Katrina Brown tells court she'll help clear co-defendant Reggie Brown

Attorney on 'strange' offer in case against Jacksonville council members

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When two Jacksonville City Council members were indicted in May on federal fraud and conspiracy charges, there was speculation on which one would flip and testify against the other.  Now, one has told a judge she is willing to testify on behalf of her co-defendant.

In a court affidavit filing Monday, Katrina Brown told the court she has evidence to clear Reggie Brown's name -- a move that's puzzling a legal expert the I-TEAM contacted.

The two Browns, who are not related, are accused of using money from government loans designated to help Katrina Brown's family launch a barbecue sauce distribution business for its own benefit.

"I don't know even how to explain it, it's such a strange situation," said Gene Nichols, a defense attorney not affiliated with this case. "Typically, you see them pointing fingers at each other, not saying, 'I want to help you with what is going on.'"

This speaks to their relationship, whatever relationship it may be. But Nichols said that, by trying to help Reggie Brown, Katrina Brown could potentially incriminate herself.

"I mean, she has obviously gone out on that ledge to sign that affidavit to help him in his case and she says she has testimony to exonerate him," Nichols said.

The two are scheduled to be tried together, but last week both defendants filed motions asking to be tried separately. If Reggie Brown is tried first and Katrina Brown is subpoenaed to testify, as she's requesting, she opens herself up to cross-examination by both federal prosecutors and Reggie Brown's attorney,  whose sole purpose is to clear Reggie Brown.

Anything Katrina Brown says under oath could be used against her at her own trial, which puts her criminal defense in jeopardy.

"It appears it's something she's gone and done on her own," Nichols said. "Admitting that you want to testify in someone else's trial is a strange position to take. I don't think it's ever a good idea to try to force a federal judge's hand in any situation."

Nichols said it would force the judge's hand because, if the he doesn't grant the motion to try them separately, Katrina's Brown offer to help Reggie Brown could set up a potential appeal for one or both of them.

Neither of the lawyers for the suspended council members had any comment on her motion. 

And if the judge separates the cases, the question becomes: Who goes first?

If you try Reggie Brown first, does it set up Katrina Brown to say something damaging and use it against her?

Or do you try Katrina Brown first and try to secure a conviction, because if she was convicted, the jury would know that when considering what she had to say on Reggie Brown's behalf.

Or there could be a third option: Try them at the same time in different courtrooms.

The whole situation is complicated and messy, and it has put Judge James Klindt in a very interesting pickle.

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