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Florida Family Action: No to ‘Charlie Crist Republican’ Lenny Curry as CFO

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry failed to say “no” to the expansion of the local HRO, or Human Rights Ordinance, to include LGBT people.

So Florida Family Action, which agitated against the ordinance being expanded, urged Gov. Rick Scott to just say no to Curry as CFO on Monday.

They’ll take almost anyone else: Sen. Aaron Bean, Sen. Tom Lee, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, or Pat Neal.

Curry, who has spoken repeatedly about his lack of enthusiasm for the bill, nonetheless let it pass without his signature.

The argument from Curry: it had super-majority support, so a veto would have been moot.

However, for FFA, that proves that Curry “is not a principled conservative and is not willing to fight for what is right.”

“As the former head of the Republican Party of Florida, Lenny has become the darling candidate of the GOP establishment, but he is not reform minded. This is a politician who is trying to please everyone. He appears to be more concerned with what the left thinks about him than the conservative base who helped get him elected,” FFA contends.

The group calls Curry a “Charlie Crist Republican,” prone to “unsound decisions” should he ever attain higher office.

Gov. Scott will be in Jacksonville for a job creation event, timed while most of the top guns in the local media are at the Corrine Brown trial.

Will Scott be asked about this FFA broadside? For that matter, will Curry?

The story will continue to develop until such time as Scott replaces Jeff Atwater — who hasn’t left yet — as CFO.

Closing arguments in Corrine Brown trial

Below: the closing arguments in the trial of Corrine Brown.

Defense: Simmons controlled the scheme, duped Corrine Brown

Corrine Brown’s attorney, James Smith, laid it out to the jurors, striking a garrulous tone with a reassuring voice, before showing a rare picture of Ronnie Simmons’ sister, Corrine Brown, and the One Door president to set the scene.

The picture showed Simmons’ “three major frauds,” Smith said, via “women close to him.”

And it led the Orlando barrister to a not-so-rhetorical question … one upon which Brown’s appeal to “reasonable doubt” on the 22 counts must be predicated.

“Who is Ronnie Simmons?”

Simmons – contended Smith – was a serial liar and thief, grifting Corrine Brown for years as she was distracted with “constituent services.” And his centrality to the scheme leads to one inexorable conclusion.

“For the next 90 minutes, it’s my intent to show you she’s not guilty,” Smith said, and that the government “failed to deliver” in proving otherwise.

Who is guilty? Ronnie Simmons – who duped Brown, Smith said, exploiting trust built over decades.

“Simmons’ handwriting is all over this case – checks, tax returns, financial disclosures,” the defense attorney said. “Ronnie Simmons is someone you can’t trust – and he controlled Corrine Brown’s finances.”

Brown’s career progressed, and Simmons – her daughter’s ex-boyfriend – progressed with her, serving as Brown’s chief of staff from 1993 until the end of Brown’s time in office – just weeks before Simmons rolled on her, pleading out and turning state’s evidence.

“He was her son … her boy,” Smith said, “he made the trains run on time.”

Brown, said Smith, needed Simmons – especially as she moved through her mid-60s.

Corrine Brown shows “glimpses” of the firebrand she once was, Smith says, but all of that is suffused by a barrel of 200-proof heartbreak.

“How could her son do this to her? Is she delusional. No, she’s human,” Smith said.

Smith noted that the government posited that Simmons was a “bit player … someone who decided to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars because he was ordered to do so.”

Simmons had, Smith said, “already learned to steal” before One Door opened up to Simmons in 2012.

Evidence of that: Simmons scheming to get his sister hired in Brown’s Congressional office as a “ghost employee,” with Brown relying on Simmons’ honesty as Simmons lined his pockets with his own sister’s name.

“That wouldn’t be the first time he used a woman close to him to lie, cheat, and steal … a leopard doesn’t change his spots … on to the next mark, the next victim,” Smith said.

That next victim: One Door President Carla Wiley, who gave Simmons the key to the kingdom after chit-chat on a cruise ship with Simmons.

Smith pointed out the explicit desire of One Door donors to give transactional money, before discussing the “nice parties and receptions” funded by One Door, “parties with a purpose” that were not “illegal.”

“Does the government really believe her ego is so big that she would steal … to go to a hotel and have nice things to eat,” Smith asked rhetorically.

“The case ultimately comes down to two people … a dedicated and recognized member of Congress … [or] a self-admitted liar and thief who has a criminal conviction, and a vested interest in what happens here today,” Smith said.

Simmons, said Smith, “controlled” One Door – the check card, the checks, and tabs on financial statements to know when money could go out ($800 at a time, from ATMs) … and when money needed to be put in.

One Door head Carla Wiley likewise benefited, and did so after Simmons took control, Smith noted.

And all the while, said Smith, Brown didn’t know of the transactions; indeed, Brown and Wiley knew each other but casually.

“What evidence is there that Carla Wiley went to the Congresswoman and said ‘I’m stealing a bunch of money’,” Smith asked. “There’s no conspiracy between the two.”

Smith continued to press on a failure in the government’s case: a “battalion” of witnesses, bank statements and so on obscure the counternarrative – which is that Simmons, with access to Brown’s own finances, was uniquely positioned to steal.

“They had these blinders,” Smith said, with a preordained position that Brown was guilty.

“If you believe something, you can find anything to confirm it,” Smith said.

This includes the catalog of transactions over the years, Smith said, boiled down and repeated for days in the courtroom as if catechism.

Smith urged a “deep dive” into details by the jury, a look at where Simmons “lied on the stand” regarding a pass-through check from the company of a Brown crony, Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney.

Simmons said he didn’t know anything about that or other such pass-through checks. However, that was a lie, Smith said – a lie that underscored the gap between authoritative indictment and conclusive proof.

The check, in the description line, was marked to Simmons’ own mother … just one example of a Simmons fabrication. And there were others: lies about using One Door’s debit card to pay for personal expenses, among them.

“Simmons looks for opportunities to use people, get close to them … their finances, their money,” Smith said. And in this case, the golden goose was Corrine Brown – who signed documents for him on demand.

And Simmons had been signing for others, said Smith – maybe as a “matter of convenience” in time crunches, but other times “because he wanted to commit a fraud.”

Simmons’ propensity for forgery, coupled with opportunity and the willingness to commit a pattern of crimes, make him culpable, Smith argued.

Yet the government “had these blinders on. They knew what they wanted,” Smith said, and they wanted Corrine Brown.

“If you have any doubt about the material things in this case,” Smith said – including Simmons – “the government’s case falls apart.”

One of those material things worthy of doubt, Smith said, a tax form purportedly signed by Brown, but that was not signed by Brown, said one independent witness.

“So absent was the Congresswoman from day to day affairs … that frankly it became office practice to sign for her,” Smith said.

Brown, said Smith, thought she was raising money through these events; Simmons, however, was responsible for the fraud the government asserts, Smith added.

Donors were Brown’s “friends … and they trusted her.” And it didn’t “make sense” for Brown to lie to donors for the three years of the scheme – personal sense or political sense, the defense lawyer added.

Simmons “wanted the checks to be sent to his home. Why?” The idea, said Smith, was “to hide it” from Corrine Brown.

The “circular theft pattern,” said Smith, proved that it was Simmons who was “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

That pattern explains, said Smith, even ephemera like the balance inquiries, many of them made multiple times in minutes before donor cash dropped into the One Door account.

All the while, Brown was ignorant of the pattern: too busy to notice that she was the mark, and her “boy,” her “son” was grifting her.

Simmons fooled his lover, said Smith. And so fooling his elderly, distracted boss was child’s play.

Simmons handing her cash, said Smith: a way to keep Brown from checking her balance, a way to keep her from knowing what the real situation was.

Desperate toward the end of the scheme, Simmons wrote one donor, saying he was “in a jam” and needed a promised $10,000 check. Another donor got hit up for a $5,000 check to a different pass-through – Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney’s Community Rehabilitation Center – after it was revealed One Door was not a registered non-profit.

“The Congresswoman’s never in the mix,” Smith said, of Simmons’ communiques with the donors.

“It’s so obvious – between the Congresswoman’s good intentions and the money being diverted, is her lying, cheating chief of staff,” Smith added, noting that money from pass-throughs to Simmons went unexamined by a prosecution bent on convicting Corrine Brown.

In closing, Smith brought discussion back to “character” – a leit motif in his presentation.

Wiley and Simmons, Smith reminded the jury, pleaded out – with Simmons changing his story once off Brown’s Congressional payroll.

“Before they can get to the promised land – no prison,” Smith said, the two have to provide “substantial assistance.”

Smith noted that the government had a lot of witnesses, but the two “star witnesses” are confessed fraudsters and serial liars.

The jury, which had been more or less attentive, looked to be fading as Smith wrapped his remarks.

“She’s not a mastermind,” Smith said, “she’s an old woman.”

Meanwhile, the government’s case: predicated on “caricature,” a caricature obscuring the busted trust and serial deceptions at the heart of this case – and the denouement of the Corrine Brown political machine.

The prosecution rebuttal noted that for many of the transactions, Ronnie Simmons was nowhere to be found – including checks routed through former Brown employee Von Alexander and a check cashed in Los Angeles during a Brown trip with her daughter Shantrel.

As well, the rebuttal noted that Brown had lied about donations that never happened.

And regarding Brown being busy, the prosecutor noted that Brown wasn’t too busy for extensive travel. Nor was she too busy to check balances in her account, far away from where Simmons was. Nor was she too much, the prosecutor said, to work the donors for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The case made by Smith found holes poked in it – with the prosecutor asserting, repeatedly, that “common sense” leads to taking the evidence at face value.

“This case is about the defendant delivering to herself … over and over again … and the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

____

Government: “When Corrine Brown wanted something, she got it.”

These words, from federal prosecutor Eric Olsham, set up the government’s closing argument: that she was the Queen Bee, and that drones “followed her orders.”

Errands of all types, including helping prepare her tax returns and depositing “almost $160,000 in cash” into her bank account, were among those orders.

“When the Congresswoman wanted something, there was only one answer: Yes, Congresswoman.”

Olsham noted that Brown’s history of “lying on her taxes” goes back to 2008, with false donations to cronies’ charities and inflated tax returns.

“She admitted that on the stand,” Olsham said.

“When Carla Wiley and One Door for Education came into her like, Corrine Brown knew exactly what to do,” Olsham added.

Brown, aided and abetted by Simmons, took control of the “fundraising powerhouse” – seeding it with a $25,000 donation from Brown’s PAC, which then went in — $800 at a time – into Brown’s account.

All told: $833,000 came into One Door in over three years. And it was Corrine Brown – the “expert” fundraiser – who made it rain. And said Olsham: she had to know much of the money was “being put into her bank account,” despite Brown’s claims otherwise.

Underprivileged kids? They may still be thirsty. But for Brown, her daughter, and her chief of staff, One Door for Education was Canaan: the land of milk and honey.

“Did the Congresswoman know that it was fraud? Absolutely it was fraud,” Olsham said.

Olsham cited lies to donors, exploiting their “soft spot for education,” with pitches varying depending on the mark she sought to work.

Most people, Olsham said, lacked “interest” in directly donating to Corrine – so they gave to what Brown called “my charity.”

“The donors picked the one that looked like it was going to help someone else. But you know it didn’t,” Olsham told the attentive jury.

The shady computer drives, the trip to China for underprivileged kids such as former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown’s son, the golf tournament and so-called money for “summer camps” that was spent by Brown and her daughter in Beverly Hills, the Beyonce skybox, the trip on FDP Chair Stephen Bittel’s jet to DC for a Jaguars/Redskins game, “face to face pitches” for donor money, and the $330,000 in One Door money that went for Brown’s political events, the Queen Corrine drinks, the $750 birthday cake for Brown’s daughter – all of these data points would come up in Olsham’s close.

“Self-promotion is almost as good as money in her pocket,” Olsham said about the events. “She got that too.”

Also coming up: signed checks, given to Brown or associates – the pass-through money that ensured that all parties could live beyond the threshold of their means.

Brown, said Olsham, said the donors were either “mistaken” or “lying.”

“Use your common sense,” the prosecutor advised the jury. “No one benefited more” than Corrine Brown.

“What makes more sense – that all of these witnesses were mistaken or lied? Or that the defendant told a convenient story,” Olsham said.

The donors, to a person, said they were bilked and duped – that they wouldn’t have wanted to pay for Brown’s lifestyle.

“The defendant lied to them. She fooled them. Don’t let them lie to you,” Olsham said.

Olsham depicted Brown as the person orchestrating the handling of the cash and checks, which Simmons called “the elephant in the room.”

The descriptions of the mechanism of taking money out of the One Door account and putting it into Brown’s – repeated again, a final reminder of how Simmons often would have to visit the Capitol One ATM multiple times in a week to get the money Brown needed from the One Door account — $800 at a time, in cash, so the money wouldn’t be on a check.

Brown spent and spent, the prosecutor asserted: designer clothes, lavish trips, spa treatments.

“None of this was spent at the dollar store,” Olsham contended.

“The defendant knew that it was bogus. She knew that it was a fraud,” Olsham added, summing up the government’s case into two simple sentences that even this jury would understand.

“She knows how to rob Peter to pay Paul. The defendant said that. And she’s right,” Olsham continued.

$833,000 of donor cash, said Olsham, came down to two scholarships, a China trip for some students three years into the scheme, and little else but personal enrichment for Brown and her chief aides.

“Without the defendant’s knowing involvement for three years,” Olsham said regarding the count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, “there couldn’t have been a conspiracy at all.”

Counts 2 through 17, Olsham said, come down to mail fraud (via FedEx) and wire fraud (emails, bank transfers, and other electronic conveyances).

Threshold of proof: “the defendant was part of a scheme, [voicing] material lies and half-truths.”

Counts 2 through 8 – mail fraud – come down to shipments of checks via FedEx; counts 9 through 17 – wire fraud – involve interstate wire transfers.

“Your job is only to conclude,” Olsham said, that these elements were “reasonably foreseeable” to Brown.

Count 19 – scheme to conceal material facts on Congressional financial disclosure forms – was explained next, in light of Brown’s “extra income” from One Door and other pass-through sources.

“The public knew nothing about any of that,” Olsham said, “and that was the point.”

Count 20 – scheme to conceal material facts – came down to “underreporting income” and “bogus” charitable deductions averaging over $27,000 a year (off $6,600 a year of actual, provable charity).

“She failed to tell Uncle Sam,” Olsham said, of “tens of thousands of dollars of unreported income” over six tax years.

“$142,000 in cash in six years … not the defendant’s salary or pension … almost $24,000 a year. Where did all that cash come from?”

Meanwhile, said Olsham, many of the claimed “charitable donations … just didn’t happen.”

“There is no more blatant proof of the defendant’s criminal intent in this case than this,” Olsham said about the repeated false claims of donation. “She did this all on her own.”

Counts 21 to 24: the first of the tax counts, to “obstruct and impede the due administration of internal revenue laws”, with false tax returns from 2012 to 2014 constituting the final three.

“The defendant exercised total control,” Olsham said, with no one able to “tell Brown no.”

“But that stops now … you are in the position … to tell the defendant what no one told her all those years … because the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Corrine Brown trial: jury deliberation highlights

Highlights from the jury deliberation in the trial of Corrine Brown include procedural questions, and questions about jurors themselves. 

Mail fraud question from jury: Does the government have to prove all elements of the jury instruction on the six counts of mail fraud for Corrine Brown to found guilty?

That was a question from the jury Wednesday afternoon.

The defense said that all elements of mail fraud had to apply, while the prosecution contended that “aiding and abetting” could also be a necessary threshold.

Yet another jury question with an uncontroversial answer.

___

Is Corrine Brown responsible for her tax filings?: It took almost two full days of deliberation and the removal of a juror whose religious mania caused concerns, but jurors actually raised a question Wednesday morning – the first one of the trial so far.

That question – at long last – offered insight into the jury’s actual deliberations.

The question: is Brown responsible for everything on her taxes, given that she didn’t prepare or sign them?

Of the 22 counts faced by the former Congresswoman, four are tax counts: one regarding false information, three regarding tax returns from 2012 to 2014.

Prosecutor A. Tysen Duva affirmed jury instructions addressed this issue, while Defense Attorney James Smith noted the feds have the “burden of proof.”

Judge Corrigan’s advice: “follow the jury instructions.”

If one is reading the tea leaves for signs of reasonable doubt prevailing from the jury on tax counts, that somewhat philosophical question provides the first glimpse – except for the religious mania documented below – that such exists.

Bounced juror shows mental strain, talks of ‘higher beings’: Judge Corrigan kicked off Wednesday noting that there was an “issue with a juror,” one that required discussion ahead of the beginning of the proceedings.

That issue: a juror made an “unsolicited call” to Corrigan’s courtroom deputy, which heard the juror say that she and other jurors were “concerned” about another juror talking about “higher beings” and Corrine Brown.

The courtroom deputy cut the juror off there, and the matter was brought to Corrigan’s attention, setting up the 8:15 hearing.

Corrigan asked counsel its position. The feds, citing case law, suggested that the court inquire with the juror to further develop a record, then discuss it with the foreperson. The defense cited the same case law, agreeing with the government that discussion with the juror should be “in camera.”

Corrigan noted the jury’s diligence and “smooth” deliberations, distinguishing from case law that had more radical examples (U.S. Vs Augustine, U.S. Vs Abel, U.S. Vs Godwin, U.S. Vs. Gibrard, U.S. Vs. Burress, U.S. Vs Decoud) where aberrational thinking became an issue for jurors.

“In all of those case, there was much more information that the court had … notes written by the foreperson of the jury … a letter written about religious beliefs … much more tangible evidence of a real problem in deliberations,” Corrigan noted.

“There is a strong statement in these cases,” Corrigan said, “that court should err on the side of too little inquiry as opposed to too much. In some of these cases … where there was the first sign of trouble … the jury was told its duty” and sent back for deliberations.

“It is difficult to tell how serious it is … it could be part of the natural … dialogue that goes on in any jury deliberations,” Corrigan said, regarding this case.

“I do want to make sure we don’t put this inquiry in the same category as these other cases,” Corrigan noted, adding that simply readvising the jury of their duties could be an option.

Prosecutor Duva said that wasn’t enough.

“This juror at night made the decision to pick up the phone, call the courtroom deputy, and play this out … from the beginning, this juror was saying these kinds of things … and other jurors felt the way she did.”

Smith likewise wants an “inquiry” into the evidence here, “as soon as possible.”

Corrigan noted that the complaining juror might also be the problem, necessitating further inquiry in any case in an in camera proceeding.

First Amendment and Sixth Amendment rights, regarding the public and the press hearing this part of the proceedings, are eclipsed, said Corrigan, by the “overriding interest” to protect the defendant’s right to a fair trial, and “shielding from public scrutiny … the jurors’ deliberations.”

“We’ve already discussed the issue in open court,” Corrigan said, and inquiries into “religion” and other such matters could lead to a “temporary” closure of the court.

After a hearing stretching over an hour and a half, the juror (an unemployed man from Middleburg) was excused – and an alternate was called into service.

Jacksonville Bold for 4.28.17 — Lyin’, Cheatin’, Stealin’

Readers have likely noticed our deep-dive coverage of the Corrine Brown trial this week.

As the trial moves into its evidentiary phase, it would be easy to forget Wednesday’s opening statements.

That would be ill-advised, as those statements represent the crux of the disagreement between the government and Brown.

The Feds maintain Brown orchestrated the criminal conspiracy; Brown’s defense is she was older, not technically savvy, and essentially exploited by her former chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, unaware that One Door for Education was One Big Scam.

Pretrial publicity revealed that quite a few people thought Brown guilty because of the indictment and the reporting on it. What didn’t help: Brown’s reputation over the years, which was often at odds with establishment media.

Of course, there is a flip side: the reality is Brown has (and had) plenty of cache in her community — and that, for those who have followed Brown over the years, the defense argument — that she could not have pulled this whole thing off — seems somewhat plausible.

Brown didn’t use email. Never texted, allegedly, until the last year. It’s why so much of the case depends on whether one finds Ronnie Simmons or Corrine Brown more plausible.

Did Simmons exploit Brown? Or did Brown call the shots?

If just one juror buys the idea that Brown was not in control of the operation, some — if not all — of the charges may not reach a guilty verdict.

She may have a tougher time with counts related to tax issues and inaccurate financial disclosures.

But there are no guarantees there either.

File this away for a couple of weeks. Either it’s eerily prophetic or completely off-base.

In any event, Florida Politics will cover this, pillar to post.

Pension reform a done deal

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry got his pension reform package through the Jacksonville City Council Monday.

The bill moves city employees hired after Oct. 1 to defined contribution plans, which feature a 25 percent match for public safety, and a 12 percent match for general employees.

Lenny Curry took a victory lap this week, then went to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Integral to the pitch: long-delayed pay raises for city employees —  police and firefighters will get 20 percent more over a three-year period. General employees will get 14 percent raises in the same timespan.

A measure of the success of Curry’s marketing plan: over 32,000 views on YouTube for the video clip from “Build Something That Lasts,” Curry’s political committee.

That commercial was pushed via digital targeting, coordinated with voter rolls.

Curry for CFO? T-U drives the narrative

With pension reform now a memory, could Mayor Curry’s next move by Florida CFO?

The Florida Times-Union stoked the fire this week.

The crossroads Curry faces: “appointment as the state’s next chief financial officer, which would vault Curry into a high-ranking position in the state Cabinet. Or Curry could continue as mayor of Jacksonville and use the budget relief from pension reform to focus on the unfinished business of turning the tide on the city’s violent crime problem and getting long-delayed construction projects underway.”

What will happen? Ultimately, it’s Rick Scott’s call. And Scott doesn’t blab to the press.

Decisions loom for Rick Scott and Lenny Curry in the coming weeks.

Those familiar with the thinking of Curry’s political advisers say that job is Curry’s — if he wants it.

The contra-narrative: Curry is entrenched in the community and devoted to his family, which leads to some speculation that he wouldn’t want to make a move.

Time is running out on the Legislative Session. With Jeff Atwater’s exit, it will be time next month for speculation to be borne out — one way or another.

Al Lawson, John Rutherford slow to fundraise

Jacksonville’s two U.S. Congressmen, Republican Rutherford of Florida’s 4th Congressional District and Democrat Lawson of the 5th, are perhaps lucky they don’t (yet?) face real challenges to re-election, as their fundraising was sluggish compared to some in Q1 2017.

Jacksonville’s two Congressmen had a slow Q1 fundraising. Will both recover?

Rutherford raised $45,700 and spent $16,000 for an on hand total of $32,000. Lawson brought in $72,000, reports Drew Wilson of Florida Politics.

Rutherford and Lawson weren’t particularly aggressive fundraisers in the 2016 cycle either. It didn’t matter, as Rutherford had great Name ID and a strong team, and Lawson had the advantage of running against an indicted Congresswoman Brown in a radically changed CD 5.

Lawson’s number is worth watching, as Jacksonville Democrats eye a run for the seat.

Rutherford moves to expand ‘yellow ribbon’ program

While Lawson still has yet to file a single bill, Rutherford is on the move, as WJXT reports.

John Rutherford presents a bill respecting the sacrifice of our fallen heroes.

Rutherford “introduced legislation to expand the eligibility for the Yellow Ribbon Program to people who have received the Fry Scholarship, a scholarship that allows education benefits to be transferred to the children of service members killed in the line of duty,” WJXT reports.

“The Yellow Ribbon Program allows higher education institutions to cover additional tuition costs for service members utilizing their GI benefits if the cost of attendance is above the cap set by the post-9/11 GI Bill,” the report adds.

The bill, formally entitled the “Julian Woods Yellow Ribbon Program Expansion Act,” honors Woods, who died by enemy fire on a foreign battlefield.

C is for ‘cryptic’ in CSX

New CSX CEO Hunter Harrison came in months back, shedding workforce and spiking share prices.

What’s his encore? Who the hell knows, reports the Jax Daily Record.

If Hunter Harrison were a DJ, he’d be “cut creator.” But what’s his endgame at CSX?

Here’s one analyst’s research note.

“On the topic of cost savings, there seems to be some confusion among the masses about Hunter Harrison’s pontification on what he was seeing as potential targets for improvements versus actual guidance. On the topic of mergers & acquisitions, there also appears to be confusion (rightfully so) on what was and wasn’t inferred.”

After cutting 800 employees, even before he would have had real time to see how they function, Harrison claims he has a “good hand” at CSX.

Convinced? We’re not. And we’re not convinced he’s telling the truth when he says his end game isn’t to fold up CSX into another, bigger company.

The reality is this: Hunter Harrison could be the reason CSX leaves Dirty Duval.

Karma 1, Ken Adkins 0

Life finally dealt Pastor Ken Adkins a decisive blow, as a jury in Brunswick, Georgia convicted the flamboyant African-American preacher on molestation charges that will ensure he spends his life in prison this week.

Adkins served his uses: he was the self-styled pied piper to the elusive black vote for Jacksonville Republicans, before he went off the rails after the 2015 election, when he went scorched earth against the Human Rights Ordinance expansion.

Ken Adkins’ horrifying tweet after the Pulse massacre in Orlando.

Adkins was best known for sending out pornographic memes depicting Jacksonville City Councilman Tommy Hazouri in flagranti delicto in a public restroom with a gentleman.

Now, of course, the truth has come out on Adkins — who groomed a vulnerable teenage couple in Brunswick, setting them up for sexual exploitation.

He will never be a part of Jacksonville politics again, though he should stand as a cautionary tale for those on the right who want to pretend they have an exclusive license on virtue.

This is 40?!

A year ago, no one in Jacksonville knew Gary Snow — the 40-year-old Chicago transplant who has become infamous for counter-protesting Jacksonville protest events.

Gary Snow was called a “catalyst” of a melee at Hemming Park by Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams.

Snow, a ubiquitous presence with his Donald Trump flag and bullhorn, has been shrouded in controversy since coming to Jacksonville, as the Florida Times-Union reports.

“Though Snow has lived in Jacksonville less than a year, he has been a frequent presence at local political demonstrations. Using a baby’s cry amplified by megaphone, he goaded protesters at a January rally against the president’s executive order seeking a temporary ban on travel from seven mostly Muslim countries. A YouTube page in his name contains a series of videos that show him disrupting various rallies — from a protest held outside the Jacksonville office of Sen. Marco Rubio to a routine meeting of the Progressive Democrats of America’s Duval County chapter,” writes the T-U’s Garrett Pelican.

Snow, who drove Donald Trump Jr. around Jacksonville’s football stadium on a golf cart during Florida/Georgia weekend last year, also has white power ties, Pelican writes.

“An example is the October 2015 post that boils skin color down to ‘adaptation to varied climates and levels of UV exposure.’ It goes on to say ‘God has predestined people for certain regions” and ‘they should all return to their home where nature had intended for them to thrive,’ following by hashtags including #GoBlacktotheMotherland.”

Stop! Thief!

More bad publicity for JEA, via THE Local Station.

66-year-old Hugh Popell was charged with theft and falsifying an official document this week.

WJXT reports “that there were several days when Popell’s time sheet and overtime requests differed from his vehicle’s GPS data, badging history and email data.”

JEA got another round of bad press this week.

As well, “Popell would say he was working when he was instead making personal stops. One example of a personal stop, police said, was when he visited his niece for about an hour and a half while being paid time-and-a-half for holiday pay.”

Turnabout is fair play. That niece will now be able to visit Popell.

In the Duval County Jail.

Chickens coming home to roost

A couple of years back, Jacksonville passed an ordinance allowing backyard hens after considerable deliberation.

Orange Park is possibly next, if a draft ordinance reported on by the Florida Times-Union becomes law.

The 12-month pilot program, claims Councilman Steve Howard, is rooted in “the concept of local sustainability,” which “has inspired an interest in backyard and community food production to provide local food services.”

Fine feathered friends are fowl in Orange Park, for now.

The move apparently would be controversial, as it was in Jacksonville initially, and as it ultimately was in Atlantic Beach, which voted 3-2 against a similar ordinance in February.

JAXPORT ‘Cycles Up’ with new supply chain partner

Cycle Up Supply Chain Services, a South Florida-based logistics company, is expanding to JAXPORT, bringing new transportation and logistics options for shippers. Cycle Up recently signed a five-year lease on an 80,000-square-foot warehousing and distribution facility located near JAXPORT’s North Jacksonville Marine Terminals.

Cycle Up provides warehousing, pick and pack, and transloading services. The facility brings new business, including several of Cycle Up’s existing customers, among them major online as well as brick and mortar retailers

“A convenient geographic location, reduced inland transportation costs and increased backhaul opportunities all make Northeast Florida an ideal location for expansion,” said Cycle Up Managing Partner Tony Albanese. “We are confident our customers will benefit from all the supply chain efficiencies Jacksonville offers.”

According to Cycle The expansion brings a $1 million investment and creates 35 new jobs according to the company. Cycle Up operates three other distribution centers around the nation.

Armada growing ‘little by little,’ remain unbeaten

The Jacksonville Armada FC is still undefeated and stayed in first place in the NASL after a 1-1 draw against the defending champions, the New York Cosmos Saturday night in Brooklyn. The Cosmos have won three of the last four NASL titles.

Kartik Krishnaiyer reports that Armada’s goal came courtesy of J.C. Banks in the second half and ensured Jacksonville would remain at the top of the table.

For the fourth successive game, the Armada was outstanding defensively. Mechack Jérôme began defensive play in the sixth minute with an intervention just outside the goal when New York’s Walter Restrepo sent a shot his way. The Cosmos took the lead in the 22nd minute when Javi Márquez found his way through the box to take a shot toward the far post — it went into the bottom right corner.

Jacksonville Armada FC remain undefeated in NASL after a 1-1 draw against the defending champions, the New York Cosmos.

Jacksonville defender Kalen Ryden came close to an equalizing in the 32nd minute. A timely cross from Nicklas Maripuu was connected with by Ryden, who sent a header just short of the net to the right.

Although goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell lost his clean sheet streak at three, he made three saves in the game.

Despite having the majority of the possession and shots in the first half, the Armada FC failed to find the back of the net.

Banks scored the equalizer in the 67th minute from a headed pass by Ryden. He gained possession about 30 yards out to drive the ball toward the Cosmos and fired it just inside the 18-yard box. Banks goal was selected as NASL’s play of the week. Following the goal Armada FC Head Coach Mark Lowery was ejected from the technical area and sent to the stands perhaps for being demonstrative in his celebration?

Cosmos Head Coach and Sporting Director Giovanni Savarese said.

“We are growing little by little. We need time, and I think we are showing now that we are a different team, tonight, we looked more balanced, dynamic and created more chances.”

Nonetheless, the Cosmos are looking up at the surprising Armada FC in the table. Jacksonville’s start has been one of the big surprises of American soccer thus far in 2017.

The Armada FC returns home to face defending NASL runners-up Indy Eleven at Hodges Stadium Saturday.

Uber to service Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach

Officials with The Players announced the on-demand ridesharing service will have designated pickup and drop-off points at the Sawgrass Marriott hotel during the tournament May 9-14. Drop offs will be at the Sawgrass Marriott Conference Center area, and a shuttle will lake to the Davis Love III entry area at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Uber pickup services will also be at the hotel.

“With the increasing popularity of The Players both in Northeast Florida and nationally, efficiently getting fans into and out of the tournament in a timely and safe manner is one of our key goals,” said The Players executive director Jared Rice.

Jacksonville Zoo Bowling for Rhinos

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is holding the 27th Annual Bowling for Rhinos event June 16-17. The Zoo’s chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers has raised over $117,000 with BFR since 1990.

The international conservation event is at Beach Bowl, 818 Beach Blvd. in Jacksonville Beach. Activities start Friday from 7 — 9 p.m.; registration opens at 6 p.m.; Saturday, from 1 — 3 p.m., registration at noon (more family-friendly) and 7 — 9 p.m., registration begins at 6 p.m. Registration is $25 per person, which includes two games of bowling and shoe rental. Registration for non-bowlers is $10 per person.

BFR includes a silent auction, raffle, and Archie’s Rhino Rye Pale Ale from Bold City Brewery. Limited edition BFR T-shirts will be available. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the event go directly to support Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya, Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, Indonesia and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in Sumatra, Indonesia.

 

Jacksonville City Council passes pension reform legislation

The real work was done over the past weeks and months. But the ceremony, the cameras, the victory lap were all reserved for Monday afternoon, when the Jacksonville City Council officially passed 14 bills that equate to pension reform.

The “committee of the whole” vote – held Wednesday – was the dispositive one.

In that meeting, which lasted over three hours, the Jacksonville City Council worked through the last few rounds of questions and concerns it might have had over the pension agreements.

Those questions and concerns, really, were moot points.

The city can’t afford not to make the deal – not facing an untenable $360M pension hit next year on a $2.8B unfunded actuarial liability.

With pension reform closing current pension plans and backing up the repayment with the future assets from a 1/2 cent sales tax, the pension hit in FY 2018 is $218M; if reform fails, the hit is $360M (up from $290M next year).

As CFO Mike Weinstein has said of late, the savings add up to “$1.4B less out of the general fund over the next 15 years,” and “without that revenue” from the half-cent sales tax, the city would have “difficulty matching revenue to expenses.”

So that’s the reality.

Three bills ultimately are the most newsworthy.

2017-257 establishes the half-cent sales tax extension. 2017-258 changes pension plans for general employees and correctional workers. And 2017-259 changes plans for police and fire.

The city will offer 25 percent matches for defined contribution plans for police, fire, and correctional workers; for general employees, the match is 12 percent.

The other eleven bills ratified collective bargaining agreements between the city and JEA and various unions.

In Corrine Brown’s trial, a chapter of Jacksonville history will be written

For decades, Corrine Brown (Jacksonville’s longtime Democratic Congresswoman) served many functions. And the witness list at her trial, which starts Monday, reflects that.

This may be the trial of a generation.

It certainly has generational resonance for political types: of donors and behind-the-scenes types, of glad handers and hangers on, and of real-deal active politicians … past and present.

Corrine Brown, for a quarter century in the U.S. House, and for longer than that in other roles, served as a nexus between the Jacksonville establishment and her constituents.

That ended in July 2016, when Brown and her former Chief of Staff, Ronnie Simmons, were indicted on 24 counts combined, related to a conspiracy to defraud via a charity under Brown’s name: One Door for Education.

Simmons took a plea deal, and won’t be sentenced until after he testifies against his former boss; Brown maintains her innocence.

Brown faces 22 federal counts, with a possible 357 years in prison and $4.8 million fine if all charges are found valid.

Jury selection is anticipated to last two days, ending – if all goes well – no later than Tuesday afternoon.

At that point, the parade of witnesses, for both the state and the defense, will proceed through the federal courtroom.

Testifying for the prosecution: Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel, former Jacksonville Sheriff Nat Glover, current Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney, Jacksonville super-donors John Baker and Ed Burr, Jacksonville lawyer, and one-time Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Steve Pajcic, and former chair of the Donald Trump campaign in Florida, Susie Wiles.

Also on the prosecution witness list: the congresswoman’s daughter, Shantrel Brown and her two alleged co-conspirators: Carla Wiley and Simmons.

Friday saw the prosecution drop a 49-page list of exhibits.

Items to be presented in court next week include a “Summary Chart” of cash withdrawals from the One Door for Education Capital One Account and cash applied to Corrine Brown’s personal accounts.

As well, documentation will be offered of cash going into the personal accounts of Wiley, Simmons, and Shantrel Brown, Corrine’s daughter who filed a failed motion not to testify on the grounds she will just plead the Fifth Amendment.

Emails between those parties will also be presented, though the details of those aren’t in the list.

Flyers promoting events benefiting One Door for Education, going back to 2012, will also be presented as evidence of a conspiracy to defraud.

As well, signed letters from Brown to donors will be exhibited to, establishing prosecutorial claims of conspiracy.

Big names, such as Florida Democratic Party head Stephen Bittel, were regular donors and correspondents.

Bittel even allowed the use of his private plane at one point.

The defense team, helmed by Orlando attorney James Smith, is not without its own big names.

Among the defense witnesses: Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Rep. Bennie Thompson.

Jacksonville luminaries will also testify, including former Mayor John Delaney.

Delaney, in an interview with Florida Politics last year, spoke about the charges that had dropped just days before, delineating the political fallout: a tragedy beyond the fall of a politician at stake.

“We’re losing [the seat] if the congresswoman gets defeated or removed. Lawson’s about Tallahassee.”

And, for better or worse, Jacksonville’s loss is a subtext of the trial.

Corrine Brown Jury Selection

If you missed  jury selection, the complete story is here; most recent material at the top.

Opening statements loom in trial of former Congresswoman’s life [Wednesday 12 p.m.] Wednesday wrapped jury selection in the federal fraud trial of former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who faces 22 counts related to a non-performing charity, “One Door for Education.”

Jurors will be compelled to examine witness testimony and exhibits, of which the prosecution has 49 pages of receipts, bank statements, and other documents corroborating its case that One Door was a conspiracy to defraud donors – a slush fund for Brown and her inner circle, which one by one pleaded out and turned state’s evidence, leaving her as the last defendant standing.

Both the prosecution and defense have dozens of witnesses, though prosecution witnesses tend to be material witnesses and defense witnesses seem to be more of the character witness variety.

The government will make opening statements at 1:00. The defense intends to also make a statement. These statements would be capped at one hour.

No matter what, prosecution evidence will follow thereafter.

The government can offer “rebuttal evidence” to that of the defense.

___

As the jury prepared to file in for instructions, the courtroom was split into two halves.

On the left, media on laptops; on the right, older African-American men in suits, mixed in with church ladies in John 3:16 shirts – a distillation of the base that Brown’s political machine served for a quarter-century.

Judge Timothy Corrigan, who will handle the trial that could last up to three weeks, instructed the jury in a Jacksonville accent from a slightly-bygone time: a synecdoche for the trial itself, which is as much the capstone of an era as it is the trial of a former politician.

During a recess beforehand, Brown talked to two women in their sixties, both wearing yellow, and then talked to another supporter in a dark suit. The latter conversation projected a maternal urgency, with Brown’s arm around him throughout the exchange.

What was clear: Brown’s support system was here. She seemed to be discussing court proceedings, though she was mostly inaudible.

She exited the room, kissing one of her couple of dozen supporters on the cheek.

___

Corrigan, described by most with opinions on federal judges as fair, noted that the case would be tried in 10D, with an overflow room with an audio feed of the trial.

The jury was sworn in and then given a break for lunch.

“Looks like a good jury,” Corrigan said, “you’ve been judged by all to be fair and impartial.”

“Trials aren’t like they are on TV, where things wrap up in an hour,” Corrigan added, foreshadowing “moments … when we have to stop and work out something.”

“This is a case that has the interest of the media and the public,” Corrigan said, vowing to accommodate spectator interests.

However, rules are to be followed, including no contact between jurors and media.

“You should ignore the media … the public … anyone who has opinions. Your job is to decide the case solely on the evidence you hear in the courtroom,” Corrigan said.

“It’s not easy … but that’s the way it’s got to work,” Corrigan said, emphasizing the burden of the jury to resist outside information or opinions on the case, and reminding them not to talk about the case as well.

Corrigan also reminded the jury that Brown starts off with a “clean slate,” and that her guilt must be “proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”

As Corrigan went through his remarks, Brown’s posture – a concerted slump – was notable, as she shifted in her chair and propped her chin in her hands at one point, her form shrouded in a loose-fitting black jacket.

Corrigan wrapped his remarks shortly after 11:45.

And with that, a pause – for reflection, for sustenance, to reset the palate – before the trial of Corrine Brown’s life.

If convicted of all 22 counts, Brown could be sentenced to 357 years in prison, and fined $4.8M.

Any prison stretch for Brown, increasingly fragile in recent months, would be tantamount to a life sentence.

8 whites, 4 blacks on jury [Wednesday 10:00 a.m.] Wednesday wrapped jury selection in the federal fraud trial of former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who faces 22 counts related to a non-performing charity, “One Door for Education.”

Two black males, two black females, five white males, and three white females comprise the jury, which will begin hearing opening arguments at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Juror 1: a black male from Jacksonville; Juror 2, a white male from Jacksonville; Juror 9, a black female from Jacksonville who is currently unemployed; Juror 13, a white male hair stylist from Jacksonville; Juror 17, a white female from Jacksonville; Juror 19, a black female from Jacksonville; Juror 23, a white female; Juror 26, an unemployed white Middleburg male; Juror 35, a white female from Jacksonville; Juror 39, a white male; Juror 40, a black male.

Alternates include a black female, a non-white female, a Hispanic male, and a white male.

The composition of the jury should reassure at least some of those who have concerns about the trial being slanted against Brown.

___

Here’s how we got to the final jury:

Voir Dire all but wrapped late Tuesday, but there was unfinished business: a joint motion to strike three jurors: 8, 38, and 43.

Juror 8 equivocated, said Judge Klindt, when asked about her daughter’s arrest at a department store. Juror 38, a retired cop, expressed a bias toward the FBI, and had talked with friends about the case many times. Juror 43, an African-American woman, had a sidebar yesterday that will remain sealed, yet proved dispositive.

Juror 27, an Asian-American male whose son had an interest in discussing the trial with him, was brought back for questioning. The juror’s son said Brown “probably would be convicted,” and discussed specifics of the case.

“He’s a chatterbox, he continued talking,” 27 said. “He’s a teenager.”

Brown’s attorney quipped that 27’s son would be a good attorney; a joint motion to strike followed.

From there, Wednesday morning saw preemptory challenges of the larger jury pool from U.S. Attorney A. Tysen Duva and Defense Attorney James Smith, leading toward a final jury that will decide Brown’s fate.

Smith got ten challenges; Duva got six.

Smith bounced Jurors 3, a white female, and 4, another white female.

Duva was up next, and struck Juror 16, a white female.

Smith then had two more strikes: Juror 5, a white male, and Juror 10, another white male.

Duva then had his turn: Juror 18, a black female who works as a babysitter.

Smith then cut two: Juror 24, a white female from Yulee, and 34, a white male and former military police officer.

Duva cut Juror 37, a retired white male from Jacksonville. And then Juror 36, a male who was not white.

__

Wednesday will wrap jury selection in the federal fraud trial of former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who faces 22 counts related to a non-performing charity, “One Door for Education.”

“Hopefully, we’ll have a jury by the end of the day, but if not we’ll have to spill over into the next day,” Judge James Klindt warned after lunch.

Despite best effort, Klindt’s words were prophetic.

It was dinnertime by the time the voir dire questioning was wrapped, and after a five-minute recess that lasted fifteen, U.S. Attorney A. Tysen Duva and Brown’s defense attorney, James Smith, Judge Klindt discussed “complications” that would prevent jury selection Tuesday evening.

Jury selection will wrap at 9:00 a.m., with cause challenges and preemptory challenges, ahead of a 10:00 jury arrival.

The jury could be seated by late-morning, paving the way toward Judge Timothy Corrigan giving instructions, with opening statements in Courtroom 10D at 1:00 p.m.

For a complete summation of the last two days of jury selection, please read our standalone article that takes you from the beginning to the end each day.

Jury selection spills into third day [5:00 p.m., Tuesday]: Tuesday continued the second day of jury selection in the federal fraud trial of former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who faces 22 counts related to a non-performing charity, “One Door for Education.”

“Hopefully, we’ll have a jury by the end of the day, but if not we’ll have to spill over into the next day,” Judge James Klindt warned after lunch.

It was dinnertime by the time the voir dire questioning was wrapped, and after a five-minute recess that lasted fifteen, U.S. Attorney A. Tysen Duva and Brown’s defense attorney, James Smith, Judge Klindt discussed “complications” that would prevent jury selection this evening.

Jury selection would begin at 9:00 a.m., with cause challenges and preemptory challenges, ahead of a 10:00 jury arrival.

The jury could be seated by late-morning, paving the way toward Judge Corrigan giving instructions, with opening statements in Courtroom 10D at 1:00 p.m.

___

Of course, it was a long road to the end of the day.

Klindt started proceedings in the final segment of the day shortly before 3:30.

Questions began for the assembled, regarding employment by law enforcement agencies, either of them or of relatives.

Juror 4 had a relative in law enforcement in Maryland. Another juror has a son who works Beach Patrol in Daytona.

Juror 39 has a relative who worked for a sheriff’s office out west 15 years ago. Another juror’s deceased father worked in law enforcement in Connecticut. Still another juror’s father-in-law worked in law enforcement, including as an investigator for a former State Attorney.

Yet another juror’s relative works in corrections. And still another’s father-in-law works in federal law enforcement. And still another has a brother working in IT for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. And still another has two cousins, and some friends, in law enforcement.

All but the last one indicated no potential bias.

When asked if they had been victims of crime, including fraud, some also indicated a yes.

The crimes, which ranged from assault and murder of two different jurors’ relatives to identity theft, would not impact the jurors’ partiality, they said.

When asked if they or close friends or relatives had been investigated by law enforcement, one former law enforcement officer had to testify to a Grand Jury.

“I wasn’t happy about it, but that was the end of it,” the potential juror said, indicating – with a bite to his voice – that he could be fair “to both sides” in the case.

Jurors who had dealt with FBI or IRS agents in investigations likewise disclaimed the potential that those inquiries would bias them.

When asked if they had “strong feelings” about the FBI or IRS, no juror said yes. Likewise, a question regarding beliefs that would impact the ability to serve on the jury in this case got a no.

Discussion turned to plea bargains, which are “lawful and proper” according to the Judge, but with caveats.

Klindt urged that testimony from those who have pleaded out, such as alleged Brown co-conspirators Carla Wiley and Ronnie Simmons, should be treated with “caution” given the circumstances.

All potential jurors understood.

From there, individual questions for selected jurors followed.

___

Juror 15 had to address his background in law enforcement, which included investigations into political figures. The government and the defense agreed to strike him on grounds of potential bias.

Juror 21, who teaches HVAC for the Florida Department of Corrections, discussed his potential bias.

“I’m around inmates all day long,” he said. “All of them tell you they were right and law enforcement was wrong.”

He too was struck.

Juror 71, who has friends and relatives in law enforcement in Chicago and Jacksonville, indicated bias toward law enforcement “not in this case … but in other situations.”

When asked if she would privilege LEO testimony, she couldn’t be “100 percent truthful,” as she would “tend to want to believe them more.”

She too was struck by joint motion of the government and the defense, with Klindt describing her as “emotional on the subject.”

Juror 9 had a private “sidebar” conversation with the judge and counsel, describing being a victim of a crime. Privacy interests will keep that conversation under seal, and she was not struck.

Juror 1 had two cousins and two friends who were arrested over the years, for charges including drug possession, murder, and multiple counts of molestation.

“They did what they did,” Juror 1 said, saying that they were treated fairly and his impartiality would not be compromised.

Juror 1 was the 35th juror of the 36 needed.

Juror 8’s sister faced retail theft charges a couple of years back, and ended up with community service after a not guilty plea.

She said she was able to put that situation out of her mind.

“I think so, because I don’t know anything about this case,” she said.

Judge Klindt was less than convinced, wanting to ensure that she could give “the government and Ms. Brown a fair trial.”

Juror 12 was next, and his issue was that in 1974, “a man pistolwhipped [his] brother” and in 1977, the same man assaulted his brother at a fish camp.

The brother exacted revenge, shooting up the gentleman’s truck, and served a short jail stretch, 12 said.

“It wasn’t the government’s fault,” he said when asked.

Juror 19 likewise had a history with crime: her brother was convicted of attempted manslaughter in the early 1980s.

Despite this, she asserted that her objectivity would be unaffected.

Juror 34 also discussed the impact of criminal conviction on his inner circle.

His son “got in trouble,” threatening some people. He got probation, went to California, and then went to jail.

“They did what they had to do because they had no record. I blame his mother … she had nothing in writing” from the probation officer authorizing transcontinental travel.

34 would not be affected by this, however, in terms of jury service.

Juror 36 was up next. His middle daughter had shoplifted as a youth. The ordeal would not impact his impartiality, he said.

Juror 37 then had his turn. In a bad marriage, he was arrested; his wife accused him of domestic violence. Charges were soon dropped.

“It was a lesson learned,” he said. “I’d never been in trouble… it was [horrible] to be charged for something for which I knew I was innocent.”

Juror 43, an African-American woman, was up next. She was “arrested several times” in her life, and discussed it in sidebar. After a few minutes, she walked out of the courtroom … ostensibly struck.

Juror 45’s younger brother has a history of repeated arrests, with a stroke at the age of 50 ending his history of DUI arrests, retail thefts, and so on.

“I’m sure he was treated fairly” by law enforcement, 45 said.

Juror 49 had a friend arrested 40 years ago, perhaps for assault. This would not prejudice her, she said.

Juror 52, an African-American woman, was sidebarred, and walked out of the courtroom.

Juror 53’s mother was arrested for embezzlement in Bunnell in the early 1990s, and convicted of a felony. She pleaded out and paid restitution, the juror said.

As well, her son was popped for reckless driving, after which he pleaded no contest and got probation.

Juror 56’s brother was convicted of insurance fraud in 1985 and served probation. 56 believes his brother was “not treated unfairly,” and could be impartial, he said.

Juror 61 was arrested just after her college graduation, after “way too much to drink.”

“I blacked out and the next thing I knew I was in jail.”

Community service followed, and jail, 61 claimed, was “horrifying” and “gender biased,” with her handcuffed to a bench followed by solitary confinement.

Despite that, she believes the case itself was handled fairly. And she said she could be fair in this case.

Juror 62 was next. She was arrested at the age of 20 for lying to a police officer. Charges were dropped, after a night in jail.

As well, she got a notice to appear for misdemeanor cannabis possession, and ended up paying “court fines and stuff like that.”

“I was happy with the outcome,” she said, and those brushes with the law would not impact her objectivity in Corrine Brown’s case.

Juror 64, mercifully, was the last to be questioned. Long ago, her current boyfriend got popped for a DUI; the record was expunged. As with most of the others, this circumstance would not affect her impartiality.

___

Jury selection moves forward [3:00 p.m.]: Tuesday continued the second day of jury selection in the federal fraud trial of former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who faces 22 counts related to a non-performing charity, “One Door for Education.”

“Hopefully, we’ll have a jury by the end of the day, but if not we’ll have to spill over into the next day,” Judge James Klindt warned.

Progress toward the goal of completing jury selection by end of day was made, with 53 jurors selected for further questioning and vetting ahead of the afternoon session.

Many who made that cut were not consumers of news media, and therefore were at an advantage – in terms of jury selection – compared to those who consume political stories in the newspaper or on television and the internet.

Potential jurors entered the courtroom shortly after 1 p.m. for two parts of inquiry, the first part of which involved a recitation of information on the juror questionnaire.

The jurors ran the gamut of life experience: men and women, white, black, Hispanic and Asian. Blue collar, white collar, and – in a sign of the fading job market – no collar.

Questions that led to drill down from the judge included previous jury experience, military service, and educational background. Potential jurors hailed from as far away as Melbourne, hours away on I-95.

Twelve of those questioned Tuesday had served on juries, though none of them on a federal jury. Educational backgrounds ranged from high school graduation to graduate studies. Some were employed; some were not.

For potential jurors, questions emerged on employment statuses for children – though for one juror, Klindt relented from questions about employment status of a spouse divorced three decades ago.

Juror 15’s experience in law enforcement was brought up as a potential strike, with his response – “I believe in integrity” – causing Klindt to ask if the juror could be objective.

After saying he would favor law enforcement, Klindt said there would be additional questions.

Juror 16, when asked about whether she could be fair, said that this was a “civil case.”

When told Brown’s was actually a criminal case, 16 said “that one was bad.”

Klindt’s voice sounded the now-familiar arc of concern in talking to her, but he did not promise her more questions.

Juror 21, a white male who lives in Lawtey and teaches HVAC at a state prison, was asked if he could be fair given his employment with the state Department of Corrections. More questions were promised to him.

Juror 27, an Asian-American male who manages online security at a mortgage company, noted that Corrine Brown was the first thing his son – who has an interest in law – discussed with him last night.

27 shooed his son away, in compliance with a court order to jurors not to discuss the case.

Juror 34, a Palm Coast resident and married retiree, was asked about his guard duties in the military police.

“I was mainly a desk sergeant,” he said.

Juror 41, a white male from Fernandina Beach, has a master’s degree in taxation, and spent his career in that field as well – an interesting convergence, given that multiple counts of this case are related to taxation.

Klindt was more interested in 41’s experience on a jury than his taxation background.

Juror 74, a woman studying to be a paralegal, was asked if there was drill down into criminal law; as of yet, no.

Juror 75 works as a chief information officer for a major Jacksonville company, one whose management likely would know some of the people on the witness list – however, no questions were asked.

Most of those questioned, however, had backgrounds that did not bear deeper inquiry from Judge Klindt.

___

From there, general questions were asked.

Two jurors revealed that they worked for the same major Jacksonville company, thus knowing each other. Each contended that the other’s opinion wouldn’t be prejudicial.

One juror has a sister-in-law who was a state prosecutor a few years back. They discussed cases and process.

Two jurors mentioned potentially prejudicial opinions regarding law enforcement; they were promised additional questions from Judge Klindt.

When asked if they or someone close to them had ever been charged with a crime, Yes’s peppered the room – too many for a reliable count. The same held true for those who had been witnesses in court cases other than divorce proceedings. And those who had been parties to a lawsuit.

Those who had been parties to lawsuits, by and large, had injury/liability cases – all said their impartiality would not be affected.

Beyond those exceptions, the answers were pro forma, asserting belief in jury trial, the right to remain silent, and the principle of presumed innocence.

African-American males, by and large, were underrepresented in the pool –  there were just three in a group of dozens.

There were, however, seven African-American women.

__

Prelim jury selection wraps; 53 selected for next round [Tuesday, 11:40 a.m.]: Tuesday morning continued the second day of jury selection in the federal fraud trial of former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who faces 22 counts related to a non-performing charity, “One Door for Education.”

Progress toward the goal of completing jury selection by end of day was made.

As on Monday, the specter of pre-trial publicity loomed over the questioning, with negative reports in the media, addressing the matters of One Door and Brown’s career overall, influencing potential jurors to a degree that they – or Brown’s attorney, James Smith – believed they couldn’t be objective.

Screening, as on Monday, revealed the difficulty of getting a locally-sourced jury in such a high-profile case. Klindt wanted a pool of 52 qualified jurors.

He got 53. And will need them, as attorneys reserve the right for further strikes, and as a pool of jurors and alternates is required.

Initial screening of Tuesday’s batch of 30 potential jurors, the vast majority of whom were white, revealed 19 potential conflicts that could lead to striking, with some falling into more than one category.

17 potential jurors knew of the case from the media or other sources. Six jurors had “strong feelings” one way or another about the former Congresswoman. And one juror knew Corrine Brown personally.

Additionally, there are six claims of “hardship”, three who personally knew FBI or IRS agents, one potential juror who knew Trial Judge Timothy Corrigan, and one who knows a member of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

All of those with potential conflicts were to be subject to individual questioning from Judge James Klindt.

Jurors, one by one, were asked about publicity, hardship, and feelings about Brown in more detail, beginning at 11:00 a.m.

__

Three jurors were to be struck.

Juror 66 indicated “strong feelings” about Brown, as her “circle of influence” has discussed the former Congresswoman to such a degree that she feels like she would be “prejudiced” against her.

Juror 67, who had declared a hardship, somehow brought up a case involving the Clinton Global Initiative in declaring bias. During that juror’s rambling disquisition, Brown’s attorney looked back at media with a quizzical expression.

“My mind cannot comprehend,” she said, continuing to conflate CGI and the case of Corrine Brown.

Juror 70, a Caucasian millennial in a t-shirt and gold chain, had seen a local newscast’s web article.

“When you read something on media, they have a way of putting it like they’re already judged,” 70 said. “In your mind, you’re trying to keep everything out. But it still comes in.”

A joint motion to strike from the government and the defendant followed.

53 jurors survived the initial questioning, and will move on to the next round of selection. Many who were questioned, on both Monday or Tuesday, were not consumers of news media; unencumbered by knowledge or bias, they made the cut for further questioning after lunch break.

___

Will jury selection wrap on schedule? [Tuesday  10:40 a.m. ]: Tuesday morning saw the second day of jury selection in the federal fraud trial of former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who faces 22 counts related to a non-performing charity, “One Door for Education.”

Judge James Klindt said 44 potential jurors were coming back today. But more jurors were needed.

The goal: getting 50 people who aren’t challenged for cause … meaning six additions were needed.

Up to 30 potential jurors were in the building to be questioned today, to get the necessary six additions, and questions (as on Monday) would include knowledge of the parties, the witness, the case, and opinions on former Rep. Brown.

As on Monday, the specter of pre-trial publicity loomed over the questioning, with negative reports in the media, addressing the matters of One Door and Brown’s career overall, influencing potential jurors to a degree that they – or Brown’s attorney, James Smith – believed they couldn’t be objective.

As on Monday, Klindt emphasized that guilt, in this case, was “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and based on case evidence rather than presupposition.

Screening, as on Monday, revealed the difficulty of getting a locally-sourced jury in such a high-profile case.

Initial screening of Tuesday’s batch of 30 potential jurors, the vast majority of whom were white, revealed 19 potential conflicts that could lead to striking, with some falling into more than one category.

17 potential jurors knew of the case from the media or other sources. Six jurors had “strong feelings” one way or another about the former Congresswoman. And one juror knew Corrine Brown personally.

Additionally, there are six claims of “hardship”, three who personally knew FBI or IRS agents, one potential juror who knew Trial Judge Timothy Corrigan, and one who knows a member of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

All of those with potential conflicts would be subject to individual questioning.

 ___

Jury selection continues Tuesday: With Monday clearing out many of the jurors who doubted their own ability to be objective, Tuesday was expected to finalize jury selection.

Tuesday morning commenced the second day of jury selection in the federal fraud trial of former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who faces 22 counts related to a non-performing charity, “One Door for Education.”

With 39 jurors of the original 65-person jury pool having some knowledge of the case coming in, 18 jurors were struck from the poll Monday for having formed opinions already, and others excused for hardship reasons.

Judge James Klindt said 44 potential jurors were coming back today. But more jurors were needed.

The goal: getting 50 people who aren’t challenged for cause … meaning six additions were needed.

Brown walked in a few minutes before 9 a.m., purposefully striding in with a determined look on her face, attired in a patterned jacket and skirt set.

Klindt said that there were up to 30 potential jurors to be questioned today, to get the necessary six additions, and questions (as on Monday) would include knowledge of the parties, the witness, the case, and opinions on former Rep. Brown

Day 1 of jury selection wraps: “It’s a tedious process,” said Judge James Klindt about jury selection.

The first day is a wrap, with myriad jurors struck of those questioned – 18 dismissed for potential bias, and others excused for hardship purposes.

A second day of jury selection, meanwhile, kicks off at 9:00 a.m.

44 jurors, said Klindt, will be coming back Tuesday – 36 in total are needed.

If a juror can’t get a ride from out of town, it may be 43.

“44 gets pretty close,” Klindt said, to what is needed – but the goal is 46-50 jurors, to winnow them down to the needed number.

An additional ten jurors, give or take, will be called in, and the judge is optimistic that will complete jury selection on schedule.

_

The difficulty in finding unbiased jurors was spotlighted further, as the first of two anticipated days of jury selection in the Corrine Brown trial continued, with one juror coming from over 100 miles away.

Such distance was necessary, given familiar plaints: television media, said one longtime Jacksonville resident, educated her on the case.

“Multiple charges … scores of witnesses being called,” along with questions of where the charity’s money went and if Brown was “aware it was happening.”

Old history – such as “gifts given to Brown” decades ago, including a car given to Brown’s daughter Shantrel – also colored the potential juror’s perception, via “years of news media.”

“After a long period of time,” she added, “media sinks in.”

“I know there was wrongdoing done at some point,” the potential juror said. “I find it hard to believe that she was totally unaware.”

And she was struck.

From there, the next eight potential jurors all had been influenced by pre-trial publicity.

“I’ve just heard the name and there would be a trial and it was on the news,” said one potential juror, who had first heard about the case three weeks prior.

That low baseline of knowledge was enough to keep her from becoming the twentieth juror to be struck.

The next person to be questioned had knowledge, of sorts, coming into the case, via television news.

“Spending and money and things like that,” he said.

As well, the gentleman – who works in the educational system – has heard various different takes.

“Some say it was politics,” he said.

The preponderance of input led him to question his own objectivity in the matter.

“You can’t set that aside and listen with an open mind,” Judge Klindt asked.

After some prodding, the potential juror agreed he could do that.

Prosecutor Duva, mindful of the “beyond a reasonable doubt” threshold, asked for more clarification of the potential juror’s position.

Despite his struggle with the spoken word, neither attorney moved to strike him.

“As best as I can recall, some corruption in Ms. Brown’s organization,” was another prospective juror’s summation of the TV news stories he’d seen on the case.

Those stories did not form his opinion, he said. However, his wife has always been “quite favorable” to Brown, which led to follow-up questions.

“My wife and I agree and disagree on various issues. I would make a decision based on what I saw in the courtroom,” he said.

And he, likewise, was not to be struck.

“We talk about it almost every day at coffeeklatsch – there’s four of us,” an older gentleman with a law enforcement background said.

The other three opine that Brown is guilty, but not the potential juror.

“If anything happens, we’re not talking about this anymore,” he said.

Those conversations have taught the potential juror that “somebody committed fraud and has been arrested by the federal government and is going to trial.”

As well, news – as recently as Sunday – taught him about the case also.

When asked if his law enforcement background would compromise his objectivity, he said no.

Defense attorney Smith was unmollified, based on the daily discussions of the Brown case among his coffee group.

“Also the fact that he’s a retired police officer who has investigated fraud cases,” Smith said, is a factor.

The prosecutor disagreed, and Judge Klindt wanted to “explore” the potential juror further.

“He gave no indication that he had formed an opinion,” Klindt said.

Another viewer of local news asserted a belief that Brown was “not guilty,” based on her work “in the Senate.”

“What I’ve heard about it on the news. I just don’t know, honestly,” he said when asked if he could be fair in the trial.

He wavered when asked, changing answers multiple times, with his voice breaking at one point.

Both the prosecution and the defense motioned to strike.

Another consumer of print and television news outlined the parameters of the case, noting that he’d read articles on the case the last two days in the local paper.

“I would be less than honest if I said I did not doubt she was innocent based on associates of hers making deals,” the potential juror said, not being willing to guarantee objectivity “based on everything I’ve heard about Ms. Brown.”

By “everything,” the potential juror is drawing on his experience as a lifelong resident of Jacksonville, and he brought up Brown reaching out for sandbags during a hurricane.

“I’ve seen her interviews on television,” he said.

He will continue consuming media about the trial, but will not be part of the jury pool.

“It’s been all over the headlines,” one female juror said about the “fraudulent educational fund” at the center of the case.

Her husband had opinions also.

“Obviously, everyone knows who Ms. Brown is,” she said, but she has no opinion as to Brown’s innocence or guilt.

Her husband: a different matter – he believes she is guilty.

“I think the general assumption when public figures are accused of something is they’re probably guilty,” she said, which runs counter to the presumption of innocence upon which criminal justice historically is predicated.

No strike; she made the cut, after saying she could be impartial.

“Just what’s been in the paper and been on the news,” the final juror to be questioned said about what he’d heard.

His knowledge of the facts of the case: more big picture than detailed.

“Most of it seems it’s against her, not for her,” he said of the coverage. “I’m leaning more towards the guilty.”

The case has come up, he said, in “normal conversation,” and in said normal conversation with a dozen or so people, consensus of Brown’s guilt has emerged.

“There’s a lot of information I’ve already taken in,” he added.

Pre-trial publicity clouds Corrine Brown jury pool [2:45 p.m. Monday update] – Of the 65 potential jurors brought into court Monday morning, six were struck by lunch break (leaving 59 potential bodies). However, the afternoon saw more questions coming forth, as interlocutors grilled potential jurors about any obstructions to their impartiality.

11 more were struck, bringing the total to 17.

As with the previous round of questioning, there seemed to be a tacit agreement that knowledge of the case could be held, as long as it didn’t veer into opinion about the alleged scheme to defraud or of former United States Congresswoman Corrine Brown.

One potential juror noted that she knew the former chair of the Duval County Democrats, and that she was aware of the case from media and conversation.

“It was about the education charity that was set up. How much was raised, how much was put into scholarships, who was involved.”

The juror, in the past, had joked that Brown was “probably guilty.”

Judge James Klindt pressed her on the assertion, and she said she could be fair and impartial.

Brown’s attorney, James Smith, found cause to challenge her impartiality. Prosecutor A. Tysen Duva diverged, saying that she unequivocally said she could be impartial.

Klindt put her on the jury, as she was “sincere” and “credible” in asserting her impartiality.

Another potential juror was impacted by knowledge of publicity (“I follow the news closely”) and a relationship with defense witness JuCoby Pittman from Leadership Jacksonville.

Her receptiveness to that testimony, the juror said, could be weighted in Pittman’s favor.

The potential juror had a deep knowledge of the process of the case, and an opinion that Brown “could potentially be guilty.”

Smith’s cause challenge, striking her from the jury, was successful.

“You just see trolling through newsfeed and see headlines … I think they were fraud charges.”

These words, from a white millennial male “with strong political beliefs [that] weigh heavily on how you see people”, presaged an opinion: “I can’t really say why, but yeah … I would presume that she is guilty.”

“I’ve read a few things … I know that she handed out ice cream to her supporters last week,” he said.

This juror likewise was struck, with Smith calling his response “disturbing” and pointing to “very strong political views” as a red flag.

“It’s been in the headlines … I read the newspaper every day,” said another potential juror.

Once she got the summons, she stopped reading about the case – cognizant that she may be called for this jury.

“I knew there were charges against the Congresswoman,” the potential juror added.

However, the woman had no opinion on Brown’s guilt. And she met with the satisfaction of both attorneys.

“What I do recall is the defendant on the news being shown in a negative light.”

These words, from a man who moved to the Jacksonville area years ago, framed the case for this potential juror, who did also read the front page of the paper.

“A fellow potential juror opened it up beside me … I looked over and saw that jury selection begins this morning,” he said.

His opinion: “the charges and allegations … have been brought with good reason.”

Duva attempted to parse the potential juror’s words, with regard to whether or not he could be objective.

Smith was a bit sharper with his questions, which compelled the potential juror to admit that he wasn’t sure if he could be objective.

A challenge for cause followed, with the state contending the potential juror had “rehabilitated” himself.

The judge went with the defense.

Another potential juror, with her narrative framed from television news, asserted a belief that Brown was guilty because of “things from the past.”

That potential juror would “try” to put aside preconceptions, but could offer no guarantees. The strike, however, was guaranteed.

“If Corrine Brown had been a Republican,” the potential juror said, “she would not be in this court today.”

This quote, from another potential juror, was a reprieve from the parade of people who deemed Brown guilty based on television newscasts.

“I support Corrine Brown … she has been a great Congresswoman, as far as I’m concerned,” the potential juror – active in protest movements – said.

When asked if she could set aside her political beliefs, she said she could – but it would be difficult.

That didn’t convince Duva, who cited the potential juror’s “very strong feelings” for Brown, and requested (and got) a strike.

“I understand that there is a lot of money is gone and someone has taken it … various people want the money back,” said another potential juror.

Her husband has “stronger opinions” on the case than she does, but both believe Brown is guilty.

Despite that, and having personal issues to deal with, she expressed a wavering confidence that she could set aside her opinions – and avoid input from her husband.

That said, if Brown were found not guilty, she would likely have to discuss the matter with her husband … “unless [the judge] decided I could never talk about this for the rest of my life or something.”

__

A final potential juror brought forth a number of issues, including strong feelings about Brown and knowledge of two witnesses, Steve Pajcic and John Delaney.

He had a hardship as well, as one of two principals in a two-person law firm.

He won’t be part of this trial.

High-profile case influences jury pool [12:30 p.m. Monday update] – As Federal Judge James Klindt worked through the pool of potential jurors, individual questions began before the lunch recess.

These questions illustrated the interrelationship between media, politicians, and the general public in Jacksonville, described by locals often as a “really big small town.”

Much of the questioning, from the judge and the lawyers, came down to trying to ascertain whether a baseline knowledge of the case equaled an inability to be an objective juror.

All told, six jurors (one black, five white) were struck from a 65 person jury pool consisting of 44 white people, 15 African-Americans, and one Asian-American.

One conflicted potential juror cited a local television news operation as having informed him of the case, telling him about “fundraising and funds, stuff like that.”

That information did not influence his opinion regarding Brown’s guilt or innocence. Neither side moved to strike the juror.

A second potential juror cited “different things on the media,” such as Ronnie Simmons “testifying against her,” as his baseline knowledge, accrued “over the last month.”

That juror is “leaning toward the guilty side,” after pre-trial coverage.

Prosecutor A. Tysen Duva asked follow-up questions, and the prospective juror cited Brown’s conduct as a politician as a reason he doesn’t feel comfortable.

That was enough for James Smith, who moved to challenge the potential juror’s inclusion.

Another juror, who had been exposed to publicity and had strong feelings about Brown, was asked to explain.

“I get the newspaper and I read it cover to cover every day … I have already made my decision,” the potential juror said.

“Her chief of staff has already plead guilty … her own daughter will plead the Fifth,” the potential juror asserted.

The son of an FBI agent asserted that “people are brought up for a reason,” asserting a potential conflict on his end.

“It’s hard to be impartial,” he said, “difficult to see the negativity in the news and be unbiased.”

The potential juror told a story of a fraudulent charity, with narrative filled in by television news that has been “out there for I don’t know how many months.”

Smith drilled down in questions, asking whether the potential juror would be biased against an argument that “the FBI is less than trustworthy.”

The potential juror, citing background checks and belief in his father, could not.

“I would side with the FBI,” he said, in what Smith called a “credibility contest.”

Unsurprisingly, Smith advanced a challenge with cause of this potential juror also.

Still another person described social media and local news as factors who could influence his thinking, noting “locker-room talk” about the trial from “friends and coworkers who do have opinions.”

That potential juror is “leaning more toward the guilty side,” based on external input.

That juror likewise occasioned a cause challenge from Brown’s barrister.

___

Not every potential juror was so conflicted.

And yet another person described the influence of Facebook’s “live feed” on his consumption of case information, regarding “ethical charges” against Brown.

“I think everyone deserves a fair trial,” he said.

Another juror, who had spent time with Corrine Brown in a corporate stadium skybox two years ago, said he could be impartial.

A third juror had had social interaction with Brown at corporate parties over the years.

“I don’t believe so,” the juror said when asked if it would affect her impartiality.

Questions came forth as to whether the juror’s spouse “consulted” with Brown on business matters, but the juror was satisfactory to both the prosecution and the defense.

Still another potential juror was exposed to the case via media, with his sister-in-law telling him “there was a lady caught stealing money, and that’s where you’re going” before jury selection.

He hadn’t given the case much thought beyond that exchange, and said he could be impartial. That was good enough for both attorneys.

Similar questions for various jurors will continue throughout Monday afternoon.

___

Party of 65: questions for jurors begin [11:15 a.m. Monday] – As the first wave of jurors entered for voir dire questioning, Corrine Brown studied their entrances, pursing her lips and then looking down, as if clearing her visual palate, between each entrance.

Black and white and Asian, old and younger, the jurors entered – many of them dressed in an approximation of court-appropriate apparel.

Of the 65, 49 were white, 14 African-American, and one Asian-American.

After the first few dozen entered, Brown began to stare at them en masse – as if registering that she was looking at people who would decide her fate.

Her legacy.

Her eyes registered that rueful glint familiar to those who have covered her in recent months, since the One Door story obliterated her career in Washington.

The 65 potential jurors seated, proceedings moved forward shortly after 10 a.m. Monday, with the foregoing illustrating the difficulty of finding jurors who lacked real, potentially prejudicial knowledge of Brown and the One Door for Education case.

Judge Klindt, a 31-year veteran of the federal bench, noted the threshold for guilt is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” a meaningful distinction in a paper-heavy case rooted in competing and sometimes inherently contradictory narratives.

“Perhaps you have had occasion to be critical of it … but for all its faults, the American justice system is respected throughout the world,” Klindt said.

The jury, said Klindt, would not be sequestered – allowing the members to return home at the end of each day in the trial, which “could spill over into a fourth week.”

When the pool was asked about “extraordinary hardships” that would preclude participation, 13 indicated such.

When asked if anyone knew about the case through pre-trial publicity, 39 hands popped up, some after a delay that suggested deliberating the question.

When members were asked if they knew Trial Judge Corrigan, two hands came up.

Attorneys made their introductions: A. Tysen Duva for the prosecution, who introduced fellow U.S. attorneys and law enforcement; James Smith for the defense, who introduced Corrine Brown, drawing a “good morning” from some potential jurors.

Other jurors answered questions regarding knowledge of people from the FBI, IRS, U.S. Attorney’s Office, and other potential conflicts.

When asked if they knew Brown from a “social relationship,” two of the 65 indicated such.

When asked if any had lent political support or opposition to Brown, no such conflicts existed.

And, when asked if they had “strong feelings” about Brown, three jurors indicated such, though they did not give their disposition in initial questioning.

From there, the roll call of those testifying – another factor which could prejudice jurors.

Among those who were known to jurors: Siottis Jackson, a political operative for Brown; Ronnie Simmons, Brown’s former co-defendant who pleaded out and is cooperating with prosecution; and John Delaney, a former Jacksonville Mayor.

Judge Klindt urged jurors not to discuss the case, including via phone conversations on Blackberry, Snapchat, and other modern-ish conveyances.

___

Jury selection [9:18 a.m. Monday update]: Jury selection in the trial of former Rep. Brown began at 9:30 Monday morning in Courtroom 13A of Jacksonville’s federal courthouse.

A question going into this phase of the trial for Brown, one of the most polarizing figures in Jacksonville political history, was finding 12 jurors who weren’t aware of who she was and about the parameters of this high-stakes case.

Brown wore all black as she entered the courtroom shortly before 9:00 a.m., her face impassive.

Judge James Klindt kicked proceedings of the Voir Dire phase off, with A. Tysen Duva representing the government and James Smith representing the defendant.

Klindt was charged with selecting the jury, and noted the potential impacts of hardship for the initial 65 person jury pool.

Beyond hardships, knowing lawyers or principals in the case would also be a disqualifying factor, Klindt noted.

Also a potential ground for disqualification: having a strong opinion on Brown, or any knowledge of the case gleaned from the media.

“What I am trying to do is not have answers to these questions taint other jurors,” Klindt noted.

The goal: coming up with 36 jurors, including alternates and potential “strikes” for both sets of lawyers.

“I’m hoping we can come up with 45,” Klindt said, who were not initially disqualified.

Less ‘intense’ zoning discussed for Jacksonville commercial corridors

On Friday, Jacksonville City Council members Scott WilsonJohn Crescimbeni, and Greg Anderson discussed commercial corridors — a recurring conversation in recent months.

As ever, blight remediation was the focal point … specifically relative to older, dilapidated properties.

Councilors had discussed making zoning less “intense” previously, with an eye toward removing some of the zoning most conducive to blight, such as used car lots.

A state process, via the Bert Harris Act, allows for local governments to offer a settlement to property owners to resolve the impact of zoning that destroys a neighborhood’s residential character.

A mechanism discussed to reduce damage claims: setting a five-year buffer between the zoning change and implementation.

As is often the case with such buffers, the possibility of legal injunctions filed just before the five-year mark was discussed.

Amortization was also discussed regarding a permitted use, but city lawyers said that wouldn’t eliminate potential lawsuits.

Crescimbeni also floated the idea of changing permissions via zoning, such as barring used car lots in CCG-1.

“Let’s look at that list [of permissions in the zoning area], and cross some things out,” Crescimbeni suggested.

The legal consensus: striking zoning permissions, coupled with a grace period, may help limit the city’s exposure. Likewise, zoning exceptions are lower risk for legal action.

Another solution discussed: landscaping, via the tree mitigation fund.

A problem on Beach Boulevard that precludes such: a lack of space for trees and greenery.

A recurrent complaint of Jacksonville councilors interested in these issues: the unintentional blight created by CCG-2 zoning — which, years back, was intended to drive neighborhood vitality on Beach Boulevard and other similar older thoroughfares.

Those complaints resurfaced yet again on Friday, an indication of the intractability of the larger issue.

Corrine Brown prosecution presents 49-page exhibit list

On Friday, federal prosecutors released a 49 page exhibit list ahead of the trial of Corrine Brown next week.

The exhibits flesh out the indictment issued last year regarding the One Door for Education charity, an indictment asserting that Brown, former chief of staff and co-defendant Ronnie Simmons, and Carla Wiley exploited Brown’s membership in Congress to fraudulently solicit and receive hundreds of thousands of dollars of payments on the false pretense they would be used for charity.

Simmons and Wiley are cooperating with prosecutors, and have already struck plea deals; they will be testifying for the state.

Promotional material, social media, donation requests, and meetings and conversations with donors, first by Brown, then by Simmons in a follow-up, are all enumerated in the exhibits.

Money, say the feds, also flowed from Brown’s campaign, “Friends of Corrine Brown,” and her “Florida Delivers Leadership PAC,” to One Door and, “at times,” Brown’s personal account.

Lavish travel, luxury boxes, and events benefiting Brown were funded with One Door money.

Brown also solicited donors, say the feds, with letters signed by Brown, saying that One Door funds went to “youth mentoring, scholarships, and programming.”

Various checks followed, with what prosecutors call “fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions” by Brown and Simmons bringing money into the One Door account.

And the 49 pages document that process in exhaustive detail.

Items to be presented in court next week include a “Summary Chart” of cash withdrawals from the One Door for Education Capital One Account and cash applied to Corrine Brown’s personal accounts.

As well, documentation will be offered of cash going into the personal accounts of Wiley, Simmons, and Shantrel Brown, Corrine’s daughter who already filed a motion not to testify on the grounds she will just plead the Fifth Amendment.

Emails between those parties will also be presented, though the details of those aren’t in the list.

Flyers promoting events benefiting One Door for Education, going back to 2012, will also be presented as evidence of a conspiracy to defraud.

As well, signed letters from Brown will be exhibited, such as a “One Door For Education letter signed by Corrine Brown to Gasper Lazzara seeking sponsorship to send seniors to Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C. in January 2013.”

Surveillance video of Simmons making transactions also will be provided, as will financial records for the infamous Beyonce concert sky box that One Door money went toward.

Evidence of Brown schmoozing Jacksonville powerbrokers will abound, such as a “letter on Congressional letterhead to John Baker, dated June 25, 2015, regarding sending students and chaperones to China for an exchange program and seeking contributions to One Door For Education.”

Also submitted for perusal: vacation records for junkets, such as Wiley and Simmons traveling to Miami to stay at the tony Fontainebleu Hotel in 2013.

Jurors will also get to review proof of payment for advertising in “Onyx Magazine,” a vanity-press style publication that often featured Brown and other political allies, from the ostensibly charitable fund.

Copious evidence of ATM withdrawals will be used to buttress the case of ongoing conspiracy — and have no doubt that Ronnie Simmons’ testimony will be central to that.

As well, Fed Ex labels and correspondence from Brown’s Congressional office to Wiley will also be used to make the case for conspiracy.

If the exhibits are a reliable indication, Brown was happy to route contributions to friends, such as a June 2013 reroute of a contribution to Community Rehabilitation Center, the business of current Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney, who was a close associate of Brown’s for a long time.

Brown also seemed to urge donors to give to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation; Don Miller of Orlando made a $22,500 donation in 2014, which is part of the exhibit list.

Big names, such as Florida Democratic Party head Stephen Bittel, were regular donors and correspondents.

Bittel even allowed the use of his private plane at one point.

Brown, according to exhibits, made numerous charitable contributions to CRC, as well as to Bethel Baptist — an influential downtown Jacksonville church.

Corrine Brown’s daughter will be called to testify against her in court

One of the highest-profile and most interesting prosecution witnesses in the trial of Corrine Brown: her own daughter, Shantrel Brown.

However, Shantrel did want to testify against her mother — as a “motion to quash” filed Apr. 19 revealed.

Federal prosecutors filed a countermotion, and Shantrel’s motion was thrown out Friday afternoon

Shantrel Brown will  plead the Fifth Amendment, the original motion claimed.

“If called to testify, Shantrel Brown will invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and will remain silent in response to any questions by the government. Thus, the only purpose for calling Shantrel Brown would be for the atmospheric effect upon the jury to see the defendant’s daughter invoke her Fifth Amendment rights. The Fifth Amendment applies ‘where a witness is asked to incriminate himself-in other words, to give testimony which may possibly expose him to a criminal charge’,” reads the filing from her attorney.

Shantrel is “Person B” in the indictment, a “close relative” of the Congresswoman who traveled with her to Los Angeles, where money earmarked for the One Door for Education charity was spent for non-educational purposes.

___

Shantrel is one name on an all-star witness list.

Among the names reporters will track starting Apr. 26: Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel, former Jacksonville Sheriff Nat Glover, current Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney, Jacksonville superdonors John Baker and Ed Burr, JEA Board member Husein Cumber, Jacksonville lawyer and one-time Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Pajcic, and former chair of the Donald Trump campaign in Florida, Susie Wiles.

Also testifying for the state: the Congresswoman’s two alleged co-conspirators in the One Door for Education trial: Carla Wiley and former chief of staff Ronnie Simmons.

___

Corrine Brown is the last co-defendant in the One Door for Education trial who has not pleaded guilty in exchange for cooperation.

She faces 22 counts.

If found guilty of all, she could be sentenced to 357 years in prison, and $4.8M in fines

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