JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A federal appeals judge has said the attorney for former Rep. Corrine Brown can submit a brief arguing why a Supreme Court ruling from June 2017 applies to Brown's case, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars she has been ordered to pay back following her conviction in the One Door for Education scheme.
Brown, 71, was convicted of 18 federal crimes in May 2017, including conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion. The following December, she and her co-conspirators, Ronnie Simmons and Carla Wiley, were each given prison sentences, and ordered to collectively forfeit $654,292.39. Each defendant was potentially responsible for forfeiting the full amount. Additionally, Brown and Simmons were ordered to forfeit another $10,000, collectively.
Tuesday, a judge from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit granted attorney William Kent's previous request to file a brief of up to 10 pages, to explain how the Supreme Court's ruling in Honeycutt vs. United States applies to Brown's case. In the 8-0 ruling in Honeycutt, the nation's highest court ruled that in conspiracy cases, defendants could not be held jointly and severally liable in a forfeiture order. That means a court must determine how much each defendant is financially responsible for based on their role in the conspiracy.
In his initial request filed on July 3, Kent argued that the Honeycutt ruling wasn't considered at the time of Brown's sentencing, even though it should have been, having come out nearly seven months prior. In the filing, he wrote that the court's error affects Brown's rights and "would seriously affect the fairness, integrity or public reputation of judicial proceedings if not corrected."
Prosecutors did not oppose Kent's request to make this argument to the appeals court.
The judge's order gave Kent 30 days to file his brief. Once prosecutors receive a copy of Kent's brief, they have 30 days to file their brief on the matter. Brown's attorney will then have another 14 days to file his reply.
The appeal of the forfeiture ruling comes as Brown is asking the court to throw out her conviction, based on the decision to dismiss a juror during Brown's federal trial who said he believed the Holy Spirit had spoken to him during prayer, saying Brown was not guilty.
In January, Brown began serving a five-year sentence at a minimum-security prison camp in Central Florida.