Sentence brings ignoble end to Brown’s 34-year political odyssey
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
JACKSONVILLE (CFP) — Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida was sentenced to five years in prison on tax and fraud charges related to a scheme to loot $800,000 from a bogus scholarship charity and spend it on personal expenses.
Brown, 71, a Democrat who represented metro Jacksonville in Congress for 24 years, was sentenced December 4 by U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan, who called her behavior “brazen” and “born out of entitlement and greed,” according to coverage of the court proceedings by the Florida Times-Union.
Brown, who was ordered to surrender in January to begin serving her sentence, left the courthouse in downtown Jacksonville without comment. Speaking to reporters afterward, her attorney, James Smith, said she would appeal.
“The congresswoman wants to let her supporters know that she’s still strong and resolute, and she appreciates their prayers and their support,” Smith said. “She asks that they not give up hope because she hasn’t given up hope.”
Brown’s former chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, received a four-year sentence; the head of the charity, Carla Wiley, received 21 months.
Prosecutors alleged that Brown used her contacts and clout as a member of Congress to solicit funds for the charity, which claimed to provide scholarships for economically disadvantaged children. At trial, prosecutors produced evidence that the money was then diverted by Brown, Simmons and Wiley for their own personal use.
Brown took the stand to blame the scheme on Simmons and insist she did not know what he had been doing. But in May, she was convicted on 18 of the 22 counts against her, including including conspiracy, wire and mail fraud and filing false tax returns.
When she was elected on Congress in 1992 after a decade in the Florida legislature, Brown became the first African-American to represent Florida in Congress since Reconstruction. Emphasizing her dedication to constituent service with the phrase “Corrine Delivers,” she would win 11 more times and become a political institution in Jacksonville. She even helped secure the funds to build the Bryan Simpson U.S. Courthouse, the building where she was tried, convicted and sentenced.
However, in 2016, facing corruption charges and a new district radically redrawn by the Florida Supreme Court, she lost the Democratic primary to now U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee.