JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown faces a pending court appearance to address her revolving door of legal representation in the federal corruption case against her, a former federal prosecutor who has been following the case said Brown clearly wants to avoid a plea deal.
A day after a third set of attorneys filed a motion to withdraw from Brown's defense, former prosecutor Curtis Fallgatter, who is now a criminal defense attorney, said it's pretty clear Brown wants to find attorneys who won't pressure her to take a plea deal if prosecutors were to offer one.
"I don't care if they offered her a day, I don't think she'd ever plead. And you have clients who absolutely will go to their grave believing in their innocence, and I think she will,” Fallgatter said.
Brown, who was indicted in July for tax and wire fraud and other federal charges, took to her blog Friday to assert her innocence.
“An indictment is an accusation. It is NOT a conviction,” she wrote, addressing reporters who have been covering her case. “Maybe you were goofing off in your middle-school civics class, but in the United States of America accused people are innocent unless proven otherwise.”
Brown, D-Florida, and her chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, are accused of using an unregistered charity to raise $800,000 that prosecutors said they used as a personal "slush fund."
Among the 22 federal charges against Brown are counts of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and violation of tax laws.
Fallgatter said Brown's passion when she speaks of her innocence will help her, if she testifies in her own defense.
"I don't think you could not put her on the stand,” Fallgatter said.
He said she comes across as very believable when she says she's innocent, and that could make a major difference with a jury.
Attorneys ask to withdraw
Brown's blog post came a day after a pair of prominent Orlando attorneys -- Mark NeJame and David Haas -- filed a motion to withdraw from the case, citing “irreconcilable differences” and “an atmosphere of hostility and distrust.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney A. Tysen Duva filed a response Thursday to the NeJame Law Firm's motion to withdraw, asking the court to require Brown to appear and address the issue of her lack of legal representation.
Judge James Klindt agreed and ordered Brown and at least one of her attorneys to appear in court at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Fallgatter said it's likely Klindt will allow the attorneys to withdraw from the case at the hearing.
NeJame and Haas were the third set of attorneys Brown has had since she was indicted on July 8.
Prominent local civil rights attorneys Betsy White and Bill Sheppard represented her when the indictment was unsealed, and attorney Greg Kehoe of Miami-based international law firm Greenberg Traurig appeared on her behalf at a hearing.
Brown admits to cash issue
As she struggles to find the right lawyers to represent her, Brown has admitted she is dealing with a cash issue.
Brown's financial disclosure forms show she has as little as $2,000 to $30,000 in the bank and three outstanding mortgages worth up to $1 million.
“I've done everything I need to do in the campaign and money's coming in,” Brown said after a debate at Jacksonville University on Thursday. “My colleagues have given money, and we've got to have a website now up and people are beginning to give."
Fallgatter said legal fees will likely cost Brown hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But Brown made it clear that she has no intention of using a public defender.
"I'm putting together a legal team. It's not just one lawyer,” Brown said after the debate. “So I have a team, and I have a group, and part of that team is already together."
Brown: Reporters 'like lynch mob'
In the blog post on Friday, Brown chastised news reporters, saying they are coming “at me like a lynch mob demanding that I prove my innocence in a 20-second sound bite.”
Brown said voters will judge her by her record and accomplishments.
“When I’m on the campaign trail, voters greet me enthusiastically. Voters never ask about the court case. They want to discuss jobs, health care, veterans’ issues, Social Security, transportation, homeland security, the environment and other important issues,” Brown wrote. “They know and appreciate what I’ve done to make this state and country better.”
Fallgatter said he doesn't believe Brown's case will go to trial before next year.