I-TEAM: Scathing report pushes 'significant' sentence for Brown

Ex-congresswoman set to be sentenced next week in federal corruption case

By Lynnsey Gardner - Investigative reporter , Eric Wallace - Senior Producer, I-TEAM
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Prosecutors filed a scathing 50-page report Thursday, pushing for a long prison sentence for former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, saying "society expects courts to punish" a corrupt politician.

Brown's behavior before, during and after her federal corruption trial is detailed in the report, obtained by the I-TEAM, which outlines the federal government's case for the sentence it will recommend against the disgraced congresswoman.

Brown, 70, was found guilty of using a fake charity, One Door for Education, to steal from needy children and donors, and also of lying on her taxes and congressional disclosure forms.

Two requests for a sentencing delay were denied, and Brown is set to be sentenced Nov. 16.

READ: Sentencing memo for Corrine Brown and co-conspirators

The federal government's sentencing report does not explicitly state what its recommendation will be but cites multiple reasons for moving Brown up the court's sliding sentencing guidelines scale to a stiffer punishment.

“The court must fashion a sentence that informs public officials that when they use their political offices to perpetrate crimes, they will receive significant punishment,” the report says.

Prosecutors said Brown never had any intention of using One Door to raise money for disadvantaged students in Jacksonville or anywhere else.

The reasons the government lays out for its sentencing recommendation include the brazen and lengthy nature of the fraud scheme and Brown's abuse of a position of trust. The memo says Brown used her role as a congresswoman to trick donors into giving money to a fake charity.

Prosecutors went so far as to say Brown disgraced the justice system by repeatedly lying about her crimes and even perjuring herself on the stand. 

Prosecutors also use Brown's words against her, citing seven different interviews with the I-TEAM, including her claims that the case was racially motivated.

The memo also points to Brown's words on the courthouse steps moments after her arraignment, in which she “stooped so low as to state that if the Jacksonville FBI had not spent resources investigating her fraudulent conduct, then the Pulse nightclub tragedy in Orlando on June 12, 2016, would not have occurred.”

Prosecutors said Brown repeatedly made false claims that the government was motivated to remove her from office.

“Brown's mantra that the prosecution was racially and politically motivated is, and always has been, a complete fabrication meant to distract the public -- and no doubt potential jurors -- from the very serious allegations against her,” prosecutors wrote.

The memo makes its case for "significant" prison time for Brown for her 18 felony convictions of conspiracy and fraud.

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“Leaders of American democracy owe a duty to the public to act within the law, uphold the highest ethical standards, and conduct themselves beyond reproach,” the report says. “Corrine Brown failed in those areas. She became corrupt. Society expects courts to punish convicted and corrupt politicians. If the legal system does not do so, our system of justice loses credibility, and the public is left with the impression that there are some citizens who are truly above the law. This cannot be the case.”

Prosecutors also acknowledge that Brown is likely to focus during next week's sentencing hearing on what she accomplished for her constituents in 24 years of service in Congress. But, they said, “her office enabled these crimes, and all the good things she'll claim she did only helped her pull it off more easily.”

Prosecutors also cite a restitution amount of $452,515.87 in the document, and in a motion filed Thursday, asked that the court make Brown forfeit $664,292.39, which is what she obtained through the fraud.

Co-conspirators cooperate

The 50-page document also addresses sentencing for Brown's co-conspirators, Carla Wiley and Ronnie Simmons, acknowledging that both provided "substantial assistance" to the government's case against Brown.

Wiley founded the unregistered One Door charity, and Simmons was Brown's chief of staff.

In separate documents filed Thursday, the federal government explains why it will recommend reduced sentences for Simmons and Wiley.

Prosecutors said Simmons' cooperation warrants a move five levels down the sentencing guidelines scale from 57-71 months in prison to 33-41 months in prison.

Prosecutors said Wiley waived indictment, pleaded guilty and then cooperated with the government, which helped prosecutors in the indictment of Brown and Summons, and then testified before the grand jury and at trial.

The probation officer put the sentencing guidelines for Wiley at a level 22, which would mean 41-51 months in prison.

Prosecutors said they will ask for a six-level reduction to level 16, which would be 21-27 months in prison.

In a memo Wednesday, Wiley’s attorneys explained why they feel her cooperation merits a sentence of no prison time at all.

Both Wiley and Simmons are scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 15, a day before Brown. 

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