At a court appearance Thursday afternoon, suspended City Councilwoman Katrina Brown asked for a court-appointed attorney. The judge agreed that she could not afford private counsel and will get a court-appointed attorney to her before her next court appearance.
The suspended council members Reggie Brown and Katrina Brown face 38 federal charges of fraud stemming from federal and local business loans awarded to Katrina Brown’s family barbecue sauce enterprise.
An arraignment is scheduled for Monday, June 25, where pleas are expected to be entered.
Katrina Brown's now former attorney Curtis Fallgatter said there was still a possibility he could represent her again in the future.
"We're hopeful that they can pull that together, but again it's not fair to her or the court to stretch that out. The judge has been very kind to give us ... about three weeks to try to figure it out. Thought we had, but a few little problems developed that have slowed that down," he said.
Fallgatter said he had been trying to work out Brown's finances with her family, but that ultimately there wasn't really a way she could afford his counsel.
Unlike her co-defendant, Katrina Brown did not have to go through a public accounting of her debt, instead she showed up to court more than an hour early for that, according to one court baliff.
Fallgatter said it was clear to Judge James Klindt she would require court-appointed representation.
"She's upside down. She lives with her folks ... and has very modest funds in a bank account, you know a few hundred dollars, and a car that she owes on more than the car is worth," Fallgatter said.
Reggie Brown appeared before the judge with his court-appointed lawyer, Thomas M. Bell, for the first time.
At the pair’s last court hearing, Reggie Brown claimed indigency, saying after being suspended by Gov. Rick Scott and losing his city salary, he was relying exclusively on his Army reservist pay. The judge agreed he had more expenses than income and granted him court appointed representation, but not before reminding him that he still owed the court $1,000 in costs.
Both council members posted $50,000 bond in May, and neither can travel while awaiting trial. If convicted, they face more than 1,300 years in prison between them, though federal prosecutor Tyson Duva said they're unlikely to get the maximum sentence.
In addition to the time behind bars, Katrina Brown would be ordered to pay $12.5 million in fines, while Reggie Brown would be on the hook for more than $8 million if convicted.
The indictment says Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown hatched the scheme as the councilwoman’s barbecue sauce business failed to meet the terms of a federalally-backed loan. The councilwoman was unable to repay much of a $2.6 million loan the Small Business Administration helped grant after her business sold less sauce to Sam’s Club and Winn-Dixie stores than had been projected.
The alleged scheme involved creating fake companies that invoiced the legitimate barbeque sauce company for work that was never performed.