Ending an historic era of representing the state of Florida in Congress since 1993, former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown now faces jail time. There were a whopping 22 charges filed against her for crimes committed while operating her charity the One Door for Education Foundation.
Brown was found guilty on 18 of those charges including tax fraud, aiding and abetting wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco believes that justice has been served:
"Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown violated the public trust, the honor of her position, and the integrity of the American system of government when she abused one of the most powerful positions in the nation for her own personal gain," he said.
Brown has always maintained her innocence, but her former chief of staff, Elias "Ronnie" Simmons, and president of One Door, Carla Wiley, helped prosecutors go after Brown when they all plead guilty to their own federal indictments related to the case. The charity raised over $800,000 between 2012 and 2016 which was supposed to fund scholarships for poor college students. Reportedly, only one $1,200 scholarship was ever awarded.
So where did all that money go? Simmons testified that per Brown's instructions, he repeatedly withdrew $800 at a time from a nearby ATM and made deposits into Brown's personal bank account. He helped himself to funds from the charity as well.
The paper trail also revealed that the rest was spent on trips, shopping sprees, and lavish parties among other things. Brown, however, unsuccessfully took the stand in her own defense saying that she left the charity's financial details in the hands of Simmons and staff members.
Attorney James Smith plans to file a motion requesting a new trial so this battle is far from over. "She's strong and fighting for her innocence," he said after the verdict was handed down. "And she will continue to do that." He also released this statement on Brown's behalf:
If Brown is really innocent, it will be virtually impossible to erase the cloud of suspicion that this case has placed over her decades of public service. But this will at least be a cautionary tale--never ever leave your financial affairs solely in the hands of others.