JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With less than a month until his scheduled federal trial, former City Council member Reggie Brown is now waiting for a judge to rule on his request to have the charges dismissed, based on delays that his attorneys argue violate his right to a speedy trial.
Reggie Brown, along with former City Council member Katrina Brown, was named in a 38-count federal indictment last May that included charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud. The fraud allegations involve money loaned to Katrina Brown’s family’s barbecue sauce business, KJB Specialties. Reggie Brown and Katrina Brown are not related.
In a motion filed Tuesday, attorney Thomas Bell argued that the indictment should be dismissed because the case has not been tried within the 70-day window required by law.
COURT DOCUMENT: Reggie Brown’s motion to dismiss charges
The motion lays out a timeline of the court proceedings: after the indictment was returned in May 2018, the trial was initially set for September 2018. Last August, the trial was delayed to February 2019.
In January, after a new defense team was appointed for Katrina Brown, the trial was delayed to August 2019. During the hearing that led to that delay, Reggie Brown objected to the additional delay, eager for the opportunity to clear his name. However, the court found that the “ends of justice” were served by granting the delay.
Both defendants had also asked for separate trials, requests that were denied by the judge in April.
According to the motion, Reggie Brown does not dispute that the time between the arraignment in June 2018 and the original February 2019 trial date does not count against the 70-day limit. But he and his attorney contend that the court made a mistake in finding that the interest of justice in a joint trial outweighed his right to a speedy trial.
Thursday afternoon, prosecutors filed their response to the motion, opposing the request. They argue that only 22 of the 70 allowed days have actually passed, because the clock has been stopped at various times over the past year. Prosecutors argued the court did not make a mistake in granting the latest delay after Katrina Brown got new attorneys, stating that giving new attorneys additional time to prepare is a "sound use" of the discretion given to district courts in these situations.
The government's filing also states that the court did not make a mistake when deciding against separate trials for Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, and includes the reasoning that a speedy trial does not count as grounds for separate trials.
Defense preparing for jury selection process
Within the last week, attorneys for both Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown have been filing court documents to prepare for the jury selection process. Reggie Brown’s attorney filed a 14-page document with nearly 90 proposed questions for the voir dire jury selection process. The attorney had previously submitted questions as part of a proposed questionnaire to be mailed to prospective jurors, but the judge declined to send a questionnaire before the jury selection process. Wednesday, prosecutors filed a document outlining their objections to some of the questions. They stated that the majority of Reggie Brown’s proposed questions seek information similar to what the government aims to learn, based on proposed questions they filed earlier this month. But prosecutors said some of the questions were related to information that was not relevant to the process, such as racial or ethnic background, attitudes toward the justice system or feelings about media coverage of the case.
Separately, Katrina Brown’s attorney has filed a motion asking for the names of potential jurors to be released in advance of the jury selection process for the purpose of conducting background checks. Prosecutors have since filed a memorandum stating their opposition to this request, writing that local court rules do not authorize the early release of names of potential jurors for any reason, including running “background checks.”
A status conference in the case has been set for July 22. Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Aug. 14 and last three days, with the trial starting the following week.