JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The federal judge who sentenced former congresswoman Corrine Brown to five years in prison for fraud and tax convictions has now released hundreds of pages of letters that he said he read and considered before deciding on a sentence.
In an order issued Monday morning, Judge Timothy Corrigan stated that such letters are not ordinarily of public interest and are not made part of the public file.
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However, following requests from various media outlets, and given the public interest in the case, the judge decided to make the letters part of the public court record and release them.
DOCUMENTS: Corrine Brown sentencing letters
Brown, 71, was sentenced earlier this month after a jury convicted her of 18 federal fraud and tax-related charges for her role in a scheme that put money raised for a bogus children's education charity into the pockets of Brown and her cohorts.
The letters received by the court came from a variety of people, including members of Congress, former state lawmakers, college presidents, personal friends of Brown and people who were helped by the congresswoman during her 24 years in Washington.
The case against Brown drew national attention, which was reflected in the letters from all over the country that Corrigan received. He said he read every one.
“I implore you to judge her by the sum of her life, and not only by the mistakes that she has made,” wrote Texas Rep. Eddie Johnson.
“She was unselfish and kind and made sure her constituents succeeded by simply really caring for them,” said Texas Rep. Sheila Lee.
Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown weighed in, along with college presidents, church pastors and veterans groups.
They said Brown cared for the underprivileged, children, the elderly, immigrants and veterans.
“I have witnessed her exert her blood, sweat and tears to fight against injustice and oppression,” wrote New York Rev. Jermaine Marshall.
Many letters pointed to Brown’s legislative achievements, such as securing funding for a Veterans Administration health clinic in Jacksonville, a veterans cemetery on the city’s Northside, and the very federal courthouse where Brown was tried and convicted.
Writers also pointed to her work to help homeowners facing foreclosure, job fairs she hosted, and legislation supporting colleges and universities.
An 8-year-old was among the youngest letter-writers, and a 99-year-old Army veteran was among the oldest.
Brown's own mother, 89-year-old Delia Covington, also wrote to Corrigan.
"Judge, please don’t send my daughter to jail. She is a good person and (is) always trying to help somebody," she wrote.
While most letters were written in support of Brown and asked for leniency, some were written in opposition of her plea for a lighter sentence.
One former teacher wrote:
“I can’t help but wonder how many hopeful and deserving students secured applications for…scholarships, took many hours to complete the application…as well as documentation… and their applications were never read.”
Voter Byron Davis hand wrote a simple note: “She is no better than a common thief who hit the lottery illegally.”
Currently, Brown and her attorney, James Smith, are waiting to learn Corrigan’s ruling on their motion for bond while her appeals are decided. Smith’s motion, filed last week, focused on the judge’s decision to remove a juror during deliberations.
That juror admitted to Corrigan that he thought Brown was innocent because a higher power told him so, but said when questioned that he thought he could follow the law and the jury instructions on his own. Corrigan decided to dismiss the juror and replace him with an alternate.
Smith argued that the issue of the juror's removal needs to be considered by the Court of Appeals, and that it's enough of a "significant question" that Brown should remain free on bond while the appeals process takes place.
"We believe that our motion meets the burden required by the relevant statute and case law and we hope that the court will grant the relief we requested," Smith said.
In a response filed this weekend, prosecutors argued that it's not a close decision for the Court of Appeals, and that the judge's initial decision was correct, so Brown should begin to serve her prison time as she appeals her conviction.
If Corrigan denies Brown's motion, she will have to report to a federal prison facility at some point on or after Jan. 8. Brown will receive a letter from the Bureau of Prisons telling her when and where to report
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