JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A federal judge has ruled that the convictions of former Jacksonville city council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown will stand, denying their requests for an acquittal or a new trial.
The Browns, who are not related, were convicted last month on charges including conspiracy, fraud, and money laundering. The charges stemmed from a federally-backed loan and a city grant utilized by a barbecue sauce business owned by Katrina Brown’s family. A jury found that Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown both used some of the money for personal use. Katrina Brown was convicted on all 37 counts she faced, and Reggie Brown was convicted on 33 of the 34 counts against him.
On Oct. 10, Reggie Brown’s attorney, Thomas Bell, filed a motion arguing the court erred in not granting his motion for judgment of acquittal made at the close of the government’s case, saying there was not sufficient evidence for the jury to find Brown guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The motion also argued that the court erred in restricting the cross-examination of witnesses from BizCapital, the Small Business Administration-backed lender that loaned the money to the sauce business.
A week later, Katrina Brown, acting as her own attorney, filed similar motions, claiming her constitutional rights were violated by her co-defendant’s attorney. She argued Bell had told the jury in opening statements and closing arguments that she had admitted to Reggie Brown that she committed the crimes for which she was under investigation.
In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard rejected the defendants’ arguments in asking for an acquittal or new trial. The judge found the evidence presented at trial was sufficient enough for the jury to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The court also rejected the Browns’ arguments related to the cross-examination of witnesses from BizCapital. The judge also stated that Reggie Brown’s attorney’s comments during opening statements were not testimony, so Katrina Brown’s argument that her rights were violated did not entitle her to a new trial or an acquittal.
If the Browns choose to pursue further appeals of their convictions, that would be done through the 11th Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals, which is based in Atlanta.
Currently, the former council members are scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 27.