Big names set to testify at Corrine Brown's trial

Former congresswoman's federal trial to begin April 26

By Jim Piggott - Reporter , Eric Wallace - Senior Producer, I-TEAM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's Office filed a notice Friday afternoon with the names of 45 potential witness in the upcoming trial of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown. Later in the evening, Brown's defense team filed its list, which contains 33 names.

Brown faces 22 federal charges, including mail and wire fraud when the trial begins April 26.

The prosecutors' witness list includes Carla Wiley, the head of the unregistered Virginia charity, One Door for Education, that Brown raised funds for and from which she is accused of using $800,000 of charitable funds for her own purposes.

Also on the government's list are Jacksonville City Councilman Reginald Gaffney; former Jacksonville sheriff and current Edward Waters College President Nat Glover; Ju'Coby Pittman, CEO of Clara White Mission; Jack Hanania, who owns a number of car dealerships; prominent local attorney and Democratic fundraiser Steve Pajcic; Susie Wiles, a former chief of staff for two Jacksonville mayors who managed Rick Scott's first gubernatorial campaign and was co-manager of Donald Trump's Florida campaign; Brown's former chief-of-staff, Ronnie Simmons; and Brown's daughter, Shantrel Brown.

Wiley, of One Door for Education, pleaded guilty last year and Simmons accepted a plea deal earlier this year. Sentencing for both was postponed until after they testify in Brown's trial.

"I can’t say that there were any names that came as a surprise," said James Smith, Brown's attorney.

Wiles, who has been a key player in local, state and national Republican campaigns, told News4Jax she was surprised to see her name on the prosecution witness list.

READ: U.S. Attorney lists prosecution witnesses for Brown trial

Brown's potential witness list also includes Simmons and Pittman, along with members of Congress from Mississippi, Texas and Ohio; former Jacksonville mayor and current University of North Florida President John Delaney, the mayor of Sanford, Florida; Martin Luther King III and Jesse Jackson.

Smith said his witnesses can be divided into three categories: a group that will speak of Brown's character; a group that will support her claim of innocence and a group of people who will testify against the government facts in the case.

Delaney, who is a Republican, assumes he is being called as a character witness for Brown, who is a Democrat.

"I consider her a friend. She did a great job for Jacksonville when she was in Congress," Delaney said. "I disagree on her national votes politically, but she's always been wonderful to me."

READ: Corrine Brown's defense witness list

Brown told News4Jax last month that she would testify, defending herself in court, but her name is not on the witness list.

"I’m ready. I want this to be behind me. (This) chapter in my life, this needs to be over," Brown told the I-TEAM's Lynnsey Gardner.

Attorney Gene Nichols, who is not involved in this case, believes that some of those on the government's witness list are big donors who will be asked about their donations to Brown's causes.

"I think what we see from the federal government's list are the people who would know and have knowledge about donations made to the charity, why they were giving and for what reason they were giving," Nichols said. "I think that's kind of the difference we see ... the people who know about the money and what was given versus potential people who would say good things about Congresswoman Brown."

Not everyone on the list is likely to be called during the trial, but must be available to testify.

Jury selection, which is expected to last two days, is set for April 24. Thirty-nine potential jurors will be brought in for the selection process, which will result in a jury of 12 members and two alternates.

At a hearing last week, lawyers estimated there would be 11 days of testimony. 

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