Corrine Brown Archives - Page 3 of 34 - Florida Politics

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 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

Feds move to compel Corrine Brown’s daughter to testify

Corrine Brown‘s trial begins Monday, and the pre-trial drama continues.

Earlier this week, Brown’s daughter Shantrel Brown filed a motion to quash the state’s desire to have her testify.

Shantrel would plead the Fifth Amendment, the motion claimed, and the only purpose served would be the “atmospheric effect” of having jurors watch her plead the Fifth.

Unsurprisingly, prosecutors filed a motion in opposition Friday.

“The motion is premature and grounded on the legally infirm notion that a witness can be excused from even appearing at trial by prospectively refusing to answer each and every question that could be posed – without knowing what the questions will be,” claims the prosecution.

“Before excusing Ms. Brown from testifying, the Court cannot rely on her motion’s empty invocation of the Fifth Amendment, but instead must review each specific area that the United States (or conceivably the defendant) may wish to explore to determine whether the claimed privilege is well-founded,” the feds’ motion continues.

“There are a variety of topics about which Shantrel Brown could be questioned at trial. Candidly, certain areas of inquiry may tend to incriminate her, but other areas of inquiry would not. There is evidence that Shantrel Brown planned and attended parties in the defendant’s honor (as well as other events). Those events were paid for with money raised by the defendant, ostensibly for educational and charitable purposes, through the entity known as for One Door for Education,” the feds maintain.

“She is also privy to information about the defendant because – separate from any involvement with One Door – she has lived with the defendant and has known her for her entire life. She naturally would be familiar with the defendant’s habits, practices, and often her whereabouts – information that would not implicate Shantrel Brown in wrongdoing, but that might be relevant to the case,” the motion continues.

The prosecutors claim they don’t know what they will ask Shantrel Brown, given that she is toward the end of the list of witnesses, and given the shifting nature of Corrine Brown’s defense.

“the defendant has publically blamed others for the alleged fraud, at first taking aim at One Door’s president and government cooperator, Carla Wiley, but then turning her fire on her former chief of staff, Elias “Ronnie” Simmons after he pleaded guilty and also began cooperating. There is reason to believe that blame will be shifted next to Shantrel Brown. The shifting nature of the defense’s position complicates the United States’ ability to determine prospectively the precise role that Shantrel Brown will play at trial,” the motion asserts.

Jesse Jackson to testify in Corrine Brown’s defense

Keep hope alive?

Rev. Jesse Jackson is one of more than 30 defense witnesses to be called to testify in the defense of Corrine Brown during her One Door for Education trial starting later this month.

Former Congressional colleagues will testify also, including Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Rep. Bennie Thompson.

Jacksonville luminaries will testify also, including former Mayor John Delaney, who has emphatically spoken of Brown as a useful Jacksonville asset in Congress.

As well, Brown’s former co-defendant Ronnie Simmons, who flipped to state’s evidence in exchange for a plea deal, is slated to testify both for the defense and the prosecution.

___

The Feds have their own big-time witness list.

Corrine Brown faces charges in federal court this month — and the feds have a star studded 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 daughter, Shantrel Brown, and her two alleged co-conspirators in the One Door for Education trial: Carla Wiley and the aforementioned Ronnie Simmons.

Both Wiley and Simmons have pleaded out, and their sentences are contingent on cooperation with the feds.

___

Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and her chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, were named as co-defendants in a federal suit about One Door for Education.

One Door was a charity, marketed with Brown’s name and likeness, that did a great job bringing money in: $800,000 of it over four years earlier this decade.

The money, however, went elsewhere — while roughly $2,000 went for the purposes of helping underprivileged students achieve educational parity, the feds claim the vast majority of it financed the lifestyle of Rep. Brown and Simmons.

Simmons cut a plea deal in February, undermining Brown’s defense — as Simmons admitted culpability to just enough of the federal charges to implicate Brown, and as the Congresswoman’s former confidant is offering state evidence before his own sentencing.

However, Brown’s attorney (James Smith) asserts that Simmons changed his narrative, that Brown was taken advantage of by Simmons and One Door for Education head Carla Wiley, that she was not on the board of One Door, and that other factors, which will come out in trial, reveal that she was the target, not the agent, of a conspiracy to defraud.

That conspiracy, the defense will reveal, took advantage of an older woman, stretched to her limit by unique demands ranging from a far-flung district to fighting attempts to redraw that district.

Brown will have what is being called a “fairly substantial” list of pols — local, state, and national — testifying on her behalf about the process that led them to donate to One Door.

That list is still pending.

Brown now stands alone, ahead of a trial slated to start on Apr. 24. The prosecution case could take six to eight trial days, with the defense case beginning in the middle of the week of May 1.

Stephen Bittel among prosecution witnesses in Corrine Brown trial

Corrine Brown faces charges in federal court this month — and the feds have a star studded 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 daughter, Shantrel Brown, and her two alleged co-conspirators in the One Door for Education trial: Carla Wiley and Ronnie Simmons.

Both have pleaded out, and their sentences are contingent on cooperation with the feds.

___

Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and her chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, were named as co-defendants in a federal suit about One Door for Education.

One Door was a charity, marketed with Brown’s name and likeness, that did a great job bringing money in: $800,000 of it over four years earlier this decade.

The money, however, went elsewhere — while roughly $2,000 went for the purposes of helping underprivileged students achieve educational parity, the feds claim the vast majority of it financed the lifestyle of Rep. Brown and Simmons.

Simmons cut a plea deal in February, undermining Brown’s defense — as Simmons admitted culpability to just enough of the federal charges to implicate Brown, and as the Congresswoman’s former confidant is offering state evidence before his own sentencing.

However, Brown’s attorney (James Smith) asserts that Simmons changed his narrative, that Brown was taken advantage of by Simmons and One Door for Education head Carla Wiley, that she was not on the board of One Door, and that other factors, which will come out in trial, reveal that she was the target, not the agent, of a conspiracy to defraud.

That conspiracy, the defense will reveal, took advantage of an older woman, stretched to her limit by unique demands ranging from a far-flung district to fighting attempts to redraw that district.

Brown will have what is being called a “fairly substantial” list of pols — local, state, and national — testifying on her behalf about the process that led them to donate to One Door.

That list is still pending.

Brown now stands alone, ahead of a trial slated to start on Apr. 24. The prosecution case could take six to eight trial days, with the defense case beginning in the middle of the week of May 1.

Jacksonville Bold for 4.14.17 — My city was gone

Does Al Lawson ‘get’ Jacksonville?

Questions still remain as to whether Congressman Lawson understands Jacksonville, as his visits to the Jacksonville City Council Tuesday, and town hall Wednesday indicate.

On Tuesday, one could sense among certain council members (specifically, those representing districts that overlap Lawson’s) a grating irritation over Lawson’s constant use of Eureka Garden Apartments as a stand-in for All Things Jacksonville

Councilwoman Katrina Brown (a Corrine Brown ally) asked about community development block grants and pointedly noted that Lawson had yet to visit her district.

Wednesday’s town hall saw had no elected Jacksonville officials in attendance; a point perhaps less meaningful if Lawson demonstrated an understanding of local issues.

Instead, he wasn’t able to.

Discussions of an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site in Fairfax and the city’s participation in the federal National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) program revealed a fundamental ignorance of local issues.

NBD. Only the biggest city in the district.

Lawson, when asked about his Jacksonville disconnect, noted that there are lots of “city commissions” in his district. While true, that is also tone-deaf, especially with a lot of locals looking at Florida’s 5th Congressional District and seeing it as a Jacksonville seat.

Lots of Jacksonville folks wanted to run Corrine Brown out of town on a rail.

“Oh, the corruption,” they said. “She’s such an embarrassment,” they said. “Go Gata,” they quipped — as Corrine Brown served as a punching bag for white liberals and conservatives who didn’t understand how instrumental she was to the local appropriations process.

Lawson, when asked, couldn’t even name a local appropriation he is championing.

CD 5 was a Jacksonville seat. Now it’s a Tallahassee seat.

Lawson is pushing 70 and has been at this for over a year, counting the campaign; he has five minutes worth of talking points for a city of a million people.

Issues Lawson faces … a lack of both seniority and local connections.

2018 will get real. And the Corrine Brown machine will reconfigure, even without her.

Like a Transformer, there is more than meets the eye.

Will the Corrine Brown machine reassemble with a different face? Time will tell.

After a troubled 2016, will the Corrine Brown machine transform? And if so, into what?

The 43-year plan takes center stage

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is, more than likely, less than two weeks away from knowing if his pension reform plan will be approved by the City Council.

The projections look to be finalized after a Wednesday meeting, which incorporated new numbers from a Monday impact statement from the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund.

Its actuaries thought the plan was too optimistic in assumptions regarding both payroll growth and sales tax revenue, speculating that even after the proposed sunset of Jacksonville’s halfpenny tax in 2060, the $2.8B unfunded liability for the defined benefit pension plans that would be closed this year still would not be resolved.

The big news was the downward impact of adjustments to payroll growth projections and COLA calculations after Monday’s meeting of the Police and Fire Pension Fund.

“We still save a lot. But we save less,” was how Jacksonville’s CFO, Mike Weinstein, described the impacts of $13M of tweaks that would hit the process for FY 2018.

Though some council members, especially those in Districts 7-10, seek commitments for allocations funded by the budget relief provided by the pension reform plan, most see the mechanism as a “tool in the toolbox.”

The discretionary sales tax: not a magic bullet, but part of a larger arsenal.

That’s the sales pitch, and the administration can get at least 13 votes with it.

Interesting tweet of the week:

Ben Carson talks HUD reform

In Jacksonville with Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Lawson, HUD Secretary Ben Carson discussed his plans for HUD reform.

Carson’s meandering rhetoric (at one point, he discussed external malefactors wanting to “destroy” America) didn’t always jibe with what one might expect from HUD secretaries of the past.

But his reform proposals are worth noting, including “housing savings accounts,” which would (in theory) allow HUD residents to save money for incidental repairs or for down payments on their own homes.

Carson sent mixed signals about allocations, hinting that a large portion of Trump’s proposed $1T infrastructure infusion would go to HUD projects.

Meanwhile, he also outlined the importance of public-private partnerships in terms of HUD construction and rehab.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Sen. Marco Rubio share a laugh during a Jacksonville visit this week.

CBN lauds Kim Daniels for school prayer bill

State Rep. Kim Daniels got Hosannas recently from the Christian Broadcasting Network for her “big win for prayer,” via HB 303 — a measure she introduced to the Florida House to permit religious expression in public schools.

CBN notes that her testimony has been featured previously on the 700 Club.

In a session where the diminished clout of the Duval Delegation has been a depressing leitmotif for local political watchers, Daniels’ bill (poised to become law once signed by Gov. Rick Scott) is a high-profile success.

Kim Daniels, sponsor of HB 303, the religious expression bill that was one of the few successes from the Duval Legislative Delegation in 2017.

Jason Fischer extols Session accomplishments

In an email to constituents, state Rep. Fischer offers a “glimpse of what we’ve accomplished in Tallahassee so far this session.”

Among the accomplishments Fischer cites: “HB-65 Civil Remedies for Terrorism, unanimously passed the House floor … HB-245 Self-Defense Immunity passed the House floor … HB-969 Pregnancy Support and Wellness Services passed the House floor.”

Beyond these measures, Fischer also thanked the Florida Association of Sheriffs for backing his “HJR-721, Selection and Duties of County Sheriff.”

The resolution proposes an amendment to the state constitution that would require the constitutional officer of sheriff be an elected position, Fischer notes.

In a recent email to constituents, State Rep. Jason Fischer gives a brief glimpse of Duval Delegation accomplishments for 2017 Session.

NE Florida legislators roll out March fundraising

Some mild surprises in fundraising reports from members of the First Coast Legislative Delegation emerged in March.

Sens. Keith Perry and Audrey Gibson led the field. Perry was a ham sandwich away from a $30,000 March, and already has $102K to defend his competitive Gainesville seat. Gibson (also chair of the Duval Democrats) broke the $20,000 barrier; she will face no competition for re-election.

Meanwhile, the political committee of Rep. Jay Fant (“Pledge This Day”) raised $54K of establishment Jacksonville money. Fant, described by many as persona non grata in the House after bucking Speaker Richard Corcoran on incentive voters, is still looking at a run for Attorney General.

Those with long-term memories will remember that, in October, Fant ran against a write-in for re-election to the Florida House … and burned through $70K on advertising designed to drive name identification up.

Could he use that money now?

Jay Fant showing off his glad-handing talents.

It will take more than ambidextrous handshaking to get Jay Fant to the next level.

Osteopaths name Aaron Bean Legislator of the Year

The Florida Osteopathic Medical Association announced this week that Fernandina Beach Republican Sen. Bean is its 2017 Legislator of the Year.

FOMA said the annual award goes to a lawmaker that has proved their support for osteopathic medicine and the delivery of quality health care to the citizens of Florida.

“I am beyond honored to be FOMA’s 2017 Legislator of the Year,” Bean said. “As a longtime advocate for health care issues and a former chair of the Senate Health Policy Committee, I understand how important it is to be constantly working to improve our health care and adopt treatment, prevention and alleviation advancements that benefit all Floridians.”

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams fingered “activist” Gary Snow as a catalyst for the near-riot at Hemming Park last week.

Jax Sheriff: Gary Snow ‘catalyst’ of Hemming Park melee

What happens when someone working a pro-police gimmick gets tagged, by the sheriff no less, as being a “catalyst” of a riot?

This is what happened to Gary Snow, a Rust Belt transplant who moved to Jacksonville last year and was immediately cradled to the bosom of the local GOP.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams told us Tuesday that Snow, in fact, was a “catalyst” of the melee in Hemming Park between protesters and police — and the JSO is reviewing video of the event, as well as its procedures.

“That event Friday — he clearly was a catalyst” for the violence that occurred, Williams said.

“We had dozens and dozens of protests in Jacksonville, peacefully. We’ve got a great working relationship with the Progressive Coalition and many other groups in that protest.”

With another protest slated for April 15, it will be interesting to see the short-term and long-term procedural changes with regard to managing protests and the counter-protester, whose actions “catalyzed” what is sure to be numerous lawsuits and news cycles to come.

Curry talks Journey to One

Though Duval County is now down to 55th among Florida’s 67 counties, Curry is still pushing the city toward a “Journey to One.”

That #1 spot is held by St. Johns County.

Jacksonville residents, reports WJXT, lost 75,000 pounds last year in response to Curry’s challenge to the city to lose a million pounds; 3,900 locals participated in the mayor’s challenge.

“I am here today to support this, to remain committed to it,” Curry said. “While I am very good at the daily exercise I will tell you, the daily diet continues to be a fight and struggle, but I’m accountable knowing that we are all in this together.

Lenny Curry taking stock in Jacksonville’s physical and fiscal health.

Springfield Overlay controversy grinds on

Springfield residents continue to resist changing their zoning category to allow a 12-unit residential facility for the disabled and the chronically homeless.

There are a number of bills related to zoning changes and to financial settlements with the federal government, Disability Rights Florida, and Ability Housing that keeps getting deferred by the Jacksonville City Council. And a Monday public notice meeting offered little that looked like resolution.

Community activists and advocates won the battle, challenging all manner of zoning changes, with the backup of certain council members who objected to the zoning change legislation.

More meetings will follow, says Land Use and Zoning Chairman Danny Becton. But given the realities of pension reform, they won’t be anytime soon.

Appointed — Sara Gaver to the Florida Rehabilitation Council.

AppointedChristopher Joson as Special Officer of CSX Transportation.

Spotted — Marty Fiorentino at Omarosa Manigault‘s wedding and reception in Washington, D.C. at Trump International Hotel. She married pastor John Allen Newman. Also in attendance were Kent and Ashley Justice, Eric and April Green, and Cantrece Jones. Jacksonville’s Bishop Rudolph McKissick, Jr. and Bishop John E. Guns served in the wedding.

Avalanche coming

More jobs may be coming to Jacksonville, reports WOKV.

“An economic incentives agreement filed for City Council consideration as ‘Project Avalanche’ says a health care information technology services business that already exists in Jacksonville is considering three cities for its expansion. They say the incentives are a ‘material factor’ for whether to choose Jacksonville,” WOKV says.

Jacksonville leaders have sounded the alarm for economic incentives, including passing a City Council resolution in support of Enterprise Florida this week.

The company, located in Southeast Jacksonville, seeks a $1.25M QTI grant. The company, unnamed as a condition of negotiations, has 300 employees — and would add 250 more.

Important, as Jacksonville reels from the massive cuts to the CSX workforce.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao taps Fiorentino as senior ports adviser

Addressing an American Association of Port Authorities event in Washington last week, POLITICO Florida reports that Chao announced Fiorentino, former chairman of the Jacksonville Port Authority, is serving as her senior adviser on ports. “We are less than two months old in this new administration, and I so desperately needed veterans and experts,” Chao told the gathering of port officials. “So please be assured that you have someone, your advocate, in the office of the secretary.”

JAXPORT honored for auto excellence

JAXPORT announced last Thursday that it picked up an award for auto excellence from Automotive Global Awards North America.

The 2017 Terminals and Ports Operator award recognizes the port for its collaboration with auto processors and ocean carriers and was presented at a ceremony in New Orleans.

More than 600,000 vehicles moved through JAXPORT during the 2016 fiscal year, and the port is home to three major auto processors which offer processing facilities as close as 100 yards from ship berths.

Jacksonville Armada FC topped NASL standings after a 1-0 victory against FC Edmonton Saturday night. The second-straight win leaves Armada FC undefeated. (Photo via Armada)

Kartik Krishnaiyer’s Armada recap

The Jacksonville Armada FC are off to a flying start — one that’s caught Armada fans and NASL watchers off guard. The club under Mark Lowery has beaten Edmonton in successive weeks by back-to-back 1-0 scorelines to race out to the top of the NASL table. The surprising start for the Armada puts the club in early contention for the most surprising team in any U.S.-based professional soccer league.

The Armada made quick work of the Eddies in Alberta on Saturday, recording the winning goal in the eighth minute. After an aggressive start, Jacksonville won a corner. Playing a short corner to  Zach Steinberger who was positioned at the corner of the area, resulted in a clean finish from the Armada midfielder into the bottom left corner.

Edmonton appeared shellshocked and didn’t really push the issue with the exception of an 18th-minute chance until the second half. In that second half though the Eddies pushed forward with numbers, creating several chances and half chances. Caleb Patterson-Sewell, the Armada goalkeeper, kept a second successive clean sheet, making four saves in the process.

“They put a lot of pressure on us in the second half,” said head coach Lowry, “but I’m a big believer that you have to stick to your principles. Our principles are trying to play, trying to pass the ball, and trying to build out from the back. Edmonton made it very tough for us to do that tonight but we stuck to it. If you stick to your principles, you get the reward.”

The Armada will test its fast start against the San Francisco Deltas at Hodges Stadium Saturday. Kickoff is 7 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally on beIN Sports.

Jacksonville Bold for 4.7.17 — See you at the crossroads

You may notice a running theme with this issue of Bold: much of it deals with crossroads situations (to borrow a phrase from 90s rappers Bone Thugs-N-Harmony).

Will the city dredge JAXPORT? Or will years of deliberation and consternation lead — as they so often do — to nothing?

Will Corrine Brown beat the rap on the One Door charges? Or will we see her in orange — delighting those outside the process, who see her as a caricature, much more than those who got to know and have worked with her over the years?

Will Lenny Curry sell his pension reform deal? If so, what will victory look like? And what happens to the mayor’s messaging, as the Alvin Brown era recedes further into the memory hole with each passing news cycle?

Will the city’s budgets stabilize?

Moving beyond the current issue, questions linger about what happens with Jacksonville in D.C.

Our local lobby presence is strong — but are both members of congress getting in appropriations requests for long-deferred infrastructural upgrades?

Does Curry manage to cash in on stumping for Trump?

Never mind other questions — like who the next city council president will be.

So many questions, and time will resolve them all.

Corrine delivers

Former U.S. Rep. Brown will spend a couple of weeks at the Jacksonville federal courthouse, the last live defendant in the One Door for Education case.

Wednesday’s status conference revealed the contours of the case. Both the state and Brown’s defense team will need about a week each to make their case in the trial starting April 24.

After a two-day jury selection process, the actual trial will start April 26.

Expect a couple of sitting members of Congress to testify on Brown’s behalf.

However, once the trial starts, don’t expect her to talk to the press.

“The one thing she respects is authority,” her lawyer said after the hearing.

An enterprising story

If Jacksonville had a statewide stroke, the fate of Enterprise Florida would not be an issue.

Yet another week saw city leaders preaching the gospel of incentives; this time, at a roundtable event at Florida State College Jacksonville.

Being Scott’s fourth visit to Jacksonville in a month (with a trip to Orange Park thrown in, making five for Northeast Florida), nothing really new was to be said.

Wednesday saw a Jacksonville City Council committee unanimously approve a resolution in support of Enterprise Florida.

While city leaders aren’t always pragmatic, most know full well Jacksonville needs incentives more acutely than other major cities in the state.

Hogan knows best

In 2015, Mike Hogan defeated current Jacksonville State Rep. Tracie Davis to become Duval County Supervisor of Elections. And two years later, Hogan is still throwing salt in Davis’ game.

Exhibit A from Tia Mitchell: Hogan lobbying Sen. Aaron Bean to water down a voting access bill.

In a Senate committee this week, a Bean amendment neatly eviscerated the intent of the bill, by allowing SOEs to opt out.

“Early voting being a project that I literally made my own while I was there, I’m very disappointed that Duval County was the only county today making a request to opt out,” Davis (a former deputy SOE) said.

The House version lacks an opt-out clause.

The waiting game

Jacksonville City Council Rules Chair Garrett Dennis is a Democrat on a majority GOP council. Faced with a loss on a controversial commission appointee, Mike Anania, Dennis had a novel solution Tuesday in Rules.

He ran out the clock.

The vote appeared to be headed toward a 4-3 party line split in favor of moving the abrasive Anania through the committee — his third vote by the body.

However, there is a rule this year by the committee: a 3:15 “hard stop,” to facilitate the special committee.

Anania’s appointment was the last item requiring a vote, and a meandering procedural discussion about whether there could be a truncated, quasi-probationary three-year term ate up some time.

Though the Republicans on council groused, wanting a vote, Dennis noticed the clock — and adjourned the committee, with Anania and the chair of the local GOP in the crowd.

The next day, Dennis was ready to outline his case to the Finance Committee — however, Anania withdrew his nomination, in a stunner of a move that, because it happened in committees, won’t go any farther than chatter among the city’s political junkies.

Jacksonville, Liberty Counsel spar over HRO judge

The Liberty Counsel wants Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance expansion (the city has LGBT rights now) thrown out.

They filed a case — and the judge’s mother is a prominent anti-HRO activist, one who was on a corporate board with Roger Gannam, the Liberty Counsel’s lawyer.

For the Office of General Counsel, that’s problematic — impeaching the credibility of Judge Adrian Soud.

The Liberty Counsel, meanwhile, asserts that there is no conflict of interest that would require the judge to be disqualified — and that the city’s claim is specious, desperate and untimely.

The city, meanwhile, thought the judge would recuse himself. But that didn’t happen, and the beat goes on.

Local preacher takes wedding on the road

Tough break for Rev. John Allen Newman. He wanted to marry reality show star/presidential aide Omarosa Manigault in his Jacksonville church — yet threats raised “security concerns.”

So Newman and Manigault are slated to get married in DC this weekend.

There are upsides to that, the Florida Times-Union reports.

For one, a White House rehearsal dinner.

And for another, a special surprise guest walking Manigault down the aisle.

Newman, arguably one of the most professorial Jacksonville pastors, likely never expected a wedding in the White House of the most bombastic occupant since Lyndon Johnson.

But politics makes strange bedfellows. And, by all accounts, the soon-to-be-newlyweds are headed for connubial bliss — with a yuuuge wedding ceremony in the nation’s capital.

Fanatics gets Majestic

Another audacious acquisition this week for sports merchandising colossus Fanatics.

Fanatics bought VF Corp.’s Licensed Sports Group — which includes the Tampa-based Majestic Athletics, the official Major League Baseball uniform provider until 2020.

Fanatics’ model involves acquiring licensing, often in collaboration with major sports leagues and collegiate conferences, and then aggressively promoting the product by dominating SEO and PPC.

Not bad for a company started in the 1990s as a retail store selling “Jagwire” gear in the Orange Park Mall.

JU professor finishes Jeopardy! run after two wins

Jacksonville University English professor Julie Brannon came up short on Final Jeopardy! Thursday, but she said she has no regrets about the way things turned out.

Brannon was the victor in two episodes of the show, with winnings totaling $47,000, but opponents out-wagered her Thursday, even though she had the right answer to the final question.

“I just threw down a number when I should have bet everything, but then I started second-guessing myself and that’s all she wrote,” Brannon said.

Brannon’s had to keep quiet about how her stint on the show went down, but now that her final episode has aired, Brannon is expecting a big check to arrive.

“They send them out after the final air date, so I’m not sure when I’m going to get them. I can’t spend it just yet,” she said.

JAXPORT gets new liquefied natural gas tanks

JAXPORT is now home to a pair of 260-ton cryogenic LNG tanks, thanks to the Crowley Maritime Corporation’s new shore-side fueling facility.

The massive tanks made it to Jacksonville on a vessel from Hamburg, Germany, and it took a special 26-axle trailer to get them to their permanent spot at the Talleyrand Marine Terminal.

The tanks will be used to provide a greener way to fuel up Crowley’s “Commitment Class” ships under construction for the Puerto Rico trade lane.

United Airlines chief talks global aviation at JU

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz will stop by the Jacksonville University business school next week to give a talk on the “Changing Global Dynamic Commercial Aviation.”

Munoz, the former president and chief operating officer of CSX Corp., has served in various financial and strategic positions at major brands such as Coca-Cola and AT&T. The talk is April 13 at noon at the Davis College of Business. It is open to the public.

Jumbo Shrimp look to make a big splash at Home Opener

When team owner Ken Babby decided to explore a new name for Northeast Florida’s Jacksonville Suns minor league baseball franchise, he knew there would be pushback. The decades-old Suns brand was well-known in the community, but Babby’s arrival in Jacksonville and acquisition of the team coincided with a renewed effort to rework and re-energize the city’s Class-AA ball team.

“This is a way for s to differentiate itself,” Babby told Channel 4 News. “We are not trying to be the NFL team in town or any other sports team. We are about affordable family entertainment. And that is what the Jumbo Shrimp are here to do and we are excited about it.”

Now several months beyond the new name — Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp — the energy is expanding far beyond Jacksonville. The team has sold merchandise in all 50 states and internationally to customers in Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, France, Germany, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Babby and fans across the city are eagerly awaiting the Shrimp’s debut April 12 at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. Tickets are available at the Jumbo Shrimp website.

Jacksonville Zoo Conservation Speaker Series

Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens presents its Conservation Speaker Series with Save the Frogs! — a discussion about the amphibian extinction crisis, and current threats facing amphibian populations, and what individuals can do to help. Event is May 11, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. with Michael Starkey, International Campaigns Coordinator and Ecologist, Save the Frogs! Ticket prices: Members, $30; Non-Members, $35; Children, $10. Ticket includes dinner, 1 drink, the presentation and a zoo experience with amphibians.

Jacksonville Zoo Garden and Art Festival

The Zoo’s Annual Garden and Art Festival will be April 22-23 from 10 a.m. — 4 p.m. The two-day event centers around the botanical gardens with a plant, tree, flower and art sale on the Great Lawn. The event is free with Zoo admission and features over 20 garden and art-themed vendors selling their products, plants and consultations. Enjoy live music, and sip on beer and sangria for sale while you shop. The First Coast Plain Art Society artists will also have booths spread out throughout the festival to enjoy. Garden Encounter workshops will occur throughout the day Saturday, and Garden tours will occur throughout the day Sunday.

On Saturday, April 22, Dr. Craig van der Heiden from the Institute for Regional Conservation will be speaking on the importance of native plants and the benefits of restoring gardens with exotics back to native fauna. The program is at 11 a.m. and free with Zoo admission.

Kartik Krishnaiyer’s Armada recap

Coming off a tumultuous offseason where founder Mark Frisch sold the club to the league with the intention of finding a new long-term owner, the Jacksonville Armada opened its 2017 campaign Sunday afternoon. UNF Hodges Stadium is the club’s new home, with a more soccer-friendly atmosphere, albeit one removed from the center of town, compared to the Armada’s former home of the Baseball Grounds.

A crowd of 3,472 fans saw the Armada won its season opener 1-0 against FC Edmonton. J.C. Banks scored the lone goal which gave the club who has finished near the bottom of the table in each of its first two NASL seasons an important victory to open the 2017 NASL campaign. Banks goal which came in the 78th minute was the perfect tonic for the home crowd that was seeing a squad largely made up of new players on a strict budget as the club is being managed by the league.

“I think everybody that got here is pretty hungry,” Banks said. “All the things in the offseason, we know you have to perform to stay in the business.” Neither side had recorded a shot on frame in the first 70 minutes but Banks says that inspired the team and coaching staff to push forward late on. ” Winning games and championships in this league is not always pretty,” Banks said. “With about 30 minutes to go, I turned to our staff and said, ‘There’s three points here. We can win this game.’”

Jacksonville is competing in a largely new-look NASL. Historic rivals Fort Lauderdale and Tampa Bay will not be competing in the league this season with the former taking a year off to reorganize its ownership and the later having shifted to the competing second division USL amid a push to join Orlando City SC in MLS. The Armada, led by Mark Lowery, who is entering his first full season as manager, has had to put together a playing squad in rapid fashion and in an economically efficient manner. The club’s future was uncertain until NASL stepped up and kept the club alive by buying the Armada in January. Lowery and his staff had to put together a squad in a short period — under two months, but the early returns are promising.

The team aspect that Lowery has emphasized was on display late on as repeated Edmonton attacks tested the defensive solidity of the Armada — but Jacksonville held and ran out worthy 1-0 winners.

The Armada play Edmonton again this weekend, in Alberta Saturday. Game time is 9 p.m. ET.

 

The unparalleled performance art of Corrine Brown

The next time I will see Corrine Brown — whom I still call “Congresswoman” — will either be inside a federal courtroom or walking to a federal courtroom.

I won’t speak to her. She won’t speak to me. For days, for weeks of trials.

That’s one of the rules of her trial regarding One Door for Education, her charity that prosecutors say was a slush fund.

I’ve had conversations with Corrine Brown that run the gamut.

____

In Baker County during her last campaign, a reflective conversation in which Brown painted a picture of herself as an advocate for her district (whatever the lines happened to be at the moment) against all odds.

She was in Grandma Corrine mode at that point, stumping for votes among a few dozen MacClennyites who seemed to regard her as more of a curiosity than a candidate.

After a debate in Jacksonville, one that she didn’t exactly win, Brown distinguished herself in a presser, posing a question: “What if I said I thought you was a pedophile? You’d think something was wrong with me.”

Those words, voiced on the debate stage, recurred during a post debate presser.

“If I said ‘young man, you a pedophile’, that’s a charge; because somebody makes an accusation against you doesn’t make you guilty.”

But then I saw her in a courtroom. She turned around and apologized for berating me in the press conference. It was as if the spectacle had never happened.

Again, great theater. Every last bit of it.

_____

And it appears that Corrine Brown had to get one last show in before things get real.

On Wednesday in a scorching hot Hemming Park, Corrine Brown dispensed ice cream sandwiches from the mobile House of Honey Drippers.

Brown drew the media for the stunt (a “thank you,” as she told one television outlet).

The press saw her in a gregarious mood, and allowed her to present sympathetically for the television audience.

This was notable precisely because it was Brown’s last media hit — perhaps ever, but at least until her fate is decided by a jury of people who have no cultural knowledge of Jacksonville.

Corrine Brown is as Jacksonville as Maxwell House breezes: Jacksonville in all of its glorious contradictions — a woman who has been condemned by Democrats, and feted by pragmatic Republicans.

She did business — big league. She built a political machine so strong that it took Susie Wiles and a 24-count indictment to bring down. And as her trial will show, lots of people kissed the ring — and will have to admit it under subpoena.

___

With every passing news cycle, Brown becomes a more sympathetic figure. as time dampens the luridness of the original charges.

It doesn’t hurt her that Rep. Al Lawson, after seven months of knowing he was going to represent the district, and five months after a pro forma general election, still hasn’t figured out Jacksonville.

Politics is a business that doesn’t make sense to many on the outside: expect the witness list in the trial that begins later this month to reflect that, with loads of people from both parties almost guaranteed to testify.

Can Corrine Brown beat the rap?

It all comes down to reasonable doubt.

And the threshold for that appears to be growing wider — at least in the eyes of her lawyer — as the trial approaches.

If you ignore the sheer weight of the indictment, you almost might buy into that theory yourself.

No plea deal: Corrine Brown gears up for epic late-April fraud trial

Prologue: Nine months ago, a 24 count federal indictment dropped.

It changed Jacksonville politics — forever.

Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and her chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, were named as co-defendants in a federal suit about One Door for Education.

One Door was a charity, marketed with Brown’s name and likeness, that did a great job bringing money in: $800,000 of it over four years earlier this decade.

The money, however, went elsewhere — while roughly $2,000 went for the purposes of helping underprivileged students achieve educational parity, the feds claim the vast majority of it financed the lifestyle of Rep. Brown and Simmons.

Simmons cut a plea deal in February, undermining Brown’s defense — as Simmons admitted culpability to just enough of the federal charges to implicate Brown, and as the Congresswoman’s former confidant is offering state evidence before his own sentencing.

However, Brown’s attorney (James Smith) asserts that Simmons changed his narrative, that Brown was taken advantage of by Simmons and One Door for Education head Carla Wiley, that she was not on the board of One Door, and that other factors, which will come out in trial, reveal that she was the target, not the agent, of a conspiracy to defraud.

That conspiracy, the defense will reveal, took advantage of an older woman, stretched to her limit by unique demands ranging from a far-flung district to fighting attempts to redraw that district.

As well, Simmons had his own issues: such as a rumored threatened indictment of his sister.

Brown will have what is being called a “fairly substantial” list of pols — local, state, and national — testifying on her behalf about the process that led them to donate to One Door.

Two members of Congress will testify on Brown’s behalf.

Brown now stands alone, ahead of a trial slated to start on Apr. 24. The prosecution case could take six to eight trial days, with the defense case beginning in the middle of the week of May 1.

From there, defense may require a week to make its own case

The court will hear corroboration of former co-defendants, and will dig deep into Brown’s income tax filings, with a forensic accountant in tow from the prosecution to go through those and the records of One Door for Education.

And Wednesday afternoon saw her final status conference ahead of that event.

And, as compared to the Reggie Fullwood trial earlier this year, which saw 14 counts reduced to two (with no prison time) in a plea deal, Brown will fight.

She has to maintain her innocence — and in doing so, she hopes to restore her reputation.

To that end, Brown will testify on her own behalf.

However, once the trial commences, she will not talk to the media — as per the judge’s direction.

“The one thing she respects is authority,” Smith told the press after the hearing.

____

No drama: The hearing in Jacksonville’s federal courthouse Wednesday afternoon, in the context of Brown telling reporters she was ready to go to trial, was necessarily anticlimactic.

Brown, wearing a suit that had letters on it that were oddly reminiscent of a word find puzzle, was resolute as she entered the courtroom after spending lunch hour in Hemming Park distributing free honey drippers on the unseasonably hot April day.

Presiding Judge Timothy Corrigan and Prosecutor A. Tysen Duva affirmed that there was nothing unusual to be discussed as the meeting began.

However, Brown’s lawyer requested a sidebar conversation — leading to the first (indeed only) bit of drama of the day.

After a five minute interval, proceedings resumed.

Whatever happened in the sidebar went unacknowledged.

And most of the hearing was quotidian housekeeping, a marked contrast to the pitched drama familiar to those following the case since last year, and to much of Rep. Brown’s career.

____

The Schedule: Jury selection begins Apr. 24 in Room 13-A, with two days expected to be the time frame.

Corrigan noted the “high-profile nature of the case will likely require individual questioning” of jurors. And jury selection could take longer.

The trial would kick off Apr. 26 at 9:30 a.m. in 10-D, stopping at 5:00 p.m. most days.

Apr. 14 would be the deadline for voir dire statements from the parties. Witness lists will be due on Apr. 14 also.

Subpoenas to elected officials, meanwhile, would require court orders, said Corrigan.

“I would urge you to get your subpoenas ready and get them served,” Corrigan declaimed.

Likewise, witnesses needing lawyers need to be brought to the court’s attention.

Corrigan noted that the case would be tried solely on “admissible evidence.”

“Whatever matters might be on people’s minds … they don’t play a role,” Corrigan said, including “opinions on the individuals.”

“I’m going to call on everybody to make sure we’re focused on the right things here,” Corrigan added.

The case, Corrigan emphasized, is to be tried in the courtroom — not the court of public opinion.

“Respect those boundaries,” Corrigan said, “and we will conduct a fair trial and one that’s worthy of respect.”

Media will be permitted electronic devices, in the spirit of an open and transparent process, Corrigan added.

___

Those in attendance can expect quirks.

A PowerPoint intro to the defense and redacted evidence from the prosecution among them.

As well, the idea of “interstate transfers,” so key to the Fullwood prosecution, will be brought up again — ironically, because of AOL servers, which are not in Florida.

As well, there will be a hard cap of 45 minutes on opening statements from both barristers.

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