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Joe Henderson: Corrine Brown finds rules apply to her too

Miscreant behavior isn’t the exclusive property of either major political party. It’s an equal opportunity career-killer, as former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville learned Monday.

She was sentenced to five years in federal prison for deeds that U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan called “especially shameless.”

Shameless? Yeah, that about sums it up.

It happens when someone feels a title makes them entitled. Offenders often try to justify their actions within narrow legal lines – whether greed, sexual, or anything else – but the common thread is that they run through multiple stop signs on the way to a felony.

The issue in this case was about how Brown spent approximately $800,000 from a charity she established.

Instead of using donations to the One Door For Education foundation on scholarships for needy students, a lot of the money was spent on parties, shopping, a Beyonce concert, and a football game in Washington with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

She blamed her Chief of Staff Elias “Ronnie” Simmons for the misdeeds. He got four years in prison after taking a plea deal for testifying against his former boss.

Carla Wiley, the charity’s executive director, accepted a plea deal of 21 months for spilling the goods.

As the leader of the pack, Brown got hammered the hardest. At age 71, she cashed in the considerable good she accomplished from 25 years in Congress, and for what?

A football game? A concert? A few trinkets she could have bought on her own?

While living it up, it seems likely that it never occurred to her something wrong was happening. She no doubt told herself that Corrine Brown wouldn’t do anything illegal, and that’s the problem.

It’s the same alibi U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore is trying to use in Alabama to justify his taste in young girls. Remember when he said he never dated one without their mother’s consent?

It’s the same mindset that led to all the sexual scandals we see unfolding in Tallahassee. It’s what led former president Bill Clinton to deny he ever had sex with Monica Lewinsky, or that pushed former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to lie to the FBI.

We have all seen people who thought they were above it all pleading for mercy, as Brown did when it sank in that she was going to prison. By then, it’s way past too late.

Five years is a long time, especially at her age. Considering the crime though, it’s an appropriate sentence. I would add that it’s a cautionary tale for any public official thinking of doing something similar, but I doubt such a person would be paying attention anyway.

That’s what happens when someone thinks they’re above it all. It’s a shock when they find out they are not.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

Andrew Gillum Andrew Gillum

Yep, the FBI did f*ck Andrew Gillum

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