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Corrine Brown Appeal Focuses On Dismissed Juror

Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown arrives at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Jacksonville for her sentencing in December.

Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown’s attempt to get out of federal prison hinges on an ex-juror who said the “Holy Spirit” told him Brown was not guilty of charges related to a charity scam.

Brown’s attorney filed a 64-page brief Monday in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals arguing the Jacksonville Democrat’s conviction should be tossed out because the juror was improperly dismissed from the case due to his religious statements.

“The record in this case supports only one conclusion: that this juror was basing his verdict on his view of the sufficiency of the evidence, after prayerful consideration and as he saw it, in his mind, guidance from the Holy Spirit,” Brown’s attorney, William Mallory Kent, wrote in the brief.

“Whether he should or should not have depended on any guidance from the Holy Spirit does not resolve the matter in favor of his dismissal, because the well established law in this and other circuits is that so long as there is any reasonable possibility that the juror is basing his view on the sufficiency of the evidence, he may not be dismissed. Dismissal requires substantial evidence that the juror is engaged in willful misconduct.”

But in a December court document, U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan, who sentenced Brown to five years in prison, rejected arguments that he improperly dismissed the juror.

“In essence, the court (judge) dismissed a juror who it found was unable to follow the law,” Corrigan wrote Dec. 20. “The court applied the governing legal standard to the facts, finding beyond a reasonable doubt that there was no substantial possibility that the juror was able to base his decision only on the evidence and the law as the court had instructed.”

Brown, a former 12-term congresswoman, was convicted in May on 18 felony counts related to her role in using contributions to the One Door for Education charity for personal expenses and events.

In sentencing Brown on Dec. 4, Corrigan issued a 25-page order that said the One Door for Education charity, which was originally established to help children, was “operated as a criminal enterprise” by Brown, her longtime chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, and the charity's founder, Carla Wiley. 

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January rejected Brown’s request to stay out of prison while she appeals the conviction. She is serving the sentence at the Coleman federal correctional institution in Sumter County, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons website.

The brief filed Monday said the issue about the dismissed juror’s religious statements started after the jury had started deliberating. Another juror informed the court that she had concerns about the man, identified in the brief as “juror number 13.”

Corrigan questioned the juror before deciding to replace him with an alternate juror. The jury subsequently found Brown guilty of the charges.

Brown, 71, long an influential figure in Jacksonville, represented a congressional district that stretched from Jacksonville to Orlando. She lost a re-election bid in 2016 after the district's boundaries had been substantially redrawn and as she faced the criminal charges.

Jim Saunders is the Executive Editor of The News Service Of Florida.