Corrine Brown absent from court as jury deliberates

Jury deliberations continue in Corrine Brown case Tuesday

The courtroom was quiet Tuesday, if not for the chatter of the media and the audience in courtroom 10D at the federal court building in downtown Jacksonville.

All are waiting for the jury to reach a decision in Corrine Brown's federal corruption trial - she's facing 22 counts of a 24-count indictment alleging an array of charges from conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, lying on financial disclosure forms, lying on tax returns and obstructing an IRS investigation.

The jury heard nearly 50 hours of witness testimony, the majority of it called by the prosecution to outline an alleged graft spanning from 2012 - 2015 and tax issues dating back to 2008. The government worked to prove 22 separate charges and brought in just under 45 witnesses and thousands of pages of evidence to back up their case.

At times, testimony grew tedious in the case, especially when an FBI forensic accountant detailed exactly where certain checks moved - or when Brown's tax preparer took the stand for three hours to outline just how poorly Brown was at filing her taxes. 

Brown was the first to admit her tax filings were sloppy, and said that she needed to take responsibility for what happened. Her attorney, James Smith, stressed she had no illegal intent when filing her taxes; he compared her to a desperate person with multiple shoe boxes filled with receipts.

The prosecution argued that, no matter what, her taxes bore her name and were required to be filed by her - it doesn't matter if she had help preparing them and those people screwed them up. It was required by her, just like it's required of every other U.S. citizen.

Testimony could also be dramatic, as was the case when the prosecution began its cross examination of the ex-U.S. representative. Brown went toe-to-toe with Assistant U.S. Attorney A. Tysen Duva, often talking over him and on more than one occasion he answered several questions she asked.

"I'm sorry, I know you're the one that's supposed to be questioning," she told Duva wryly. Their back-and-forth ranged from playful to downright contentious: the court had to be stopped for a brief recess during the last day of witness testimony as Brown broke down on the stand.

Duva had Brown in a line of questioning regarding her chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, who she said lied to her over the course of many years and stole the money she raised for the bogus charity One Door For Education. He used that money, she said, to keep her financially afloat without her knowledge.

He'd also use $330,000 for various events at least partially planned by the congresswoman. That's on top of him pulling over $100,000 of that money into his own account.

Duva asked Brown if Simmons had just become the man she groomed him to be: she met the young man in college almost 30 years ago when he was dating her daughter. After the pair broke up, Simmons went to work for his ex's mother, and eventually worked as a staffer for Brown when she was in the Florida legislature.

He would go on to run her 1992 congressional campaign and win - then he worked as her chief of staff for 24 years as the pair would win 12 more elections.

Simmons worked tirelessly for the congresswoman. Other witnesses even testified to how Simmons was on the clock for her 24/7. He admitted it as well. During his testimony, he said telling the congresswoman 'no' was just something you didn't do.

During his testimony, Simmons told the court he put money into Brown's account when she told him to - that he'd direct funds to and from the account at her behest.

As Duva brought that up to the congresswoman, she broke down in tears and accused the prosecution of trying to ruin her life. She would admit a short while later during redirect that the prosecution has already ruined her reputation. 

The jury was handed the case after closing arguments Monday morning. The prosecution reminded the jury no one ever told her no - and that they should be the first to do so. The defense positioned Brown as no mastermind - just an old woman being taken advantage of.

For three and a half hours the 12-member jury deliberated Monday afternoon before Judge Timothy Corrigan dismissed them for the day.

They took up deliberations again at 9 a.m. until a formal lunch break around 12:30 p.m. 

Because court is in recess, no parties are required to be in the courtroom, despite the presence of the media and spectators. Corrigan said his clerks will give all parties a 15 minute warning after the jury lets him know they reached a verdict. All questions to the judge will be given 5 to 10 minutes warnings.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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