Corrine Brown's co-defendant withdraws motion to be tried separately

U.S. Attorney files motion to block character evidence

Corrine Brown, Ronnie Simmons outside Jacksonville Federal Courthouse
Corrine Brown, Ronnie Simmons outside Jacksonville Federal Courthouse

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An attorney for outgoing U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown’s former chief of staff has withdrawn a motion filed last week asking for separate trials on federal fraud and corruption charges.

Brown, who was defeated for re-election in Florida's 5th Congressional District in the Democratic primary, and 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.

Ronnie Simmons' attorney, Anthony Suarez, filed a "motion for severance" Friday, saying that while Simmons is facing 18 similar charges, the two should not be tried together because Brown is a "high-profile political figure," and there is a risk of "prejudicial spillover to Mr. Simmons."

On Monday, Suarez filed a one-page motion to withdraw Friday's motion that provided no explanation for the reversal.

COURT DOCUMENTS: Simmons' motion to sever | Motion to withdraw

Months ago, Brown's attorney, James Smith, filed a notice to the court indicating he may want to separate her case from Simmons' case.

Also Monday, the federal prosecutors in the case filed a motion to exclude "inadmissible character evidence," by both defendants.

"The United States anticipates that Brown and Simmons will seek to introduce evidence addressing their character and purported good works, including while Brown was a member of the United States House of Representatives and Simmons was Brown’s chief of staff," the filing said. Brown, in particular, has stated publicly and through her counsel in Court that she intends to present all of the 'good' she has done over the years as a member of Congress. Such evidence is not permissible, and is, in fact, irrelevant to the jury’s determination of guilt on the charged offenses in the indictment."

Both Brown and Simmons have pleaded not guilty. Their trial is currently set for late April. Brown and Simmons could face sentences of more than 300 years in prison each if convicted on all charges.

About the Authors: