JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A federal judge has agreed to a second delay for the sentencing of former Jacksonville City Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, after Reggie Brown got a new attorney.
The sentencing is now set for May 19.
The Browns, who are not related, were scheduled to be sentenced on March 30, following their convictions in October. The charges, which include conspiracy, fraud and money laundering, 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. Their sentencing was originally set for January 27, but it was pushed back in December, after Katrina Brown got a new attorney to represent her at sentencing.
During a hearing Thursday afternoon, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Klindt heard arguments on two motions filed last week. In one motion, Thomas Bell, Reggie Brown’s attorney, asked to withdraw from the case and be replaced by his new attorney, M. Alan Ceballos. Bell had been appointed to represent Reggie Brown, who was not able to afford his own attorney.
In December, Reggie Brown had asked the court to appoint a new attorney, but that request was denied. In court Thursday, Ceballos explained that one of Reggie Brown’s supporters in the community recently came forward with money to pay for new legal representation, and that otherwise, Reggie Brown remains unable to afford his own attorney. The judge granted the motion for a change of counsel.
In a separate motion last week, Ceballos asked the court to delay the sentencing nearly two months, arguing he needed more time to prepare, including time to respond to a draft version of a pre-sentencing investigation report compiled by the court. Attorney Curtis Fallgatter, who is representing Katrina Brown for sentencing, later joined in the request for a delay. In court, Fallgatter argued both defendants need additional time to discuss commonalities in their defenses leading up to sentencing, as well as time for analysis of financial details of the case.
Prosecutors opposed the request for a delay, arguing Reggie Brown appeared to have delayed in getting a new attorney so that an argument could be made to delay the sentencing. Prosecutors also pointed to the fact that if the request was granted, roughly eight months would pass between their conviction and their sentencing.
In deciding to grant the request for the sentencing delay, the judge acknowledged the arguments made by prosecutors, but said this case has been different from most in terms of the defendants’ representation: both initially had private attorneys, then asked the court to appoint their counsel. Katrina Brown chose to represent herself at trial, then hired an attorney for sentencing, followed by Reggie Brown’s latest hiring of an attorney.
In addition to delaying the sentencing until May 19, the judge gave defense attorneys additional time to respond to a draft version of the pre-sentencing report, setting a deadline of April 20 for them to file objections. The pre-sentence report is compiled based on an interview of the defendant and their background, and contains a calculation of the applicable sentencing guidelines, as well as any factors that could indicate a sentence outside that range.