Celebrated Congressional Black Caucus member, and “legend” Corrine Brown would like Americans to believe that stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from underpriveleged children in her district, and using the money to vacation with her daughter, is not the reason she’s been found guilty of 18 counts of fraud and corruption, it’s because she is black.
Washington Examiner – She partied with Nancy Pelosi, traveled on Air Force one next to President Obama, and cast her superdelegate vote for Hillary Clinton. But on February 9, 2017, Corrine Brown was in federal court for stealing scholarship money from school children.
The disgraced congresswoman attempted to defend against charges that she funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars from a non-profit charity, One Door for Education, into her own pocket.
After her former chief of staff testified against her, the question was no longer whether or not she’s guilty. It’s why Democrat brass would continually cozy up to a congresswoman who was so clearly corrupt?
From the beginning, Brown’s been shrouded in controversy. Shortly after she won election in 1992, the Federal Election Commission accused Brown of violating numerous campaign finance laws. Most notably, she accepted donations from foreign citizens and failed to report the use of a corporate plane. And that’s just the tip of the ethical iceberg.
A convenient rap sheet, put together last July by the Florida Times-Union, documents every allegation of wrongdoing brought against Brown during her 27-year career. Hollywood couldn’t have better scripted some of the highlights.
In 1998, Brown cashed a $10,000 check from Rev. Henry Lyons, the disgraced president of the National Baptist Convention who spent five years in federal prison for fraud. The congresswoman said tthat she used the unreported money to bus her supporters to an event.
In 2000, Brown battled back a House Ethics investigation into her efforts to free imprisoned West African millionaire Foutanga Dit Babani Sissoko from federal prison. She appealed to Attorney General Janet Reno for help, asking her to spring Sissoko from prison. Though unsuccessful, Brown received a new Lexus worth $50,000 for her trouble.
And in 2008, Brown took heat from the mayor of Jacksonville after she had sandbags delivered by the city to protect her home from Tropical Storm Fay. The congresswoman eventually pledged to pay the city $886.
But none of this dissuaded Democrats from palling around the Florida woman. It’s mind boggling that Brown not only fundraised with the president but also enjoyed prominent perches on the Transportation and Veteran Affairs Committees.
First Coast News – On Thursday, November 16, 2017, the former Jacksonville area Congresswoman Corrine Brown took the stand, and plead for mercy from federal judge Timothy Corrigan.
“I am sorry you have to be here today to see me in this situation,” Brown said in her statement to the court. “I never imagined I would one day be in court asking people to speak on my behalf – never. In hindsight, I wished I had been more diligent in overseeing my personal and professional life The idea that some people could believe these charges hurt me because it runs contrary to everything I’ve ever believed and done in my life. I hope and pray these proceedings to don’t make them [ordinary people] lose faith in the system. I humbly ask for mercy and compassion.”
Brown was convicted on 18 counts of fraud and corruption in May.
The lead prosecutor in the sentencing hearing argued Thursday that the former congresswoman should be sentenced to about 7.5 to 9 years in federal prison. Her defense attorney is seeking probation and community service.
Brown’s defense attorney James Smith objected to various aspects of the sentencing recommendations, including how much money Brown should be culpable for.
Prosecutor Duva asked the court, “What accountability does the law require?” during his presentation.
Duva said Brown was accustomed to receiving money she should not have received.
She also lied about donations to colleges, churches and other entities.
He also argued that Brown has made ludicrous comments during the investigation, including a comment where she essentially said that had investigators not been looking into her case, the Pulse shooting in Orlando would never have happened. She also referred to the charges as “bogus” and “racist,” implying that she was targeted for her race in the case.
Duva objected to that notion by saying, “She was targeted because she committed fraud, not because she was black or white.”
Corrine Brown had several witnesses come forward Thursday in support of her through witness testimony during the sentencing hearing.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee provided a glowing character witness of Corrine Brown during her sentencing hearing Thursday.
Jackson Lee described via telephone testimony it as her “privilege” to characterize Corrine Brown as a “loving person.”
She said Brown has had a “pointed and direct effort [in] helping others, not herself.”
The veterans’ community loved Congresswoman Brown, Jackson Lee said, stating that Brown has helped those with PTSD and other issues following fighting overseas. She also stated Brown helped tremendously with relief efforts during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
“That shows a character of giving to others unselfishly,” Jackson Lee said.
Additional arguments by defense attorney
The defense attorney belabored the point that they are against the notion that Brown abused a position of trust, which is established by the evidence presented in the trial.
Smith explained the definition of obstruction of justice, which Brown is accused of doing while taking the stand by the prosecutor, stating that it is the “intention or deliberate effort while on the stand to make material falsehoods.”
The judge wasn’t so sure and asked the defense attorney to elaborate.
Smith appeared to get emotional after posing two questions: “What type of sentence does justice require in this case?” and “How do you sentence someone who is a legend?”
He attributes some of her actions to the progress our country has made in terms of relations for black people.
Smith said he met with an Orlando attorney who was from Jacksonville and said the attorney described Brown as “our Martin Luther King” for black Jacksonville natives.
“None of those people had to push the boulder up the mountain like she did,” said Smith, referring to others in Congress. “She truly is a legend.”
There are a lot of moving parts in the case against Corrine Brown and her co-conspirators.
Carla Wiley first became involved in the fraud scheme when she started dating Ronnie Simmons.
She was president of a charity called One Door for Education, which was never actually registered as a 501(c)(3).
The fake charity received more than $800,000 in four years, with about only $1,200 of it actually going to scholarships for students. That money is now gone.
Simmons was dating Wiley when he told her he needed a nonprofit to financially back a reception for congresswoman Brown in 2012. Wiley offered One Door for Education as an option for that reception.
The charity claimed to give scholarships to poor and underprivileged children seeking the become teachers.
Lead prosecutor A. Tysen Duva argued during the trial that Ronnie Simmons worked under Brown and did her bidding by taking out $800 a day from the One Door for Education bank account and depositing it into Brown’s personal bank account. He did this numerous times, according to Duva and evidence released earlier this month.
The fake charity was essentially used as a slush fund for Corrine Brown’s travels, expenses and shopping, according to the prosecutors.
She used the money put in her bank account to go to Nassau, Bahamas with her daughter, fly to Beverly Hills and shop along Rodeo Drive, and attend a Beyoncé concert, according to court documents and previous reports by First Coast News.
The prosecutors also argued that Brown committed wire fraud, mail fraud and stole money from the government after she lied on tax documents.
Brown had friends in high places, such as former CSX CEO Mike Ward. She would ask them for donation to Open Door for Education and many of them gladly donated, according to previous reports and prosecutor testimony.
Ward, for instance, contributed $35,000 to One Door for Education after learning that the money would go toward providing students with iPads for learning.
Prosecutors also argued that Brown lied about and inflated what she gave in tithes to various churches. The churches came forward in the trial and said the donations claimed to be given by Brown did not match their records, to which Brown said she sometimes gave anonymous donations.
Other legitimate scholarship organizations came forward and said they had never received funds from Brown’s charity.
Meanwhile, Brown’s tax returns claimed she contributed as much as $30,000 – 20 percent to a third of her income, to various charities.