Former congresswoman Corrine Brown's fate now in jury hands

Steven Dial offers an update on Corrine Brown case, jury in deliberation

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The jury in former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown's corruption case began deliberating at 1:20 p.m. Monday at the federal courthouse in downtown Jacksonville.

The jury wrapped up their deliberations for the day at 5 p.m. and will resume at 9 Tuesday morning.

That's after caps eight days of witness testimony, including long and winding closing arguments from both the government and Brown's defense. Both sides gave their closing arguments to the jury early Monday morning and then the jury was excused for deliberations.

They took the full four hours Monday afternoon and requested to leave for the day shortly before 5.

Brown is charged with 22 counts of a 24-count indictment handed down in July of last year.

Also charged was Brown's former chief of staff for the 22 years she was in Congress, Ronnie Simmons. Simmons pleaded guilty to two counts of the indictment in February and testified against the former congresswoman last week.

The jury will have to look at each count and decide for each. If she's found guilty on all counts she could face up to 357 years in prison and a $4 million fine.

CLOSING ARGUMENTS: The case against Corrine Brown

The 12-person jury will have to weigh several dozen hours of witness testimony from almost 50 witnesses, the vast majority of those being during the prosecution's case.

Assistant U.S. Asstorney A. Tysen Duva and his team called 43 witnesses to the stand, including well-known business people and philanthropists like Stephen Bittel, Gaspar Lazarra, Bob Picerne and Michael Ward. The prosecution also called well-known locals including former Jacksonville Sheriff and current President of Edward Waters College Nathaniel Glover, political consultant Susan Wiles and attorney and former state representative Stephen Pajcic.

Duva and company also called Carla Wiley to the stand, the president of the purported education charity One Door For Education. The charity, at the heart of this trial, is accused of being used as the congresswoman's slush fund. She reportedly raised $833,000 for the charity from various donors - over $90,000 in Picerne's case - and using that money to fund events, travel and cover her personal expenses.

In all, the charity only gave $1,200 to students seeking a career in education - the charity's mission. One student received a $1,000 scholarship from Wiley, and another student got $200.

The government's case accused Brown of being broke and needing money; they argued without the thousands her chief of staff would deposit into her account from One Door Funds from 2012 - 2015, her account would have been overdrawn by $1,420 on average each month.

She's also accused of spending $330,000 of various events like a sky box seats to an NFL game, a Beyonce concert, a golf event and thousands of dollars so she could hold an event every year coinciding with the Congressional Black Caucus' Annual Legislative Conference.

Wiley admitted to taking well over $100,000 from the charity and Simmons pocketed thousands as well, he told the court.

The defense is arguing Simmons took advantage of a woman getting up in age and not as aware of her day-to-day operations.

James Smith, Brown's attorney, called a former intern to the stand who admitted that over the course of seven years, the congresswoman appeared to rely more and more on her congressional staffers. Smith even went so far to suggest that Simmons and Wiley knew she was an old woman they could take advantage of in his closing arguments.

Brown was the last person to take the stand.

She spoke for several hours to the court as her attorney questioned her, then went toe-to-toe with Duva during cross examination.

She spiritedly denied all charges on the stand and needed to take several minutes at one point because she became so angry and upset that at one point she shouted, "They trying to destroy my life!"

The jury will have thousands upon thousands of documents in evidence to review, including forensic account analysis, bank records, checks and tax forms.

The jury has to look at evidence presented for each charge, including the fraud and tax charges and return a guilty or not guilty verdict. Deliberations will be cut off each day at 5 p.m., if need be.

Judge Timothy Corrigan told the courtroom he'd offer a 15 minute warning to all parties when a verdict was reached.

The full indictment charges her with conspiring to commit wire and mail fraud (count one), aiding and abetting mail fraud (counts two through eight), aiding and abetting wire fraud (counts nine through 17), engaging in a scheme to hide facts on financial disclosure forms (count 19), corruptly endeavoring to impede IRS laws when filing her tax returns from 2008 to 2014 (count 21), filing a false tax return in 2012 (count 22), filing a false tax return in 2013 (count 23), and filing a false tax return in 2014 (count 24).

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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