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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

Monday, January 13, 2020

Appeals Court Upholds Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown’s Convictions

Tampa, Florida – The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta has affirmed the convictions of former United States Congresswoman Corrine Brown for various fraud and tax offenses. The Court also upheld the district court’s order that Brown forfeit more than $600,000 in proceeds she obtained from her crimes.

In 2017, a jury in Jacksonville found Brown guilty of 14 separate fraud crimes related to her One Door for Education charitable organization, as well as 4 income tax crimes. Brown’s co-conspirators (Elias “Ronnie” Simmons, her long-time Chief of Staff and Carla Wiley, the president of the fraudulent charity) pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme. The district court sentenced Brown to serve 60 months in prison and to forfeit and pay restitution of $664,292.39. Brown appealed her convictions and the forfeiture order to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The Court heard oral argument in February 2019.

In a lengthy opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed all of Brown’s convictions and the forfeiture order. Brown had challenged her convictions based on the district court’s dismissal of a juror who, during deliberations, had said that the Holy Spirit told him that Brown was not guilty on all counts. In upholding Brown’s convictions, the Court of Appeals held that the district court had not clearly erred in finding that the juror, “despite his best intentions,” “was not capable of rendering a verdict rooted in the evidence presented at trial.” And the Court of Appeals concluded, therefore, that “the district court certainly did not abuse its discretion in dismissing [the juror] from the jury.” The Court added, “Though here, the juror’s perceived divine revelation might have worked in the criminal defendant’s favor had the district court not learned of it mid-deliberations, a contrary holding would allow criminal defendants to be convicted based on a divine revelation divorced from the evidence, rather than the evidence presented at trial—a troubling result, to say the least.” One judge on the panel, the Honorable William Pryor, dissented from the Court’s opinion.           

The appeal was handled by Assistant United States Attorney David Rhodes. The underlying case—including an eight-day trial—was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys A. Tysen Duva and Michael J. Coolican, and Eric G. Olshan, then of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and now an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Pennsylvania. The FBI and IRS-Criminal Investigation investigated the case. 

Financial Fraud
Updated January 13, 2020