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Former Jacksonville City Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown.

Jax

Former Jacksonville Councilmembers invoke Martin Shkreli in bid for new trial

Complaints of bad courtroom defenses.

Expelled Jacksonville City Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, convicted of a conspiracy to defraud economic development funds, are seeking a new trial.

Last year, the former officials were convicted of expropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars for personal use from a Small Business Administration-backed loan provided for Katrina Brown’s family’s barbecue sauce plant.

Katrina Brown opted to defend herself. Reggie Brown had a court appointed lawyer. Neither, contends the motion, got adequate defenses.

“As to Ms. Brown, she is most certainly not an attorney. Her stand-by counsel informed her she had to adhere to all the court’s rulings, which, of course, made her all the more shy about defending herself, to avoid offending the Court. Her stand-by counsel was prohibited from speaking to her – unless she asked him a question – which meant his knowledge of the errors being committed by the government were not communicated to her, and, not being a lawyer, she did not know enough to ask him. Nor did she know she could proffer the evidence necessary to preserve her issues.

“As to Mr. Brown, he too was not an attorney, and his attorney, without permission, implemented a fatal strategy designed to support the government’s case. Mr. Brown did not fully comprehend the harm that strategy was causing him, until it has been recently explained to him. With an attorney engaged in ineffective assistance, Mr. Brown most certainly must be excused from not recognizing that neglect,” the filing contends.

The two stood trial together, but with separate defense teams: “The opening and closing statements of trial counsel for Reginald Brown  constituted ineffective assistance of counsel as to Mr. Brown, was prejudicial as to Ms. Brown and deprived her of her constitutional right to a fair trial – particularly since his statements were false, and (3) facilitated the conviction of both defendants.”

The filing improbably invokes former hedge funder Martin Shkreli, best known for using some of his money to buy an unreleased Wu-Tang Clan album.

The album, now federal evidence, is sought back by the nostalgia rap troupe.

United States v. Shkreli and Greebel, contends the filing, saw one defendant’s testimony used to convict the other.

The contention: “not only was trial counsel for Mr. Brown a second prosecutor, but he performed as a second (actually, a third) prosecutor against his own client, thereby utterly defeating Mr. Brown’s right to a fair trial.”

Ms. Brown, as those covering the trial recall, was rigorously discouraged by judges from representing herself.

“I don’t want counsel from the government,” Brown said. “I want to represent myself,” though she eventually agreed to have the two lawyers as “standby counsel.”

Motions were also filed for acquittal and to support a contention that there was no criminal intent or actual loss from the money borrowed.

The pair was convicted in 2019 of extracting hundreds of thousands of dollars for personal use from a Small Business Administration-backed loan provided for Katrina Brown’s family’s barbecue sauce plant.

The conspiracy included multiple counts of wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering for both defendants. Katrina Brown was also found guilty of two counts of false statements to financial institutions, as she attempted to recapitalize the sauce business.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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