-indictment, and post-verdict, criticizing the justice system, implying she was being targeted for political or racial reasons, and suggesting the jury was tampered with. “Just totally ludicrous and it makes no sense,” Duva says. Smith asked Corrigan to understand that Brown grew up in a different time and under different circumstances, where racism exsited and it was never thought that an African American woman who did not come from an elite background could rise to Congress. He implored Corrigan not to sentence her based on those statements. “Sometimes, as a 71-year-old black woman, she’s reminded of the scars she’s gained by fighting for all of us,” Smith says. Smith also told the court he objects to much of the Pre-Sentence Report that was put together by Brown’s Probation Officer, because Brown still maintains her innocence and, as such, does not concur with the facts that are laid out. That objection was preserved for appeal. Brown did address the judge herself, chiefly thanking family and supporters for their continued support and prayers. “I am sorry that you have to be here today to see me in this situation. I have always tried to protect my name and reputation, I would never imagine that one day I would be in court to ask people to speak on my behalf. I have learned from this unfortunate turn of events that too many times I have trusted without verifying. In hindsight I wish that I had been more diligent in overseeing my personal and professional life,” she says. She told the judge she has worked to help people, and public service has been an honor and priviledge. “I humbly ask for mercy and compassion,” Brown says. The government says the real tragedy and victim in this case is all the money that could have been used for charitable purposes, if Brown followed through on her promises to donors. “Throughout, it was all about raising scholarship money for kids, and that never happened,” Duva says. Brown was convicted in May on 18 federal charges for her role in soliciting donations to a sham charity and using the money instead on personal expenses. The charges also include that Brown lied on tax returns and financial disclosure forms by underreporting her income and overreporting charitable contributions. Corrigan heard arguments today, but will not issue the sentence order for Brown or her two co-defendants until December 4th.  “Judges are humans too, and all I can do is the best I can do, and I will do the best I can do,” he says. Brown’s former Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons and the President of the sham charity money was funneled through Carla Wiley both pleaded guilty and testified against Brown at her trial. They had their sentencing hearing Wednesday, which established advisory guidelines that could have Wiley serve between one year nine months and two years three months, with Simmons potentially serving between two years nine months and three years five months. Both expressed remorse during their statements to Corrigan. While Corrigan has the advisory sentencing guidelines for all three defendants, he will also weigh other factors, and has discretion to impose the sentences he sees as appropriate in each case. Smith is also disputing what the government has valued as loss associated with this case. Among his objections is that prosecutors claimed around $330,000 used on events was loss in this case, because the people who donated thought their money would benefit charitable purposes. The defense says the events did happen, so claiming the money is improper. Attorneys for Brown, Simmons, Wiley, and the government have been asked to try to work through their differences on loss and forfeiture sums, and must submit any outstanding objections by next week.

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  • The final suspect wanted in connection to the fatal shooting of 7-year-old Heidy Rivas-Villanueva has now been caught. Abrion Price was wanted for felony murder in connection to the girl’s death. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says Price was caught in Jacksonville, after he was pulled over in a vehicle with a broken tail light. JSO says Price ran, but was tracked down by a K9 unit. JSO says Price and another man, Trevonte Phoenix, planned a robbery disguised as a gun sale, to take place in a parking lot off 103rd Street Saturday night. JSO says the intended victim had a friend nearby in another car, and after the robbery, that friend- Stanley Harris III- got out of his vehicle and started shooting. JSO says Phoenix then fired back, but the only person hit was Heidy, who was sitting in a car in the parking lot with her father. GALLERY: Emotional vigil honors 7-year-old killed in Westside shooting JSO believes a bullet from Harris’ gun was the one that killed Heidy. In all, about 13 shots are believed to have been fired. Phoenix and Price each face a charge of felony murder. Harris is being held on a weapons charge, but JSO says more charges could be coming. This is a developing story that will be updated in to the evening.
  • Jacksonville’s Sheriff and Mayor have increasingly been promoting “intelligence-led” police policies, and the proposed new Real-Time Crime Center is being offered as a platform to bring that strategy to the next level.  We first told you when Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry put forward his $1.2 billion City budget proposal, that it included funding for a Real-Time Crime Center. Details were initially scarce on what exactly that program would look like, though.  A preliminary investigation by WOKV started to shed some light, but we’ve now obtained the full proposal for this pilot program, to paint a clearer picture.  Program goals  The proposal shows the heart of this project is bringing together existing public safety systems- like the gunshot detection system ShotSpotter and JSO’s Computer Aided Dispatch- and feeding them in to a single system, which can be efficiently viewed and filtered. That system is called CommandCentral Aware.  Motorola Solutions first proposed this program in April, and the letter they sent to the City shows the pilot is built around four key concepts- breaking down data silos by aggregating data in to a single platform, deriving intelligence in real time by providing first responders with situational information, maximizing technology investments by leveraging City investments, and streamlining workflows through an adaptable platform.  With data aggregation, the unified CommandCentral Aware platform- which is the cornerstone of the RTCC- is fed by any number of streams of information. That data can then be mapped around the event taking place, giving a comprehensive look at what is known about the history of crime at a scene, available resources near the area, information from emergency dispatches, and more.  This plays in to the second goal, of providing real time intelligence to first responders. The analysts using this system would be able to feed all of the unified data they get to the emergency responders heading to a scene, giving them a more comprehensive idea of what type of situation they are walking in to. This could increase their safety, and that of people in the area of a crime, according to the proposal.  Some of the data comes from sources the City has already invested in, which speaks to the third goal. The City of Jacksonville and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office already have the ShotSpotter system, which alerts police when gunshots are detected. JSO has previously indicated this could also work in coordination with their use of the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, although there is no direct mention of that in the pilot program proposal.  Finally, on streamlining workflow, the system has the ability to add more features and adapt to workflows already in effect, according to the proposal letter.  The pilot proposal pitches this as a “next generation public safety solution” for an intelligence-driven police approach. That approach is something that Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams have promoted, as they have brought more of these intelligence-driven systems online.  CommandCentral Aware is also envisioned as a force multiplier, by integrating systems and, therefore, more effectively using existing staff and resources. Additionally, it’s believed this would let police continue to shift from reactionary responses to a more proactive position, by tracking trends.  Features  To feed CommandCentral Aware, a specialized video surveillance system is being provided at 15 sites for the duration of this pilot. The program proposal says these sites were prioritized by the City. While WOKV has obtained a list of the sites, we are withholding naming the locations, at the request of JSO.  “The goal of this center is to provide a safe environment for our community by adding some technology in helping us reduce crime,” says a statement from JSO.  The video system specifically runs a program that lets analysts filter by time, object size, color, and similar criteria to find relevant video. Video is analyzed and sorted as it’s ingested, so that when the analyst searches for something, relevant objects and backgrounds are pulled up. The analyst can then select their object of interest, and the system will call back to the original video. The search function allows you to look for a specific object, or search by general traits or similar descriptions. This can be used to potentially isolate people or vehicles matching suspect descriptions, and can search hours of video in just minutes, as an example.  The pilot program proposal says private, business surveillance can also be integrated in to the system, if police are given access. WOKV has previously reported that Curry is also aiming to revamp the City’s security camera network, and that could potentially feed in to this platform in the future, as well. During a Thursday budget hearing by the City Council Finance Committee, Williams said they hope to add more camera coverage in the future, with an emphasis on parks, entertainment areas, and locations that have ShotSpotter. Additionally, the program details say this pilot serves as a framework for future growth, which could mean additional cameras, more video integration, enhanced data analytics, and community engagement tools.  Budget and next steps  The “Proof of Concept” agreement for this program, obtained by WOKV, shows Motorola Solutions first proposed the use of this “Intelligence-Led Public Safety solution” to the City in early April. At the time, it was pitched as a six-month pilot program. Instead, the City has committed to a three-month pilot. JSO says they determined that would be enough time to decide whether they wanted to pursue this program full time.  “JSO has done an extensive search and explored many systems from different cities and the Motorola platform is the best fit for our city,” says a statement from JSO to WOKV.  Once the CommandCentral Aware program is up and running, the countdown on the pilot begins. The “Proof of Concept” agreement was signed on July 23rd, and the proposal estimates six to eight weeks to implement the pilot.  The pilot program is no cost to the City, specifically for the equipment. There are a range of IT costs to support the system, though, as well as some desk space and minor furniture needs. JSO says the initial year budget is $1.625 million, plus $283,523 in salaries for four safety analysts. The Mayor’s budget proposal shows those costs are spread across several IT subfunds, as well as in JSO’s budget.  If the City decides to continue past the pilot phase, they would have to buy the equipment from Motorola Solutions. JSO says their budget request for this upcoming fiscal year already includes the assumed purchase of that equipment.  JSO is already working on standing up the no-cost pilot, and- if Curry’s budget is approved- could move to what they consider “phase one”, which is adding workstations and cameras after the pilot. If that is successful, “phase two” would follow, which would be an additional cameras expansion and software support. Phase two would start next fiscal year and last two to five years, according to a statement from JSO to WOKV.  Jacksonville’s City Council Finance Committee reviewed JSO’s portion of the Mayor’s budget proposal on Thursday, during which Williams briefly addressed the RTCC, among other things. This is part of several weeks of budget hearings, which leads to the full City Council approving a budget before the start of the next fiscal year, October 1st.  WOKV will continue to work through the proposed City budget, to determine how your tax dollars are being spent.
  • Nearly two months after a young father was fatally shot in Jacksonville Beach, after what police described as an apparent fight, we're getting our first, detailed look at what a witness says happened that night.  WOKV has now obtained new arrest reports and affidavits for arrests warrants from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, for the two suspects tied to the June 24th death of 23-year-old Leon Bennett.  Shaquille Walker, 25, and Jose Emanuel Lebron, 29, were recently extradited to Duval County, after turning themselves into police in Honolulu, Hawaii.  In Walker's and Lebron's arrest reports, it's revealed the two are actually brothers, which is something Jacksonville Beach police have not previously disclosed.  The reports say Walker and Lebron were out at Jax Beach that night for a friend's birthday. That friend, who spoke to investigators and witnessed what happened, said they were gathered near First Street, when they came into contact with another group of individuals, one of whom was Bennett.  During that interaction, the reports say Walker's and Lebron's friend tried to talk to a girl, who turned out to be Bennett's girlfriend. In the reports, the friend told police he apologized for talking to her, but that someone with Bennett slapped Lebron, knocking him to the ground, initiating a fight.  A larger fight broke out, but the friend told investigators, that he, Walker, and Lebron tried to leave the area and go to their cars. During this time, he told police Bennett continued 'talking trash.'  Eventually the group got into a car, where they then re-engaged Bennett and the other group, according to the reports.  The reports say at some point during that interaction, the friend told police Bennett walked over, opened the car door, and tried to punch Walker and even tried to pull Walker out of the car. As that was happening, the friend says Walker allegedly pulled out a pistol and fired twice toward Bennett.  Walker is charged with carrying a concealed firearm and tampering with evidence, while Lebron is only charged with tampering with evidence.  At this time, neither are charged directly with Bennett's death.
  • A Colorado man who for days pleaded publicly for the return of his pregnant wife and two young daughters has been arrested and charged with killing them, police said.  Christopher Lee Watts, 33, of Frederick, was arrested just after 11 p.m. Wednesday night in connection with the slayings of his wife, Shanann Watts, and their two daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3. Shanann Watts, 34, was about 15 weeks pregnant. Bella Watts was days away from starting kindergarten.  John Camper, director of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, said during a media briefing Thursday afternoon that investigators were “quite certain” the body of Shanann Watts has been recovered. “We have strong reason to believe we know where the bodies of the children are, and recovery efforts are in process on that,” Camper said.  “This is absolutely the worst possible outcome that any of us could imagine. I think our hearts are broken for the town of Fredrick as much as anybody’s.” Chris Watts is being held in the Weld County Jail pending formal charges, Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke said during the briefing. 9News in Denver reported earlier Thursday that Chris Watts faces three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of tampering with physical evidence. >> Related story: Report: Man with NC ties confesses to killing wife, 2 daughters in Colorado Fredrick police officials said they received a call just before 2 p.m. Monday reporting Shanann, Bella and Celeste Watts missing. The report was made by a friend who went to the family’s home in the Wyndham Hill subdivision and found no sign of Shanann or the girls.  Chris Watts said in an interview Tuesday with 9News that he saw the woman at the front door, via the home’s doorbell camera, and realized his family was missing.  “I said, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ And she said, ‘I can’t get ahold of Shanann,’” Watts said. “That’s when I was just, like, ‘Okay, something’s not right.’” He said he, too, had been unable to reach his wife via phone or text message. See Chris Watts’ entire interview with 9News below. Shanann Watts’ vehicle, as well as her purse and medication for the children, were all still at the house, authorities said. Police on Tuesday upgraded the missing persons report to an “Endangered Missing Alert” because of the potential medical concerns with the children.   Investigators conducted multiple interviews and officers canvassed the family’s neighborhood for witnesses and clues. News of the missing mother and daughters soon went national, and Watts did his interview with 9News on Tuesday, in which he described his family’s disappearance as “earth-shattering.”  “I don’t feel like this is even real right now. It’s like a nightmare that I just can’t wake up from,” Watts told a reporter. Watts spoke in loving terms of his daughters.  “Celeste, she’s just a bottle of energy,” he said. “I call her ‘Rampage’ because she's got two speeds: go, or she’s sleeping. She’s always the troublemaker, she’s always the one, like, jumping off things. Bella, she’s the more calm, cautious, mothering type, and she’s more like me -- she’s more calm. Celeste has definitely got her mom’s personality, where she’s all gung-ho, ready to go.” The young father also addressed those who might think he had a hand in his family’s disappearance. “Everybody’s going to have their own opinion on anything like this,” Watts said. “I just want people to know that I want my family back. I want them safe and I want them here. This house is not the same.” Less than 24 hours later, Watts was in custody. A law enforcement source told 9News that Watts confessed to killing his wife and children.  No motive has been established, though The Denver Post reported the couple had serious financial problems over the years. They filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in July 2015, citing liabilities of more than $400,000.  The Wyndham Hill Master Association filed a civil claim against the couple last month, but details of that claim were not immediately available, according to the Post.  >> Read more trending news Shanann Watts wrote on social media about the trips and vacations she had earned for her family through Le-Vel, a health and wellness company that sells nutritional products. The Post reported that Watts’ position with the company appeared to have rejuvenated the family’s finances.  “We have qualified for so many amazing trips in two years that we never otherwise would have been able to visit,” she wrote about trips to New Orleans, Las Vegas, San Diego, Toronto, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.  Chris Watts worked for Anadarko Petroleum Co., according to bankruptcy records.  Le-Vel officials wrote on Facebook Thursday morning that their hearts were broken for Shanann Watts and her daughters.  “Shanann was an amazing woman, mother, friend, and overall person,” the statement read. “She lit up every room and was a joy to be around. Our love, prayers, and support go out during this devastating time to her family, friends, and to all Thrivers who had the great fortune of knowing Shanann and her two beautiful daughters.” Shanann Watts’ brother, Frankie Rzucek, wrote that he just wants to know why his sister and nieces died.  “My precious family, my one and only sibling, my sister Shanann, two adorable nieces, Bella and Celeste, and her soon-to-be-found-out unborn son, Niko,” Rzucek wrote. “I just want 30 seconds alone with that heartless psychopath. May Satan have mercy on his soul.” Some of the more poignant social media posts come from the Facebook page of Shanann Watts herself. In a post that included a photo of one of her girls playing at the beach, the young mother wrote of her fears of letting her daughter out into the world.  “The world is a scary place,” Shanann Watts wrote on Aug. 4, just over a week before their disappearances. “I will do everything in my power to teach her right and to protect her, advocate, stand up for her and defend her. I pray every day that she never feels any less than the rest of the world. I pray that she’s protected when I’m not around to protect her.  “Nothing or no one will stop me.”
  • Two suspects tied to the shooting death of a young father in Jacksonville Beach are now back in town after surrendering to police in Hawaii.  Jail records show Shaquille Walker and Jose Lebron were booked today in the Pre-Trial Detention Facility on charges of tampering with evidence. Walker is also charged with carrying a concealed firearm.   Neither man is charged directly in the late-June death of Leon Bennett, who was shot after what first started as an apparent fight outside the Pier Cantina restaurant.  Both suspects are due to have a first court appearance at 1pm today. 

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