While she wasn’t in court Tuesday, former congresswoman Corrine Brown was the talk of the gallery during the second day of deliberations. The jury convened at 9 a.m. to start looking at the thousands of pages of evidence and discuss the eight days of witness testimony they watched.
No questions were asked and the jury didn’t find one way or the other in Brown’s case. The jury took a couple smoke breaks, took their lunch in the deliberation room, and will return tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. for more deliberations.
Judge Timothy Corrigan called the jury out of their room a little before 5 p.m. to send them home for the day. He wasn’t in court at all prior to the announcement. His staff was sparse as well, with his clerk sitting in the courtroom from 10 a.m. on and the occasional security officer walking through.
Brown did not make an appearance at the courthouse until late in the day.
There was some discussion about the temperature of the room, but most of the time the onlookers sat across from the media as everyone waited for some kind of answer.
The prosecutorial team spent most of their time in the federal courthouse but left around lunchtime to grab a bite to eat. James Smith, Brown’s attorney was spotted later in the day near the courthouse sporting pizza socks. On Monday, he wore taco socks. They were a gift from his kids, he said.
Brown is 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 - most called by the prosecution to outline an alleged graft spanning from 2012 - 2015 involving a fake education charity and tax issues dating back to 2008.
The government's team of lawyers worked to prove 22 separate charges and brought in just under 45 witnesses and thousands of pages of evidence to back up their case. Sitting at the counsel table were three lawyers led by Assistant U.S. Attorney A. Tysen Duva. Besides them were two IRS agents, a special agent with the FBI, and an FBI forensic accountant.
Testimony lasted from Wednesday, April 26, to Friday, May 5. The jury heard from many big names in the Jacksonville community, including University of North Florida President John Delaney, former CSX chief executive officer Mike Ward and philanthropist Gasper Lazarra.
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 bad Brown was at filing her taxes.
Brown was the first to admit her filings were late and mismanaged, and added that she needed to take responsibility for what happened. Her attorney stressed she had no illegal intent when filing her taxes; he compared her to a desperate person with multiple shoe boxes filled with receipts coming to the door of a tax office on Tax Day.
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 Duva: often talking over him and getting him a few times to answer her questions.
"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 said he 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 admitted a short while later during redirect that the prosecution 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.
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