One Door for Education Archives - Florida Politics

Feds quibble with Corrine Brown co-conspirator early release motion

Carla Wiley, a co-conspirator with Corrine Brown in the One Door for Education scheme to defraud that ended the congresswoman’s political career, wants an early release to a halfway house.

However, the federal government opposed the motion Monday. [Government Opposition to Wiley Early Release]

Wiley, who served as the CEO of the phony charity and is now serving 21 months in federal lockup, was urged by federal attorneys to make her case via the Bureau of Prisons.

“A prisoner is required to exhaust all administrative remedies available to her through the BOP before filing her petition in federal court,” asserts the filing. “Wiley has not stated what steps she has taken within the BOP to obtain her requested relief.”

Wiley, who moved to cooperate with the feds well before Brown’s trial last year, contended that she had a “minor role” in the scheme, limited participation, “decision-making authority,” and benefit.

Corrine Brown appeal focuses on dismissed juror

Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown’s attempt to get out of federal prison hinges on an ex-juror who said the “Holy Spirit” told him Brown was not guilty of charges related to a charity scam.

Brown’s attorney filed a 64-page brief Monday in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals arguing the Jacksonville Democrat’s conviction should be tossed out because the juror was improperly dismissed from the case due to his religious statements.

“The record in this case supports only one conclusion: that this juror was basing his verdict on his view of the sufficiency of the evidence, after prayerful consideration and as he saw it, in his mind, guidance from the Holy Spirit,” Brown’s attorney, William Mallory Kent, wrote in the brief. “Whether he should or should not have depended on any guidance from the Holy Spirit does not resolve the matter in favor of his dismissal, because the well established law in this and other circuits is that so long as there is any reasonable possibility that the juror is basing his view on the sufficiency of the evidence, he may not be dismissed. Dismissal requires substantial evidence that the juror is engaged in willful misconduct.”

But in a December court document, U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan, who sentenced Brown to five years in prison, rejected arguments that he improperly dismissed the juror.

“In essence, the court (judge) dismissed a juror who it found was unable to follow the law,” Corrigan wrote Dec. 20. “The court applied the governing legal standard to the facts, finding beyond a reasonable doubt that there was no substantial possibility that the juror was able to base his decision only on the evidence and the law as the court had instructed.”

Brown, a former 12-term congresswoman, was convicted in May on 18 felony counts related to her role in using contributions to the One Door for Education charity for personal expenses and events.

In sentencing Brown on Dec. 4, Corrigan issued a 25-page order that said the One Door for Education charity, which was originally established to help children, was “operated as a criminal enterprise” by Brown, her longtime chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, and the charity’s founder, Carla Wiley.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January rejected Brown’s request to stay out of prison while she appeals the conviction. She is serving the sentence at the Coleman federal correctional institution in Sumter County, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons website.

The brief filed Monday said the issue about the dismissed juror’s religious statements started after the jury had started deliberating. Another juror informed the court that she had concerns about the man, identified in the brief as “juror number 13.”

Corrigan questioned the juror before deciding to replace him with an alternate juror. The jury subsequently found Brown guilty of the charges.

Brown, 71, long an influential figure in Jacksonville, represented a congressional district that stretched from Jacksonville to Orlando. She lost a re-election bid in 2016 after the district’s boundaries had been substantially redrawn and as she faced the criminal charges.

Could Donald Trump lawyer help Corrine Brown’s appeal?

Corrine Brown is expected to begin five years in prison no later than Jan. 29. A motion filed Monday would have delayed that 30 days, but it was quickly denied.

The more interesting story, however, may be that one of President Donald Trump‘s personal attorneys may be an asset to the former congresswoman’s appeal.

Brown, convicted of 18 counts related to the fraudulent One Door for Education charity, is again citing the matter of the discharged “Juror 13” in her appeal.

Juror 13 was removed from duty due to insisting that God said Brown was innocent. While Brown’s original attorney brought the issue up in appeal, Brown’s current appellate lawyers have made the case more substantially.

Brown and her legal team contend that the case made upon appeal requires more time for consideration of the question, which they assert isn’t as settled as it might have seemed in 2017.

“Indeed, it is not inconceivable that this Court upon review of the appellate pleadings, well might rescind its previous order and now find that the appellate issue does satisfy the substantial question standard entitling Brown to release pending appeal,” asserts Brown’s motion.

The appeal also raises the question of amicus briefs from friendly religious organizations who would contend that nothing disqualifies a juror based on divine guidance.

Among those groups: the American Center for Law and Justice, whose chief counsel is Jay Sekulow.

Sekulow is one of President Donald Trump‘s personal lawyers.

Ironically, given Brown’s conviction for using a counterfeit charity as a slush fund, Sekulow has been investigated by two state attorneys general, per the Guardian, “following the disclosure that [Sekulow’s Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism and an affiliate] have since 2000 paid more than $60m in compensation and contracts to Sekulow, his relatives and companies where they hold senior roles.”

Nonprofits are expected to offer “reasonable but not excessive” compensation to executives, and some may contend that $60 million exceeds that threshold.

Sekulow has defended the President against accusations of Russian collusion, among other things.

Corrine Brown asks appeals court for prison reprieve

Slated to report to prison Jan. 29, former Congresswoman Corrine Brown is asking a federal appeals court to allow her to remain free while she continues to fight her conviction on charges related to a charity scam.

Brown’s attorney, William Mallory Kent, filed a 37-page document Friday at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that seeks to keep her out of prison while an appeal is pending. The request is based on what will be a key issue in the appeal: whether U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan improperly removed a juror who said during deliberations that the “Holy Spirit” told him Brown was not guilty

Kent wrote that the issue could lead to the reversal of Brown’s conviction and, as a result, she should stay out of prison during the appeal.

“Neither the government (prosecutors) nor the district court (judge) cited a single case which has found that a juror’s personal prayer life before or during deliberations could be the basis of a finding of good cause to dismiss a juror,” Kent wrote. “The district court itself acknowledged that it was certainly permissible for the juror to pray to seek guidance or inspiration to try to come to a proper decision — and that is exactly what this juror had done. The juror did nothing improper and the juror’s internal mental belief that the Holy Spirit had offered him guidance in understanding the evidence and truthfulness of the witnesses — witnesses, all of whom, by the way, had taken an oath `so help me God’ to tell the truth — was not in any way a disqualifying mental process much less a disqualifying external influence.”

But Corrigan, who sentenced Brown to five years in prison, refused last month to allow her to remain free during the appeal and said she is required to report to prison by noon Jan. 29. Corrigan also rejected arguments that he improperly dismissed the juror.

“In essence, the court (judge) dismissed a juror who it found was unable to follow the law,” Corrigan wrote Dec. 20. “The court applied the governing legal standard to the facts, finding beyond a reasonable doubt that there was no substantial possibility that the juror was able to base his decision only on the evidence and the law as the court had instructed.”

Brown, a former 12-term Democratic congresswoman, was convicted in May on 18 felony counts related to her role in using contributions to the One Door for Education charity for personal expenses and events.

In sentencing Brown on Dec. 4, Corrigan issued a 25-page order that said the One Door for Education charity, which was originally established to help children, was “operated as a criminal enterprise” by Brown, her longtime chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, and the charity’s founder, Carla Wiley. Corrigan detailed how the charity raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, which forensic accountants said was siphoned off in cash withdrawals and used for such things as sky box seats at an NFL game and a luxury box at a Beyonce concert.

Corrigan removed the juror who made the “Holy Spirit” statement after another juror raised a concern to the judge. An alternate juror was substituted, and Brown was later found guilty.

Brown, 71, long an influential figure in Jacksonville, represented a congressional district that stretched from Jacksonville to Orlando. She lost a re-election bid in 2016 after the district’s boundaries had been substantially redrawn and as she faced the criminal charges.

Prison can wait, says Corrine Brown co-conspirator

Carla Wiley, the CEO of the phony charity One Door for Education that Corrine Brown used as a slush fund, asked Tuesday for a delay in her reporting to prison.

Wiley was set to report no sooner than January 8; she would like to delay that to February 8.

Wiley is both settling her own affairs, via transferring assets into her son’s name, and handling her mother’s estate, which a filing describes as a “tedious process.”

Wiley also objects to the potential prison in which she will serve her time: a “high-security, spartan facility utterly inappropriate for a first-time nonviolent offender.”

If placed in maximum security, Wiley would be subject to what the filing calls “diesel therapy” once moved to a more befitting prison.

Wiley would like to avoid the “arduous, filthy, and uncomfortable air or ground transport shackling the inmates of all custody levels with upper and lower chains for a circuitous shared ride of weeks or months before an individual’s destination is reached.”

Wiley was sentenced to 21 months in prison, three years of supervised release, $452,515 in restitution, along with a $654,000 forfeiture judgment.

Lockdown ordered for Corrine Brown during appeal process

Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown was found guilty of 18 counts in the One Door for Education case. She faces a five-year prison stretch.

Brown is asserting she should be free during the appeal process; however, Judge Timothy Corrigan sees it differently, declaring: “The law presumes that a person who stands convicted and sentenced will begin service of her sentence unless she can meet certain criteria.”

“Ms. Brown has been accorded all the consideration she is due, she has not met the standard to remain on release pending appeal, and it is in the interest of justice that she begin serving her sentence. However,” Corrigan added, “Ms. Brown may seek release pending appeal from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court will set a report date that gives Ms. Brown time to do so.”

Brown has until Dec. 29 to file that motion. As it stands, she must report to prison by Jan. 29, 2018.

Brown was found guilty earlier this year, protestations of innocence notwithstanding, of a laundry list of charges. Among them: conspiracy to defraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, tax fraud and fraudulent financial disclosures.

All of this tied to a nonperforming educational charity — One Door for Education — that was used as a slush fund by Brown and her co-conspirators for a period of years, with over $800,000 being funneled through the charity by the end.

20-year lien dropped on Corrine Brown

Longevity runs in Corrine Brown‘s family, and that seems to be part of the calculus of a federal lien against the congresswoman-turned-felon.

A lien notice totaling $664,292 was filed this weekend. There is good news, however; 20 years after the date of filing (December 2037), Brown is freed of the obligation.

Corrine Brown was found guilty of 18 counts in the One Door for Education case. She faces a five-year prison stretch.

Currently at issue: whether Brown should be free during the appeal process. The federal government discouraged that in a motion filed in recent days.

Brown had copious support, including from national and local Democratic politicians; however, she was unable to avoid a prison sentence.

Nor was she able to avoid a lien that will haunt her for years after her prison sentence would end.

Prominent Corrine Brown supporters fought for her before her sentencing

Corrine Brown had some of the most prominent people in the country writing on her behalf pre-sentencing, amidst dozens of letters of support asking for leniency.

As well, prominent locals — including a former Jacksonville mayor, a sitting city councilwoman, and a prominent state senator — likewise appealed for a light sentence for Brown.

The letters, just released by Judge Timothy Corrigan on Monday, speak to a legacy that went far beyond the One Door for Education case.

Many of Brown’s supporters were Congressional Black Caucus colleagues. All urged a leniency that didn’t come to pass.

Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Democrat from South Florida, spoke of a friendship going back to 1969 with Brown.

“Corrine has already lost just about everything by being convicted,” Hastings wrote, asking for a “second chance” for his former Congressional colleague.

Rep. Marcia Fudge, an Ohio Democrat, noted that at “some point in every life we all wish we had a do-over,” before asking Corrigan to show Brown a “small portion of the kindness, love, and caring” she has shown others.

Rep. Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat, noted Brown’s “deep connection to her constituents … service for the most vulnerable members” of her district.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, lauded Brown’s “tireless work ethic, impeccable fortitude, and laudable achievements” as a “change agent for good who has earned the love and adoration of those she has served.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, wrote of Brown’s “long track record for standing for our nation’s most vulnerable communities,” citing her work after Hurricane Katrina.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, called Brown a “practical legislator who always wanted to fight for those with real needs … a colleague, a friend, a spiritual person” with “much more to contribute to our great country and the world.”

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, another Texas Democrat, lauded Brown’s “unbridled compassion” and asked Corrigan to take into account the “anguish” she experienced, to “judge her by the sum of her life, and not just by the mistakes that she made.”

Rep. James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, acknowledged that “lines were crossed” by Brown; however, “there was no malice or forethought on her part.”

Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Democrat, called Brown a “friend, confidant, and mentor” who “cares deeply for those who have not benefited from the American dream.”

Rep. Karen Bass, a California Democrat, noted that Brown is at the “twilight of her life and career” and — through community service — had an “opportunity to give back to her community and communities in need.”

Illinois Democrat Rep. Robin Kelly lauded Brown as a “mentor … a passionate advocate for her constituents.”

Former Congressman Greg Laughlin, a Texas Republican, described Brown as “a friend … always honest and true to her word … worthy of a sentence of probation and community service.”

Former Congresswoman Carolyn Kilpatrick, a Michigan Democrat, likewise urged leniency, saying “the loss of her leadership would be catastrophic for her community.”

Former Rep. Karen Thurman, who served with Brown both in Tallahassee and Washington, lauded Brown’s “compassion and tenacity … decades of distinguished service.”

Former state Rep. Cynthia Moore Chestnut said Brown taught her “the true meaning of constituent service.”

State Sen. Audrey Gibson went farther.

“CB has stood up against injustice, fought for civil and voting rights, fought against injustice, helped fund housing developments…”

Gibson added that Brown was “genuinely interested in raising the collective voices of others and attending to their needs.”

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown — who showed up for the sentencing hearing and proclamation — wrote about Corrine Brown being “hardworking and focused with laser-like commitment” to the “people of Jacksonville and her district.”

Jacksonville City Councilwoman Joyce Morgan lauded Brown as a political mentor, noting that Brown was the Godmother of her three children.

Brown’s own mother — 89 years old — may have written the most meaningful letter.

“She fusses at me when I don’t take my medicine and when I eat the wrong thing,” Mrs. Delia Covington wrote. “She makes sure I have my medicine and I have food in my house.”

Brown’s daughter, Shantrel Brown, described that situation further, noting that her grandmother has “dementia and has to use a wheelchair,” and that Corrine Brown is her “primary caregiver.”

“My mother has endured a lot over these last 22 months. However, she continues to persevere,” Shantrel wrote.

“I need her. Our family needs her. Our community needs her,” Shantrel added.

In the end, it was all for naught.

Corrine Brown faces a five-year stretch in federal prison.

Feds want Corrine Brown locked up during appeal process

Federal prosecutors filed a motion Sunday opposing Corrine Brown‘s plea to be released on bond, pending appeal.

Brown, sentenced to five years in prison, is expected to report to the Bureau of Prisons in January.

Brown’s motion, per the feds, is “without merit and should be denied.” And while an appeal is pending, the feds believe she should be locked up.

Brown’s appeal is predicated on the removal of a juror who believed that “higher beings” said Brown wasn’t guilty; the Feds dismiss that as an immaterial objection.

Brown was found guilty earlier this year, her protestations of innocence notwithstanding, of a laundry list of 18 charges: among them, conspiracy to defraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, tax fraud, and fraudulent financial disclosures.

All of this tied to a nonperforming educational charity — One Door for Education — that was used as a slush fund by Brown and her co-conspirators for a period of years, with over $800,000 being funneled through the charity by the end.

She has never admitted guilt, except for saying she trusted without “verifying,” in a November plea for “mercy and compassion.”

Corrine Brown lawyer: ‘This court does not have the last word’

Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown was sentenced to five years in prison on Monday, along with three years of supervised release, $62,650 to the IRS, $452,000 of additional restitution and $664,000 of forfeiture.

But she shouldn’t be fitted for an orange jumpsuit just yet, according to Brown’s attorney, James Smith,.

“This court does not have the last word concerning the Congresswoman’s fate,” Smith told reporters in front of the federal courthouse in Jacksonville just minutes after the sentencing.

“I don’t think that a sentence of imprisonment was warranted under the circumstances,” Smith added, noting his disagreement with the “idea that a 71-year-old woman should have to go to prison for a non-violent economic offense.”

Smith said that while Brown “maintains her innocence … she expressed remorse for trusting the wrong people.”

An appeal is pending; however, whether Smith represents her has “yet to be decided.” Smith did address rumors that Brown has not been paying him by saying that he has, in fact, been paid through this process.

“If she says she wants me to represent her in appeal,” Smith added, “I’d be more than honored to.”

“The resources [for] an appeal,” Smith continued, “she’ll get them one way or another.”

Brown may be able to be out on bond pending appeal, Smith said, noting that there are “good grounds” on what he considers to be “appealable issues.”

Though Smith didn’t discuss such issues, one issue that factored into the actual trial phase was a removal of a juror who believed, against the consensus of the rest of those empaneled, that Brown was innocent. That belief was rooted in direct communication with God. Once that juror was removed, deliberations went quickly.

Smith said this sentence was on the “heavy side” of public corruption sentences, because of the dollar amount and the tax issues.

“The sentence of imprisonment was imposed to send a signal,” Smith said, not for specific deterrence regarding Brown.

Some counts, Smith added, could be thrown out on appeal — as happened in the case of William Jefferson, a former Louisiana Congressman convicted for soliciting payments to push African business interests in the U.S., as NOLA.com reported.

“One of the options on appeal is that this entire process could be thrown out on appeal — both the conviction and the sentencing,” Smith said.

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