Corrine Brown Asks To Stay Out Of Prison While Appeal Is Completed

Dec 12, 2017

Corrine Brown wants to remain a free woman as she awaits the outcome of her appeal after she was convicted in a federal corruption case and sentenced to five years in prison.

Attorney James Smith, who represents Brown, has requested a bond pending appeal, which would allow Brown to stay out of prison until she exhausts her appeals.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan allowed Brown, 71, to go home after imposing the five-year sentence and told her she would receive a letter in the mail specifying when and where she must report. He said that date would not be before Jan. 8.

As part of the conditions of her release, Brown surrendered her passport last week.

Brown was convicted in May of 18 fraud and tax-related charges for her part in a scheme to use a sham charity to fund a lavish lifestyle that she could not otherwise afford.

Brown's cohorts, former chief of staff Ronnie Simmons and his ex-girlfriend Carla Wiley, who founded the bogus charity, pleaded guilty in the case and testified against Brown. Simmons was sentenced to 48 months and Wiley received 21 months for their roles in the scam.

All three must also serve three years of supervised release and pay $250 a month in restitution until they have paid back the money they stole from One Door for Education.

The charity was founded as a way to help needy children get scholarships and computers, but despite raising $833,000 in a four-year span, only $1,200 in scholarships were given out.

The rest paid for things such as events and travel for Brown and those in her orbit, as well as dozens of cash deposits to her personal bank account and a range of frivolous expenses, like nearly $14,000 for Beyonce tickets and $15,000 for a suite at a Jaguars-Redskins game.

Brown's appeal of her conviction references an unusual part of the trial -- the dismissal of a juror over comments made about “the Holy Spirit.”

"I believe that the juror who was dismissed did not make statements which should have allowed the judge to disqualify him," Smith said. "All he simply said was that he was following the Holy Spirit beforehand, but I think the transcript clearly shows that he said that he could follow the law, the evidence and the instructions."

Smith said he has a lot of respect for Corrigan, but he thinks dismissing the juror was a mistake and that Brown will likely get a new trial.

He said he thinks Brown also has strong grounds for an appeal based on the evidence presented.

"If you look at the grounds that we submitted in our sentencing memo and the arguments that we made at the close of the case, I just don't think there was enough direct evidence to show that the congresswoman committed wire fraud and the other charges against her," Smith said.

He also plans to argue that the sentence imposed is unreasonable under the circumstances.

Local criminal defense attorney Mitch Stone, who's not affiliated with Brown's case, said while a successful appeal might be a long shot, it’s still a real possibility.

"It’s very rare that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturns a criminal conviction out of a federal district court," Stone said. "I’ve been practicing for close to 30 years and I could just think of a handful of times that that has happened."

He also pointed to the juror dismissed during trial.

"That certainly is grounds for an appeal, if there was a juror who was qualified to stay on the jury and was excused for a reason that essentially would have benefited Corrine Brown, then I think the appellate court has to look at that," Stone said.