ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Corrine Brown, the longtime congresswoman expected to begin serving a 5-year prison sentence at the end of this month, was an invited guest Monday at the MLK Day-N-Clay breakfast at Shiloh Church, an event where religious, civic and political leaders gather to honor Martin Luther King Jr.
Brown appeared near the end of the event, after News4Jax left after spending two hours hours at the breakfast. Her appearance came as black community members who had run for office in Clay County were acknowledged.
News4Jax returned after hearing that Brown getting a tip that Brown had appeared. We caught up with her as she was leaving the church, but she didn't answer any questions.
Organizers of the event it was important for her to be there on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
"What has happened to her kind of echoes in MLK Day and what it’s about," Shiloh Church Rev. William Randall said. "As pastors and ministers, we know that there was an injustice."
People attending the breakfast said Brown spoke briefly, then introduced an attorney who told the crowd that she was innocent of the fraud charges. She has appealed her conviction and has asked that her Jan. 29 report date to federal prison be delayed until her appeals are exhausted.
Clay County Sheriff Daryl Daniels, a Republican, was upset that Brown, a Democrat, was allowed to be associated with the event, given her status as a convicted criminal. He and other political officials who sat at the head table did not know Brown was invited.
"I am thinking it may not have been the most appropriate setting to bring someone that has some cloudiness associated with her name," Daniels said.
Randall said the Brown's invitation wasn't intended to politicize the event.
"We sat and had prayer with her," Randall said. "As I said, she is finishing up her career. Her life is about over. She’s been at it for 70 years and has done a lot of good things. We wanted to have prayer with her. We are pastors. We are not political people."