Congresswoman Corinne Brown served Florida’s 3rd district (redrawn as the 5th district in 2012) for almost 25 years.
After her long congressional career, Brown was defeated in the primary last fall in her bid for re-election.
However, Brown suffered a much more harrowing defeat in court.
Brown was convicted on 18 felony counts of misconduct.
From CBS News:
After a historic, nearly 25-year career representing Florida in Congress, former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown was found guilty on Thursday of taking money from a charity that was purported to be giving scholarships to poor students.
The verdict came after prosecutors outlined a pattern of fraud by Brown, 70, and her top aide that included using hundreds of thousands of dollars from the One Door for Education Foundation for lavish parties, trips and shopping excursions. She was convicted of 18 of the 22 charges against her, including lying on her taxes and on her congressional financial disclosure forms.
Brown, a Democrat who was one of the first three African-Americans to be elected to Congress from Florida since the Reconstruction period, represented the district that included Jacksonville since 1993.
Since her indictment last summer, she had been publicly defiant of the government’s charges, saying in a statement she was among black elected officials who have been “persecuted.” She had pleaded not guilty to all of the charges, including the fraud, but lost re-election last fall after her indictment.
“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,” acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco, said in a statement after the verdict.
Crucial to the government’s conviction was the testimony of Brown’s former chief of staff, Elias “Ronnie” Simmons, and the charity’s president, Carla Wiley. Both pleaded guilty after their federal indictments for misusing the charity’s funds and testified against Brown.
Federal prosecutors said Brown and her associates used One Door to bring in more than $800,000 between 2012 and 2016, including a high-profile golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass. Brown’s indictment revealed the Virginia-based One Door only gave out one scholarship for $1,200 to an unidentified person in Florida.
Simmons said Brown ordered him to take cash and checks from One Door’s account. On dozens of occasions, Simmons said he was told to take out of One Door’s account the maximum $800 from an ATM near his house and deposit hundreds of it in Brown’s personal account. Sometimes he kept some for himself.
Brown testified in her own defense, saying she was left in the dark about the goings-on with One Door’s money and blamed the theft on Simmons.
Brown said she left those details to Simmons and other hired staffers and said she should have paid more attention to her personal and professional finances.
The FBI Jacksonville Division released a statement about the verdict:
“Former Congresswoman Brown took an oath year after year to serve others, but instead she exploited the needs of children and deceived her constituents to advance her own personal and political agendas. Corrupt public officials undermine the integrity of our government and violate the public’s trust, and that is why investigating public corruption remains the FBI’s top criminal priority. I am proud of our special agents, analysts and support personnel who spent countless hours following the money trail in this case, and thank our law enforcement partners at the IRS-CI and U.S. Attorney’s Office for their efforts to hold Brown and her associates accountable for their inexcusable actions.”
Brown’s claims that her former chief of staff was the source of all the malfeasance are rebutted by dozens of surveillance photos showing Brown making bank transactions on the illicit account.
Brown will be sentenced within 90 days and faces a maximum of 277 years in prison. It’s incredibly unlikely Brown will receive a life sentence, but she very well could lose her six-figure congressional pension.