Will Corrine Brown ask for separate trial from chief of staff?

Congresswoman's legal team could file motions to separate, dismiss case

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown’s defense team continues to make legal moves to clear her name.

Her attorney, James Smith, filed a notice Wednesday with federal court listing motions he may file moving forward, including one to separate Brown's case from her chief of staff's case.

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.
Smith plans to potentially ask the court to “sever the defendants,” meaning Brown and Simmons would be tried separately. One legal expert said that could be setting up Brown's defense in the case.
Smith will also ask the court to dismiss the case all together. The legal basis for that has not been filed, so the grounds Smith will argue for dismissal are unclear.

Smith also will potentially ask the court to admit character evidence on Brown’s behalf. That means he will want witnesses to testify to Brown’s character, and not directly to the case.

Both Brown and Simmons pleaded not guilty.

The government also filed a notice listing potential motions. Prosecutors want to stop the character evidence, which they feel is “inadmissible.”

They also want to “preclude arguments that the government sought indictment due to an improper motivation," which may speak to Brown’s public claim media that the corruption case and her redistricting battle were a “witch hunt” to take her out of office.

Federal prosecutors also want to keep out any pleas by the defense to the jury for “mercy” on Brown’s behalf. That includes keeping out any argument of “jury nullification," which is when a jury returns a verdict of “not guilty” despite believing the defendant is guilty of the violation charged in the indictment. In these cases, the jury nullifies the law if they believed it was immoral or improperly applied.

The trial is likely to be pushed back until February. Brown and Simmons could face more than 300 years in prison each if convicted on all charges.

About the Author:

Lynnsey Gardner is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning investigative reporter and fill-in anchor for The Local Station.