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Katrina Brown granted brief extension over judge's clear misgivings

Katrina and Reggie Brown are now scheduled to head to trial Sept. 23.

The federal corruption trial of former Jacksonville City Councilmembers Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown will be delayed a month to give Katrina Brown more time to prepare her own defense. The trial will now start Sept. 23 with jury selection set to begin Sept. 18.

The decision to delay trial comes a week after Katrina Brown won permission to represent herself.

Katrina Brown and her co-defendant Reggie Brown – who are not related -- are accused of conspiracy and fraud stemming from a barbecue sauce factory started by Katrina Brown’s family. 

The company received millions in government loans and grants and promised to create 56 manufacturing jobs in Northwest Jacksonville.

No jobs were ever created.

Tuesday's hearing was the first at which Brown served as her own attorney – and it was not without hiccups. At times, Brown seemed to astonish the court and its denizens.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard chided Brown once or twice for not observing the rules of federal court, like calling attorneys by their first names.

Brown also contradicted the judge on more than one occasion, saying in response to one assertion, “that is not true your honor. That is absolutely not true.”

That response prompted a few of the attorneys to gape at each other. Several times, Judge Howard reached for her glass of water.

Howard initially seemed disinclined to grant Brown’s request, reminding her that she issued a six-month continuance in January and said, “Six months means six months.”

Howard also said Brown seemed not only to want to continue the case but restart it entirely, including setting new deadlines for filing motions.

But after a lengthy one-on-one discussion during which prosecutors and media were asked to leave so as not broach attorney-client privilege, the judge granted Brown’s request.

She did not give her six months, however, which she called “simply out of the question,” but instead what she termed “a final limited continuance.”

Prosecutor Tysen Duva was clearly unhappy, noting nearly a dozen out of state witnesses would have to reschedule.

“I don’t know where people are," he said. "I don’t know if they are scheduled to be out of the country. These are people who have jobs. This is difficult. I would urge the court not to continue the case."

Duva noted Brown’s need to prepare was the result of her deciding three weeks before trial to go it alone. “Ms. Brown put herself in the position, and she should live with it,” Duva said.

But Howard said in light of the complexity of the case she wanted to give Brown ample time. “I believe a brief continuance is warranted so that she can do her best in terms of representing herself.”

The judge today also refused Brown’s co-defendant Reggie Brown request to sever his case from hers.