JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As the attorney for former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown tries to get her a new trial based on jury drama, Brown sat down at WJXT with anchor Tom Wills on Tuesday to talk about the latest developments and what they could mean for her future.
Brown was convicted Thursday on 18 counts in a federal corruption trial related to a scheme that used sham education charity One Door for Education to finance personal expenses and events.
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Brown has always maintained her innocence and told News4Jax that she and her attorney believe they have grounds for a new trial based on revelations related to the dismissal of one juror and the seating of an alternate days into deliberations. Those revelations came from Juror No. 3, who spoke with I-TEAM reporter Lynnsey Gardner about feeling intimidated in the jury room because she said she and Juror No. 13, who was eventually dismissed from the case, were the lone hold outs to finding Brown guilty.
Wills also spoke with defense attorney James Smith, who told him that based on what Juror 3 told News4Jax, he plans to ask Judge Timothy Corrigan to allow him to question that juror himself.
Smith acknowledged that overturning a verdict based on what went on inside a jury room is very rare. In those cases where a new trial is granted, the judge usually has to be shown proof that outside influences contaminated the jury deliberations.
Brown declined to answer any questions about specifics in the case, on the advice of her attorney, but in the wide-ranging conversation with Wills she discussed her legacy of service in Congress and why she still believes the charges against her were a witch-hunt.
Wills: How are you?
Brown: I’m OK. I'm doing OK, you know, really.
What are you doing with your days since this verdict?
Just as busy as before the verdict. (I'm) meeting with my attorneys and talking to constituents. The community has been so loving and supportive and prayerful. I mean, you saw it just then. Everywhere I go. So I'm fine.
What are you doing for money?
Well, I’ve had to sell my beach house and use my retirement. People are beginning to come around and give me resources. But the point is, to me, when you’re born you get a birth certificate and when you die you going to get a death certificate and that dash in between is what you have done to make this a better world and I feel very strongly that I don't want on MY tombstone: FELON. I have devoted 34 years of my life to service and to have it twisted the way it has been twisted is very upsetting to me.
Twelve jurors said unanimously that you are a felon. Are they wrong?
Well, I think there has been some tampering with the jury. When we looked at the one person that was thrown off, he was a retired veteran, disabled. I have real concerns with how it happened and, of course, I am going to let my attorney handle that.
I understand… if this is what goes on in the jury room, it's unbelievable. Some of the things that's come out -- the bullying, the intimidations. I saw for myself that one of the persons was crying. I don't know why they were crying, but to me it should be looked into. And from what I have been told, if (the judge knew) some of the things that have been sent to me, I know the judge would not have let that go on.
The judge told you yesterday that you could talk to reporters but he would advise you against doing that and yet you're sitting here talking with a reporter. Can you explain that?
Well. I’ve talked for all my life, so that’s just who I am. I come from a different system. He is the judiciary branch, and I am the legislative branch. So the legislative branch is used to talking to the media.
Are you the slightest bit worried that what you say in this interview could prompt the judge to give you a stiffer sentence that he might not otherwise have given?
No. I find him fair, you know. I guess it is very difficult in this situation to look at and weigh all of the ins and outs. I feel violated. I feel that way.
You and I go back a long time. You've been doing what you've been doing a long time. I've been doing what I've been doing a long time. Have you asked yourself, could you be in denial that maybe you did commit a crime?
No. I am not.
Have you asked yourself that question?
Yes, I have, and I have looked at the evidence and, in my opinion, we have, as my attorney said, we have a judiciary system that, in my opinion, make it up as they go. I had the functions, you know, when they talked about the computer drive. I gave out 1,000 computers in this community, 1,000 in my district, 1,000 not 36 -- 1,000.
Was that with money that was raised from One Door for Education or where did that money come from?
Oh, it came from monies that some of it was raised from One Door, but other monies, I mean, companies -- it was a partnership between -- let's say one of the partnerships was with Job Corps. The companies donated the computers, Job Corps worked on refurbishing them. We had different partners, depending on the community. When I did it in Orlando and we got the computers done, the school system worked and put the information on for the kids. These are things that happened. It's just like, no discussion, 1,000 computers. Who does that?
Every year I had a job fair for 23 years. Over 10,000 people came to the job fairs. It was just like I worked all of the time. I traveled all over the country with foreclosures. Over 1 million people were losing their homes. I worked all over the country, so I'm a workaholic. Maybe I should have paid more attention to what was going on in my office. But you have good people, and you think your people are doing what they are supposed to do.
I mean, when I had my job fairs, I would do the template and try to encourage other members to do that for their constituents. So I'm proud of the work that I have done. When you say, 'Well, what have you done?' I'm not talking about the courthouses and the bridges. I was able to get the Montford Point Marine the gold medal. They had been trying to do it for 50 years. I think the nicest compliment that was ever said to me was by the head commander. He said, 'Corrine, you should have been a Marine.'
I know the work that I have done. Basically, I have found out more about the criminal justice system than I wanted to know. It's for a reason. I am going through this for a reason. People are coming to me telling me what is wrong with the system, and I am finding out what's wrong. It's just like when you have your head in the lion’s mouth, you ease it out. I understand my head is in the lion’s mouth right now, but people are coming to my support.
While all of that was going on, the jury concluded that you cheated on your taxes. Did you cheat on your taxes?
Absolutely not. When you look at what happened with my taxes -- I don't want to get into the details of it, but clearly, if they had followed the instructions, it would have been not guilty. So I don't know whether the instructions weren’t clear or what. But that’s just one aspect of all of these charges -- 22 charges, 350 years. There is something wrong with the system.
Is there anything else you want to say?
The main point is that I had some real concerns that a veteran got thrown off (the jury), a disabled veteran. That concerns me. Here is someone that served the country and couldn't serve on the jury?
Has your lawyer told you that that looks to him like sufficient grounds for a new trial?
That and other things.
Obviously, you're going to ask for a new trial in the belief that you're going to get a new trial.
Absolutely. I am not saying that the person got thrown off because that person was a disabled veteran. But I am saying that that person that got thrown off WAS a disabled veteran, and he served this country, and I thought he should have had the opportunity to serve. I stand by that. … Why would he get thrown off the jury? I have some real problems with the information I've gotten, but I have to button up (motions zipping her lips).
From the information -- and I haven’t gotten verification -- but if the information is correct, I would have a serious concern about what happened in that jury room. Regardless of how you feel, I need to feel and my constituents need to feel and the people in Washington need to feel that it was a fair process. You've got to have a fair process, and I am not comfortable with the information I have had thus far.
If you find out the process was fair? Then what?
I still understand that based on some of the information that, for example, you asked me about the taxes, well facts and laws have to play into it. If this is the statute and this is the facts, then how do you come up with this conclusion? That is for an attorney to be able to articulate what happened there. Because if this is the law, and these are the facts, then how did you come up with THAT conclusion?
There was a show on television years ago, badge 714, he said, 'The facts, ma'am. Just the facts.' So I'm saying based on the facts as I know them, then how do you come up with this conclusion.
Of course, the justice department had a much different set of facts as they knew them.
Yes. They kept saying -- and I have a real problem with that -- they kept saying, the charity, which is not my charity -- they tried to act like it was my charity, (like) I started it -- but the charity only gave one scholarship or $1,200. Then they know that's a lie, just straight out fake prosecution. They know that these kids went to China, so why are you not saying anything about that. The law says that you want to give X amount of scholarships, but you had so many kids went to China on a scholarship. How come that's never discussed. They pick and choose what they want to talk about. … I still feel that it was a witch-hunt, and I stand by that.
What's your reaction to what this juror has told Lynnsey Gardner?
I am very upset, and I really think that if the judge had hear this information during the trial, he would have brought the jury in and would have changed maybe some of the dynamics. It is very concerning to me that they would leave the other jurors to think that that person, juror No. 13, was being sent to jail and that it could happen to you if you don't vote right. That is a very serious indictment on the criminal justice system, and that is just unbelievable that that could happen. The bullying, the harassment, that may be some dynamic, but to imply that you could go to jail if you don't vote a certain way is unheard of.
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