Corrine Brown – The Verdict Stunned Us

Bishop Rudolph W. McKissick, Sr., right, escorts former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown outside the courthouse on Thursday, May 11, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (Photo by Associated Press)

By Dan Evans
Florida Star Reporter

It was May 10, 2017, four days before Mother’s Day and the 10th day that U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan begun day 10 of the U.S. Government vs Congresswoman Corrine Brown.  Sometime during the night on May 9, a juror called the clerk of the court to get advice about a conversation that took place before they were dismissed for the evening. This juror was uncomfortable because of a conversation about a higher power surrounding Representative Brown.  The clerk contacted Judge Corrigan, following the law in place, stopped the deliberations and confronted the juror in a closed session of the court. While the public and the media waited outside the court room Judge Corrigan, U.S. Government Attorneys and Defense Attorney discussed the situation with the juror. Juror #13 was therefore dismissed, and replaced with juror #1 from the alternate pool.

1.    Black male – Employed, high school education
2.    White male – Met her briefly at EverBank Field
3.    Black female – College degree, divorced, unemployed
4.    White male – Divorced, factory has one son
5.    Hispanic male – (was the alternate, replaced No. 13)
6.    Asian female – St. Johns County
7.    White male – Married, bachelor’s degree
8.    White female – widowed, real estate worker
9.    Black female Married Bachelor’s degree
10.    White female – Bachelor’s degree, Insurance worker
11.    White male – No hardships and no knowledge of the case
12.    Black female from East Palatka
13.    DISMISSED JUROR – White male, unemployed, Navy Veteran

Judge Corrigan opened the court to the public and media explaining the matter involved a discussion that was very sensitive to Juror Law and he was attempting to stay within the law concerning public security of jury deliberations. A call was made for the jury. Judge Corrigan explained to the jurors the process when a juror must be replaced during deliberations. Once a juror is replaced the conversations, research, and questions must start all over as if an earlier deliberation had not occurred. The seriousness of the process was expanded upon during these reinforced instructions, each juror was asked to acknowledge and affirm their acceptance with a yes or no answer. Everything agreed and were dismissed to the deliberation room.

Remember there are 22 counts that must have a verdict, broken down into six groups. The crimes include, COUNT ONE (conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud) along with Ronnie Simmons and Carla Wiley using One Door for Education Amy Anderson Foundation. The stated indictment conspiracy was to become enriched by fraudulently soliciting and receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, contributions and payments to One Door. COUNT TWO through seventeen mail and wire fraud, aiding and abetting. Proof must be that Rep. Brown, Ronnie Simmons and Carla Wiley got together for the purpose to willfully devise a scheme to defraud donors into giving money by means of material false and fraudulent pretenses, representation and promises. (testimonies showed everything promised was delivered), COUNT 19, scheme to conceal material facts, (The Ethics in Government Act 1978) required all members of the United States House of Representatives and certain senior staff of each member to file an annual disclosure form reporting, among other things, income from the prior calendar year. Jurors must go back to testimony to be sure this was done and there was the intent to fraud. COUNT TWENTY, (the scheme to conceal material facts) did Rep. Brown enter an agreement with Ronnie Simmons knowingly and willfully to falsify, conceal and cover up by a trick, scheme, and device to conceal income. Ronnie Simmons has already entered a guilty plea agreement to implement Rep. Brown even.  COUNT TWENTY-ONE, (to corruptly endeavor to obstruct and impede IRS Laws), failing to include income associated with, cash deposits into her personal bank account on line 22 of tax return form 1040, fraudulently inflating and fabricating her total gifts to charity.  COUNT TWENTY  22, 23, 24 (filing a false return).   Corrine Brown did willfully make, and subscribe and cause to be made and, subscribed, a 2012, 2013, 2014 U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, IRS 1040.

The indictment also mentions that if found guilty there is a forfeiture clause that Corrine Brown and Elias (Ronnie Simmons) shall forfeit to the United States of America, any property, real or personal, which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to the offense.

Jurors must come to a unanimous agreement on all counts. Did Rep. Brown have knowledge and agreed with Ronnie Simmons and Carla Wiley to commit fraud? Testimony says No. Did Ronnie Simmons act on occasion without Rep Brown’s permission? Testimony leaves questions. Did Carla Wiley commit acts that involved Rep Brown and Ronnie Simmons without their knowledge? Testimony say yes. Both Ronnie Simmons and Carla Wiley have entered guilty plea agreements to testify against Rep Brown for consideration or a reduction in their sentences.

The Verdict: What’s going on?

An alternate Juror was seated and deliberations began with instructions to start over from the beginning. Two questions were presented within an hour of each other: Is the defendant responsible if she did not do her taxes nor signed them. Judge Corrigan responded by instructed the jury to The Instructions for the definition of “willful”. Jury instruction #17. “Willfully “means the act was committed voluntarily and purposely, with the intent to do something the law forbids. (this still left interruption up to each juror, no clarity). The second question asked was does the government need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all four elements of mail fraud. The answer Yes.

The morning of day 11 began with the Judge bringing First Coast News to task for violating instructions to leave the jurors alone. Judge Corrigan asked the media to not bother jurors until after the trial, that included juror number 13. Juror #13 was dismissed and replaced. First Coast News attempted to contact the juror. The Judge stated, he will deal with the violation of his order after the verdict is rendered and the jury dismissed. No contact was made with the juror. 11:05 a question was presented from the jury requesting to see the transcript of the Marva Johnson testimony. Judge Corrigan did not refuse, but decided to have the testimony transcribed, reviewed and then a decision will be made. Defense Attorney James Smith agreed to allow the transcript to be heard, the Government was totally against the transcript, sighting opening the door to any other request for a transcript. These types or request, even though unusual are part of the jury process.

Before the request could be filed, a called was sent out that the jury had reached a verdict. At 2 p.m.,  Judge Corrigan called the attorneys to his chambers. 2:05 Judge Corrigan asked the people in attendance to control their emotions as the verdict is being read. Around 24 hours after a new juror was seated a verdict was reached: 18 counts of guilty and 4 counts of not guilty.

Per Defense Attorney Smith the next step is the filing of motions for a new trial.

Outside of the building, there were many tears and groups of constituents and friends yelling: “We love you Corrine.”  The former congresswoman was led to the waiting vehicle, escorted by her pastor.  Mr. Smith, her attorney read a statement from her and the crowd slowly disbursed, saying, It’s not over yet.  She has done so much for this city and state.  God will take care of her, and we will assist him.

Corrine Brown released  the following statement:

“While I respect the jury’s decision, I disagree with it, and I want to make it clear that I maintain my innocence. I did not commit these crimes, and I intend to file a motion for a new trial. I will continue to stand on my record of decades of faithful service to this community and the nation. I have a long record of charitable service to the community and that will continue even during this process. I want to thank my family and friends for their prayers and support during this difficult time. I ask that you continue to pray for and support me. This fight is not over and as I’m sure you know, I will continue to fight to clear my name and restore my reputation.”