Updated 6:30 p.m.
Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown has been found guilty in 18 of 22 counts of conspiracy, wire/mail fraud and tax fraud for her role in a scam that bilked $833,000 from donors who thought sham charity One Door for Education was awarding scholarships to disadvantaged students.
Only $1,200 actually made it to students’ education.
Brown’s charges include seven counts of wire fraud, five of mail fraud, one of conspiracy, and three of falsifying tax returns. She was found not guilty on two mail fraud and two wire fraud charges.
Prosecutors argued Brown inflated her charitable giving to receive larger tax refunds and also failed to disclose tens of thousands of dollars in income she received from One Door and other sources.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tysen Duva and Eric Olshan painted Brown as an egotistical politician who lived beyond her means. Using bank records, checks, letters, emails and hundreds of other documents, prosecutors made the case Brown directed the deposit of $37,000 of One Door cash into her account. They also claimed she was instrumental in planning nine events that cost the sham charity $330,000.
Brown’s attorney James Smith crafted a defense that hinged upon the jury believing Brown Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons was the real mastermind behind the around four-year fraud.
Smith told the court Brown was an aging public servant who relied heavily on Simmons and other staff to help keep her personal life in order.
Brown, who maintains her innocence, refused to answer questions while leaving court.
Her lawyer James Smith read this statement: “While she’s certainly disappointed by today’s verdict, she respects the American justice system and the jury."
Smith said he plans to ask for a new trial.
“There are a number of motions that we intend to file that we believe will stop this case from going forward to sentencing,” he said.
Judge Timothy Corrigan has at least three months to sentence Brown if he rejects Smith’s motions. Corrigan has wide discretion in her punishment because there are no mandatory minimum sentences for Brown’s charges, Smith said.
Corrigan will also decide the fate of two Brown associates — former chief of staff Ronnie Simmons and One Door for Education President Carla Wiley — who both testified against her. Simmons told the court he’s hoping for leniency in exchange for his cooperation.
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Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk