A jury found former Congresswoman Corrine Brown guilty on 18 counts of a 24 indictment Thursday, bringing an end to the 30-year political career of one of the region's most recognizable politicians.
The verdict capped eight days of testimony, nearly 50 witnesses and more than a hundreds of pieces of evidence introduced at trial. The jury deliberated for nearly two days at the federal courthouse in downtown Jacksonville before returning its verdict.
“Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown violated the public trust, the honor of her position, and the integrity of the American system of government when she abused one of the most powerful positions in the nation for her own personal gain. She shamefully deprived needy children of hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have helped with their education and improved their opportunities for advancement, and she lied to the IRS and the American public about secret cash deposits into her personal bank accounts,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco in a statement sent by the Department of Justice.
“While she certainly is disappointed by today’s verdict, she respects the American justice system and respects the jury and wants the jury’s decision to be respected, even though she disagrees with it. This is just part one in a very long process and there are a number of motions that we intend to file, that we believe will stop this case from going forward to sentencing.” Brown's attorney James Smith said of the verdict.
"I think even her harshest critics would admit she's done a lot of good things." Smith said.
Smith says he will be filing motions for a new trial and that Brown will continue to fight, likening her case to former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. In his case, he was found guilty then later had his charges overturned on appeal.
Brown was found guilty of 1, 2, 4, 6 - 13, 15, 17, 19, 21 - 24 She was found guilty on charges of Conspiring to commit mail/wire fraud, filing false tax returns, and lying on financial disclosure forms and working to obstruct the IRS.
Brown was stoic and stared straight ahead as the verdict was being read.
Count 1 is a conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud charge.
Counts 2 through 8 are aiding and abetting mail fraud charges.
Counts 9 through 17 are aiding and abetting wire fraud charges.
Counts 1 through 17 are related to Brown's affiliation with a fake charity, One Door For Education.
Brown is not charged with count 18 - her chief of staff faced that charge before accepting a plea deal in February.
Count 19 is an engaging in a scheme to hide facts charge.
This charge relates to her financial disclosure forms she's required to file as a member of congress each year by law. The prosecution says she lied about her amount of income. The defense argues she was just sloppy with her bookkeeping.
Brown is not charged with count 20 - her chief of staff faced that charge before accepting a plea deal in February.
Count 21 is a corruptly endeavoring to obstruct and impede IRS laws filing her tax returns for tax years 2008 - 2014 charge.
Count 22 is a charge alleging filing false U.S. individual income tax returns in 2012.
Count 23 is a charge alleging filing false U.S. individual income tax returns in 2013.
Count 24 is a charge alleging filing false U.S. individual income tax returns in 2014.
At the center of the trial was a bogus charity that Brown used to raise some $833,000 between 2012–2015. Big name donors like former CSX CEO Michael Ward, philanthropist Gasper Lazarra and attorney Steve Pajcic were just some of those who testified they gave money to One Door For Education in order to help poor and minority students.
One Door gave out just $1,200 in scholarships, prosecutors said. The rest went to pay for lavish events hosted by Brown, or into the pockets of the congresswoman, her chief of staff, and the charity's president, Carla Wiley.
Ronnie Simmons, Brown's former chief of staff, testified against his longtime boss and friend, as did Wiley. Both agreed to plead guilty in exchange for possible leniency in sentencing. Brown dismissed their testimony and said both used her to enrich themselves. She admitted making "mistakes," but insisted any financial issues were accidental.
“Let me just admit right her and now that there was a lot of sloppy bookkeeping… It was a mistake on my part and I needed to get on top of my taxes,” Brown said on the stand in her own defense.
The prosecution painted a very different picture of the congresswoman. During his opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney A. Tysen Duva told the court Brown was a trailblazer – first woman of color elected to congress from Florida since Reconstruction.
But there was another side to the congresswoman: “Corruption. Greed. And a significant entitlement attitude,” Duva told the jury. “And that’s what this case is about. It’s about lying, cheating and stealing. It’s about fraud and corruption of the member of the highest level of the American government.”
Brown's attorney said she was thankful for her supporters and asked them to respect the decision of the jury, though she continues to maintain her innocence.
Brown's sentencing date has yet to be set. Smith says they will likely call several friends and supporters of Brown at sentencing as character witnesses.
Smith says while a maximum sentence would be hundreds of years in prison, he does not believe a long sentence is likely.
Below is the count by count document from the jury: