What must the government prove to convict Corrine Brown?
Former prosecutor said evidence contains 'no smoking gun'
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A legal expert who has reviewed hundreds of pages of motions in the case against Corrine Brown and a list of the exhibits federal prosecutors plan to use in her trial said the evidence is circumstantial.
Will that be enough to convict the longtime congresswoman?
"That's the $64,000 question," said Curtis Fallgatter, who spent years as a federal prosecutor and is now in private practice. "The judge will tell the jury direct evidence and circumstantial evidence have equal weight, but I don't think juries believe that."
Most of the 22 conspiracy, fraud and tax charges against Brown result from her connection to an unlicensed Virginia charity called One Door for Education. Its former president, Carla Wiley; and Wiley's boyfriend, Brown's former chief of staff Ronnie Simmons; have already pleaded guilty and are expected to testify at Brown's trial.
Brown admitted lending her name, image and office seal to raising funds for One Door, but said she wasn't involved directly in the charity. She also claims the charity did more than provide $1,200 in scholarships to two students, as has been reported.
Before Brown’s indictment, Wiley agreed to plead guilty and the government released 33 pages explaining how the fraud was orchestrated.
Ronnie Simmons’ plea deal, reached earlier this year, included 48 pages of documents.
The government said it has surveillance videos from banks showing Simmons withdrawing money from One Door's account and putting $70,000 directly into Brown's bank accounts, but there appears to be no evidence that any deposits were made by Brown herself.
The government will show all of this to the jury to make its case that Brown conspired in and committed fraud.
Fallgatter says one thing is clearly missing: a direct link proving Brown knew what was going on.
Asked if there's a smoking gun, Fallgetter said, "I haven't seen one."
Brown's defense team told the I-TEAM it will argue there is no text or email linking her to knowledge of the fraud.
While Falgatter is not involved in Brown's case directly, he does represent City Councilman Reggie Gaffney, a witness for the defense. He was called because Brown’s accused of lying on her tax returns about charitable contributions she made, some of which she made to Gaffney's nonprofit organization. Gaffney said all her contributions were legitimate.
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