Alternately indignant and tearful, former Congresswoman Corrine Brown forcefully denied enriching herself on the backs of duped charitable donors. She placed blame for the fraud on longtime staffers who’d betrayed her and general disarray in her financial life.
Taking the stand in her own defense – one of just four witnesses called by attorney James Smith – Brown testified that she had zero computing skills and little involvement in the day-to-day functions of her congressional office. She said she regretted it.
“I wish I paid closer attention to my finances," she said. "I was always busy working on things for my constituents.”
She added, “I should have made more time on my own personal business, making sure my office was running like it should have. It wasn’t intentional on my part. I made mistakes. I just didn’t pay the kind of attention to detail I should have.”
Under cross examination by federal prosecutor Tysen Duva, Brown was less apologetic than uncooperative, staring at documents in apparent confusion and refusing to concede that compilation documents reflected the tax filings they were drawn from.
Asked about a document introduced at trial, which showed a notation indicating she had donated $12,500 to One Door For Education, Brown responded, “That’s not my handwriting.” The notation, by her tax preparer, read “verbal per Corrine Brown.”
Duva pressed her on why she claimed making charitable donations to One Door on three years of tax returns despite never making such a donation. She responded that she did not prepare her taxes.
Court ended for the day on this contentious note. Court will resume at 9:15 Friday morning. Judge Timothy Corrigan said he will likely release the jury after closing arguments are done and jury instructions are given. He said he would prefer deliberations to begin Monday morning, when they jury is fresh.
Brown was only the fourth witness called by the defense, and her testimony lasted about two hours.
She used the time to introduce herself to the jury, and to counter their portrayal of her, among other things, as a shopaholic. “Shopaholic? Yes, I do shop,” she said indignantly, citing stores like CVS, Sam’s Club, and saying that was to shop for my mother. She added she preferred Dollar Tree over stores like dismissing Neiman-Marcus, which she derided as “needless markup.”
“Some people like basketball I like shopping.”
Brown denied engaging in tax fraud as prosecutors have alleged. “I believe in paying my fair share of taxes,” she said. “I never intentionally did anything wrong.”
She said most of her financial matters were handled by other people, including her longtime chief of staff Ronnie Simmons, who testified against her. “He just handled it,” Brown said of her financial disclosure forms, which are required to be filed yearly by congress persons.
She tearfully spoke of their relationship.
“I loved Ronnie Simmons like a son,” she testified. “I never thought he was stealing.”
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