Corrine Brown Archives - Florida Politics

Corrine Brown appeal pushed back to February

A federal appeals court will hear arguments in February in a challenge filed by former Congresswoman Corrine Brown after she was convicted on felony charges in a charity scam.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had previously said oral arguments are needed in the case and tentatively scheduled them for the week of Dec. 10 in Atlanta, according to an online docket.

However, that hearing has been pushed back.

Brown appealed to the Atlanta-based court after she was convicted last year on 18 felony counts and sentenced to five years in prison.

A former 12-term Democratic congresswoman from Jacksonville, Brown was convicted on fraud and tax charges related to her role in using contributions to the One Door for Education charity for personal expenses and events.

But in the appeal, Brown contends that a juror was improperly dismissed from her trial. The dismissal came after the juror made statements such as the “Holy Ghost” told him Brown was not guilty.

Prosecutors, however, argue a district judge acted properly in replacing the juror with an alternate and disputed that the decision violated religious rights.

Brown, who lost a re-election bid in 2016, is an inmate at the Coleman federal prison in Sumter County, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

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.

In fraud case, Katrina Brown representation up in air, Reggie Brown gets court appointed lawyer

Two Jacksonville City Council members, Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, are dealing with dozens of federal fraud charges.

61-page indictment dropped in federal court late last month details 38 counts in a scheme to defraud.

Federal prosecutors allege the Browns, who are not related, collaborated in a scheme that used shell companies as ways to extract, via transfers and fraudulent invoicing, hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Small Business Administration brokered loan intended to fund Katrina Brown’s family’s barbecue sauce plant.

The Browns have a status hearing in Jacksonville’s federal courthouse Thursday morning, and a central question remained unanswered: Who would represent them in legal proceedings?

M. Alan Ceballos, who represented Reggie Brown two weeks ago in court, told Florida Politics Wednesday that was a complicated matter and will be addressed by both him and Katrina Brown’s lawyer, Curtis Fallgatter, in court Thursday.

Katrina Brown was up first, and in her case, a delay in determining her lawyer was requested and received.

Fallgatter cited “delays in the discussion,” but “there is a valid financial plan in place to retain the firm.”

He asked for two more weeks from Judge James Klindt.

Klindt raised concerns via the “speedy trial clock.”

For the federal government, A. Tysen Duva raised concerns that “in two weeks, we’ll be in the same situation.”

“I know this is important to Miss Brown … my concern is in two weeks nothing will happen … the representation issue has to be settled,” Duva said, to get the case onto the August trial calendar.

Klindt split the difference and set a status hearing for a week out in Katrina Brown’s case.

Regarding Reggie Brown, Ceballos noted the councilman wanted court-appointed counsel, citing “indigency.”

Councilman Brown, who has spent more than $3,000 out of pocket on his state Senate campaign while retiring past due property taxes, may not have seemed like a plausible candidate for indigency.

But with his Council salary cut off, all he had coming in was his pay as a member of the Army Reserve, with $2,000 in bank accounts, and two late-model cars.

In terms of obligations, Brown has child support payments to two twin sons.

“Knowing what I know about fees in this type of case,” Klindt said, “I find it highly improbable that a lending institution would lend you money.”

Brown will have to deposit $1,000 to defray billing in this case, with potentially more financial obligations if he were to get a job.

____

Jacksonville is no stranger to fraud trials for its politicians, and part of those narratives has involved shifting legal representation.

Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, currently serving five years in federal prison after being convicted of 18 counts in her own scheme to defraud, had multiple changes in legal representation during her pre-conviction phase.

With each change of lawyer, questions mounted regarding Corrine Brown’s defense, including whether she could afford her lawyers or disagreements on trial strategy.

Undoubtedly, those paying close attention to the trials of Reggie Brown and Katrina Brown will speculate along similar lines, should there be similar vagaries in representation.

Even as the legal drama continues in federal court, the decision on who will fill the indicted Democrats’ places on Council remains, with no timetable for resolution.

____

On June 1, Gov. Rick Scott suspended the two and is now mulling a long list of potential temporary replacements for the duo.

The list (as it stands) includes: Joseph WillisDarrin Williams, Dwight BrisbaneTerrance BrisbaneBrenda Priestly JacksonJu’coby PittmanTameka HollyCelestine Mills, Terry Fields, Angela NixonChristopher PendletonJean TranquilleRandolph HallCharles Barr, James GreinerKeshan Chambliss, Rahman JohnsonClarence JamesDwight BrisbaneNiki BrunsonRalph ChaversCornelius CoxTheresa GrahamKing HolzendorfKevin Monroe, Latangie WilliamsChandra Griffin, Charles Barr, Ralph Chavers, Pat Lockett-FelderJames BreakerMincy PollockLeslie HarrisJames GreinerBarney Spann, and Nancy Walker.

If the Council members resigned, there would be a special election. However, the choice made by the Democrats was to stay in office and let Gov. Scott work out the details of succession.

When a reporter asked Councilwoman Brown if she was going to resign she was mum.

We then asked what happened to the money.

Her attorney (at least for now) said that was a “disrespectful question” from a “biased reporter.”

Florida Politics will be back next week with more from the court action.

Prosecutors fire back at Corrine Brown on disputed juror

Prosecutors are asking a federal appeals court to uphold former Congresswoman Corrine Brown’s conviction in a charity scam, blasting her arguments that a juror was improperly dismissed because he said the “Holy Spirit” told him Brown was not guilty.

In a 62-page brief filed last week in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, prosecutors said a district judge acted properly in replacing the juror with an alternate and disputed that the decision violated the religious rights of the man, identified in court documents as Juror No. 13.

“The decision to remove a sitting juror is a significant one that justifiably warrants careful, albeit deferential, review by this (appeals) court,” the document said. “The district court’s decision here handily withstands that review. The court took this issue very seriously and removed the juror only after having carefully considered whether that juror would be able to follow the court’s instructions and decide the case based on the evidence. And the court did so only after having concluded that the juror’s decision — that he had been told by the Holy Spirit, before deliberations had even begun, that Brown was not guilty of all 24 charged crimes — was not based on the juror’s evaluation of the sufficiency of the evidence.”

Brown, who was convicted last year on 18 felony counts and sentenced to five years in prison, has focused her appeal on the decision by U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan to dismiss the juror.

The issue about the religious statements started after the jury had started deliberating in Brown’s case. Another juror, identified as Juror No 8, informed the court that she had concerns about the man because of his statements. Corrigan questioned Juror No. 13 before deciding to replace him with an alternate. The jury subsequently found Brown guilty of the charges.

In a brief filed in March in the Atlanta-based appeals court, Brown’s attorney argued the conviction should be tossed out because of Corrigan’s decision.

“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,” 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 the document filed last week urging the appeals court to uphold the conviction, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida said Corrigan correctly determined that Juror No. 13 couldn’t follow jury instructions in deciding the case.

“The record amply supports the court’s findings that Juror No. 13 was not following the court’s instructions, did not understand that he was not following those instructions, and, if left on the jury, would likely continue not to follow those instructions,” prosecutors wrote. “Juror No. 8 was concerned enough about Juror No. 13 that she brought to the district court’s attention his repeated comments that a ‘Higher Being’ had told him that ‘Corrine Brown was Not Guilty on all charges’ and that he ‘trusted the Holy Ghost.’ And she explained that other jurors were concerned too.”

Brown, a former 12-term Democratic congresswoman from Jacksonville, was convicted on fraud and tax charges related to her role in using contributions to the One Door for Education charity for personal expenses and events.

In sentencing Brown in December, 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.

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. She is an inmate at the Coleman federal prison in Sumter County, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

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.

Congressional candidate Rontel Batie: ‘This race is far from over’

Rontel Batie is not the incumbent in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District; that’s Al Lawson.

Nor is he the former mayor of the biggest city in the district: that’s Alvin Brown.

Nonetheless, Batie (who carried a meager $4,314 cash on hand out of 2017, compared to Lawson’s $100,531), asserts that “this race is far from over.”

In an email late Wednesday, Batie served up zingers about Lawson and Brown both.

“Al Lawson broke with the CBC and was seen cheering on President Trump during his State of the Union address. This was done in spite of Trump’s yearlong assault on black men who’ve used their platforms to protest injustice, like Jay-Z, Lavar Ball and NFL players who kneel during the anthem,” Batie wrote.

“Also, Alvin Brown, Jacksonville’s former Mayor who lost his reelection after being singled out for being one of the only Democrats in the country to refuse to support President Obama in 2012, (among many other political missteps), has entered the race,” Batie added.

Both of these assertions are questionable: Lawson tepidly applauded Trump saying that black unemployment was down, and Brown was an Obama re-election delegate.

Batie also served up two new endorsements.

Luis Zaldivar, the President of Northeast Florida Democratic Progressive Caucus, asserted that Batie “embodies the values that will move Duval County forward.”

Former Lake City Commissioner Glenel Bowden called Batie “the only progressive candidate in the race.”

Batie isn’t going away, and this occasions parallels to the 2016 race, where underfunded L.J. Holloway sheared votes from Lawson and Corrine Brown.

Lawson won the three way primary with just over 47 percent of the vote, with Brown coming in with 38 percent. Holloway, who had little fundraising momentum and few meaningful endorsements, was able to undercut Corrine Brown on the eastern side of the district.

Could history repeat in the 2018 primary?

Batie is in the race through August, and it’s entirely possible that Lawson could again win the nomination with less than 50 percent of the vote, via a spoiler candidate who doesn’t do enough to win, but who does enough to ensure the Jacksonville candidate can’t.

Al Lawson on Alvin Brown: ‘We’re going to retire him’

As Florida Politics predicted since Corrine Brown‘s legal fate was still in doubt, former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown is making his move.

Less than 24 hours after the former Democratic congresswoman reported to prison, Brown declared to the Florida Times-Union that he was running for Corrine Brown’s old seat.

“These challenging times call for each of us to stand up and speak out about the kind of community in which we want to live,” Alvin Brown said in a statement Tuesday. “North Florida deserves a pragmatic, visionary leader who will aggressively champion policies that create good-paying jobs, ensure economic and financial security for all, and improve our overall quality of life.”

Alvin Brown, since last spring, has told people that he would file as soon as Corrine Brown was out of the news.

And lo! It came to pass.

Now Alvin Brown is attempting to do what Corrine Brown couldn’t: beat U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a popular Tallahassee politician who beat Corrine Brown in all but two counties in the district.

The Times-Union article spotlights the perceived Tallahassee/Jacksonville divide in the district, calling Brown’s bid a “race of redemption not just for his own political career, but also for Jacksonville, which saw its decades-long hold on the congressional district end in 2016 when Lawson defeated former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown.”

Rep. Lawson, in a candid phone conversation with Florida Politics Tuesday morning, eviscerated his primary challenger, painting him as an opportunist looking for his next gig.

“He’s been telling people for months he is going to run,” Lawson said. “We welcome the challenge.”

Lawson rejected the idea that the race is Jacksonville versus Tallahassee.

“The district stretches from Gadsden County to Duval,” and Alvin Brown’s strategy, said Lawson, is “similar to what Corrine tried to do.”

“It won’t work. You have to be concerned about the whole district. You can’t just run a campaign out of Duval,” Lawson said.

Lawson was unsparing in his assessment of Alvin Brown’s single term as Jacksonville mayor.

“Alvin failed as mayor,” Lawson said bluntly, “and a lot of people in Duval are saying he’s just looking for a job. If he’s looking for a job, this is the wrong place to look.”

Alvin Brown, said Lawson, “wants to split the district. We don’t have enough clout to do that. We need to work together.”

To that end, Lawson has built a strong alliance with John Rutherford on regional issues. Laying the groundwork for that, Lawson said, was when both men ran in 2016.

“During the course of the campaign,” Lawson said, “I met with [Rutherford] a couple of times.”

They keep each other looped in when it comes to regional issues; it almost goes without saying that Alvin Brown, were he to win, wouldn’t be able to have that kind of relationship with Rutherford, a former sheriff with whom he battled during his term.

Lawson also touted his work with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry as key, saying that party affiliation doesn’t preclude collaboration and that Curry and Lawson have a “strong relationship.”

“I have served with many Republicans in Tallahassee,” Lawson — an expert in the legislative process — said.

Lawson wasn’t nearly finished talking about the race.

When asked if the Congressional Black Caucus would back Alvin Brown, Lawson was blunt.

“That won’t happen,” Lawson said. “The leadership in the CBC is all behind me. I meet with them every week.”

Lawson has been a voice of reason, he said, successfully cautioning against a proposed walkout of Tuesday evening’s State of the Union address.

And Lawson’s influence with the CBC happened despite Corrine Brown bringing Alvin Brown to D.C. last year to test the waters.

“Corrine had Alvin up there, but the CBC does not get involved in primary elections,” Lawson said. “We’ll be in great shape to run.”

Lawson, over the last two years, has “a lot more inroads in Jacksonville than ever before,” and is meeting Friday with the Jacksonville Chamber and Florida Blue.

And Lawson isn’t worried about what comes next in Jacksonville.

“People I speak to weren’t thrilled with [Alvin Brown] as Mayor,” Lawson said, adding that he believes Alvin Brown is running because “he needs a job.”

“He was trying to be Edward Waters College president,” Lawson said, “but he didn’t make the shortlist.” [NOTE: EWC President Nat Glover denies the claim in comments to POLITICO Florida].

Lawson saw it as ironic that Brown was running against him, given that at multiple points in the past, “he wanted me to help him raise money.”

Now he’s going to help Alvin Brown with something else.

“We’re going to retire him,” Lawson said.

Lawson has made his plays to prove his Jacksonville bona fides.

Among them: spending lots of time in Jacksonville after Hurricane Irma, taking a Jacksonville guest, Paul Tutwiler, to the State of the Union Tuesday evening, and filing the Flood Water Relief Act — which would bring $116 million to Jacksonville to help with storm hardening.

Alvin Brown will have some fence-mending ahead of him.

Some Jacksonville Democrats were less than enthused by his mayoral re-election bid, in which he essentially rejected Democratic orthodoxy until he started falling behind now-Mayor Curry in public polls.

Alvin Brown began to embrace proposals as a candidate, such as a minimum-wage increase, that he never embraced as mayor.

Alvin Brown also took heat from white liberals for failing to support an expansion of Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance to include the LGBT community — something that happened, ironically, only after he left office.

Some Democrats on City Council at the time said Alvin Brown worked to squash the bill in 2012.

“There was pressure to not vote for it,” Johnny Gaffney said, echoing allegations made by Denise Lee to this reporter that rumors were that Mayor Brown pushed Gaffney not to vote for it, that rumors were that “Johnny Gaffney was pressured to change his mind,” and that rumors said that he would veto it if it passed (an echo of persistent rumors since 2012).

There are also questions as to Alvin Brown’s support in the African-American community, and how much buy-in he has from the Duval donor class.

We asked Lisa King, leader of the Duval Democratic Party, for comment.

“Mayor Brown has a strong record of accomplishment and will be a formidable candidate,” King texted.

That record will be part of the discussion — though how much it matters west of the county line is up for debate.

All of that said, it boils down to one thing.

Alvin Brown wanted a battle.

And Al Lawson will give it to him.

We reached out to Brown’s campaign for response, and they offered it Tuesday afternoon.

“After Mayor Brown heard from voters in CD-5, there is a clear sense that Lawson seems generally uninterested in serving the district and has gone Washington. At a time when civil rights, voting rights, immigrant rights and women’s rights are under attack, Lawson seems content to live the life of a privileged Congressman who refuses to fight for the people of his district,” the campaign said via written statement.

With Corrine Brown gone, does Alvin Brown run?

A persistent pitter-pat has dripped from the rumor mill of Jacksonville politics for close to a year now, regarding the inevitable Jacksonville challenge to Al Lawson.

Once Corrine Brown was out of the headlines, former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown would launch his run for Congress to take back Corrine’s seat.

“Word in the halls is that former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown is waiting until Queen Corrine is out of the headlines before launching his Congressional bid.”

That was from a story we did in May of last year.

A variation on the same theme, from November: “Brown has told at least one leading Jacksonville Democrat that his plan was to launch a campaign after Corrine Brown is out of the news.”

Corrine Brown dominated her last news cycle on Monday. She’s now in lockdown downstate, for five years.

So now, for Alvin Brown, it’s go time.

Does he jump into the race for Congress?

Some locals have suggested such — connected Jacksonville and D.C. Democrats, in conversations with this writer, say he’ll get into the race this week.

If not now, when?

Jumping into the race gives him six months until the primary.

While we are still waiting to see Rep. Lawson’s year end financial report, the cash on hand he had at the end of September — $97,768 — won’t scare anyone off.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan routinely writes those kinds of checks for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry‘s political committee.

Fun fact: Alvin Brown was in Shad Khan’s box at the last Jaguars home game. Word is he really wanted to be there. And lest we forget, Brown and Khan did a lot of business together, as a $41 million city investment in EverBank Field scoreboards shows.

And Khan, who has not backed Lawson financially, was a big Brown backer through the 2015 election.

Other Jacksonville donors also can make that action happen very quickly.

Lawson has struggled to connect with Jacksonville — which is not to say he hasn’t tried.

He’s taking a Jacksonville guest, Paul Tutwiler, to the State of the Union Tuesday evening.

And he’s filed the Flood Water Relief Act — which would bring $116 million to Jacksonville to help with storm hardening … but he hasn’t gotten that one through committee.

One wonders how some Jacksonville Republicans would deal with U.S. Rep. Alvin Brown; recall that Jacksonville Republican John Rutherford was at war with the Mayor’s Office for much of Brown’s sole term, before working as a shiv-out surrogate for Curry during the 2015 campaign.

Brown said Rutherford had enough budget to run the Sheriff’s Office. Rutherford said Brown was starving the department.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, when we asked him months back, was noncommittal to any particular advantage that Brown would bring to Jacksonville.

“I have a great working relationship with Al Lawson,” Curry said.

However Republicans feel about Alvin Brown, conditions may be conducive to juicing Duval primary turnout, with a must-see primary shaping up between Senate Minority Leader Designate Audrey Gibson and Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown.

Reggie Brown doesn’t BS.

“I am running [because] I believe I can bring more state $ to North Florida and the time to do it is now!”

Reggie Brown is all in. He knows he has a generational opportunity. He believes he can knock over the person who would otherwise be the most powerful Democrat in the Senate.

Alvin Brown doesn’t lack for confidence either.

If not now, when?

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.

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