Former Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown was found guilty Thursday on 18 counts in a federal corruption trial, the latest chapter in a stunning fall for a longtime Jacksonville political institution. Brown’s district had included portions of Florida and Volusia counties until redistricting in 2013.
Brown, who was defeated for re-election last year after 24 years in the U.S. House, was convicted on all but four counts for her part in a scheme that used a sham education charity to finance personal expenses and events. U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Corrigan could hold a sentencing hearing for Brown, 70, within 90 days.
“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 Blanco said in a statement issued after the ruling. “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.”
Brown’s attorney, James Smith, told reporters outside the Jacksonville courtroom that Brown would ask for a new trial, though Smith declined to say on what grounds.
“She wants to let her supporters know that she is still strong and resolute,” Smith said. “She still maintains her innocence, and she thanks everyone for their prayers and their support.”
Smith pointed to the case of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, whose conviction on corruption charges was later set aside by the U.S. Supreme Court because justices disagreed with the government’s interpretation of an “official action.”
“The American legal system has a number of levels, and this is just the first step,” Smith said.
The case against Brown, though, had less to do with what she did as a congresswoman than what she did while she was in office. Brown was found guilty of counts charging her with conspiracy, concealing material facts on required financial disclosure forms, filing false tax returns and related charges.
According to the government, Brown — along with former chief of staff Ronnie Simmons and Carla Wiley, both of whom pleaded guilty — used One Door for Education-Amy Anderson Scholarship Fund at least in part to finance their own expenses while working with other people to solicit more than $800,000 for the charity.
Congressman Al Lawson, who defeated Brown in a Democratic primary last year, was circumspect in a statement issued by his office following the verdict.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Rep. Brown, her family, and all those affected,” he said. “I believe Jacksonville is a better place, because of her three decades of public service.”
Brown left the courtroom quietly, with her head hanging slightly, a contrast to the flamboyant and often bombastic style she used for years in confrontations with political opponents and the media.
She was a verbal pugilist, comparing an attempt to redraw her district to slavery and rhetorically asking reporters who inquired about the criminal charges whether they were pedophiles, as a way to point out that the allegations weren’t yet proven.
But the 12-term, Jacksonville-based congresswoman was also a master of constituent services, using “Corrine Delivers” as a slogan to tout her ability to bring home projects and services to the voters who elected her. That ability helped her cultivate a political base that seemed unassailable.
She was also in many ways a historic figure, one of the first African-Americans elected to Congress from Florida since Reconstruction.
But ahead of the 2016 elections, her district was redrawn under a voter-approved ban on gerrymandering. The courts chose maps that swapped out one of her power bases in Orlando for parts of North Central and Northwest Florida, including a portion of Tallahassee, that barely knew her.
As Brown was fighting that change, the indictments were handed down, providing an even larger opening for Lawson, based in Tallahassee. She lost a three-way primary to Lawson by 8.6 points.
On Thursday, Smith said he was struck that some of the contributors to the charity would testify as part of the government’s case, only to embrace Brown after leaving the stand.
“People cannot and will not forget all the good that she’s done,” Smith said. “Let’s remember, no one’s life is a snapshot. Our lives are films, and you have to look at each and every frame. And Corrine Brown is not going to be defined by what happened here today in this courtroom. She still has plenty of days left on this earth.”
–Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida
Richard Smith says
One less corrupted person running our government and one more person down the swamp drain! I hope she gets what she deserves which is prison time, fines and restitution.
One of the most incompetent and corrupt in congress. Hope she rots in jail.
Josh Davis says
Thank you Flaglerlive. This is one of the most polarizing figures and important stories that have come around in a while. Brown was a trailblazer in a time when African-American women could mostly only dream of holding such an office. A sad ending, but a true reminder that our elected officials are held accountable for their actions in this country. Her life is an example of what anyone can achieve and how greed can destroy even the mightiest.
If this would have been a white male republican it would have made the national news for days…… I am sure the race card will be plaid if it has not been already. Jesse and Al will be here protesting……. Surely it is just a plot buy those terrible white republicans.
She rode Air Force One with Obama last June for a condolence visit to Orlando families grieving the Pulse nightclub shooting. I thought to myself, uh-oh, the fix is in. But Obama, to his credit, didn’t grant her a pardon in his final days in the White House.
Hey Corrine save a space for Hillary when you get settled in.
This silly fool should have been locked up a long time ago…
Tired of it says
Soooooooooooo glad the jury did the right thing and found that crooked thief of a woman guilty. I can’t wait to see her mug shot without that ridiculous wig. Off to jail you go thief!
Jesus; she is evidently corrupt but she’s not a serial killer. She deserves to be punished but let’s tone down the rhetoric.
BTW, I am so over that “drain the swamp” mantra, what a sham! News flash: “The swamp has now morphed into a cesspool!”
Think of the true shame of this. Starting a charity to assist poor and minority groups for scholarships and stealing the money, all the while acting as a representative for those groups. Looks like exploiting the minority has made a few of these self proclaimed “champions” rather rich over the years on the backs of those they are claiming to help. That is the definition of oppression.
Share a cell with Rev AL and Jesse, Maxine could be right behind you..dumbasses elected her!!
Can she take Maxine Waters, Shelia Jackson Lee, Nancy Piglosi, Harry Ried, Crying Chuck Schumer, and tax cheat Rangle to jail with her?
She will go to jail when Bill Cosby does.
Ken Dodge says
“And Corrine Brown is not going to be defined by what happened here today in this courtroom.” Well, her mugshot will say otherwise.
What a shame, she broke the trust of her office to help herself. This is why the American people no longer trust the political system, it is filled with dishonest people. She screamed how she was a fighter of the people, yet she stole money from them. She needs to spend time in prison and be disqualified from receiving her pension. There needs to be real consequences for politicians convicted of a crime, why should we pay them for time in office if they committed crimes. Send a message that if you stray we will not pay, money these days seems to be why people go into politics, not to do good for their constituents our our country.
Alphonso Zeimers says
Michael if you think anything meaningful will land on her you are crazy.
Most likely she will have to go to confession and have to recite 10000 Hail Mary’s