JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown woke up Thursday outside of a prison for the first time in more than two years. Her early release from a five-year conviction to home confinement was due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic but the News4Jax I-TEAM found she could be stuck at home for years to come and still owes more than $500,000 in restitution.
Brown was sentenced to five years back in 2017 after she was convicted of dozens of federal charges of conspiracy, wire, tax and mail fraud. She started her prison sentence in 2018.
The former outspoken congresswoman has remained silent since her release from a federal prison in Central Florida early Wednesday afternoon. In fact, the public doesn’t even know which house in Jacksonville she’s at to start serving her home confinement. But running the math, News4Jax found she’s not only financially underwater out of prison, but she could also be confined at home then under probation for the next five-plus years.
“We used to go to school together at Northwestern,” said Larry, a Northside resident who supports Brown’s release. “She was a good congresswoman I know. Whatever needs you had, she came for you to serve you.”
He was pleased to hear the 73-year-old was released from prison because of coronavirus and her pre-existing health conditions.
“Really I think the lady should’ve never been there for the public service that she did for the community and for the state,” he said.
Others in the community disagree and have emailed and commented to the I-TEAM that her release was a miscarriage of justice. They pointed out that many other inmates have not been afforded the same privilege.
News4Jax visited her home along the Trout River Wednesday and Thursday but didn’t notice any activity inside or out. Her daughter’s house, miles away, was also quiet. Calls to Brown’s cell phone and family member’s phones were not answered or returned.
Brown walked out of the Coleman correctional facility Wednesday afternoon after the Bureau of Prisons granted her what’s called “compassionate release.”
In a motion filed two weeks prior, her attorney, William Kent asked for home detention, listing risk factors including hypertension, diabetes, a heart murmur and sleep apnea.
“Since being incarcerated, her health has declined considerably,” Kent wrote. “After self-surrendering to FCC Coleman Camp on January 29, 2018, her health has deteriorated to an alarming degree.“
He later withdrew that motion, saying he would file it again, if necessary. Kent declined to comment Thursday.
New guidelines from the Department of Justice this week allowed prison officials to grant compassionate release, urging them to move more inmates home in the time of this pandemic.
The I-TEAM found the Bureau of Prisons increased home confinements by 40% in March alone.
“She is old, she’s got health problems,” said the former federal prosecutor and private defense attorney Curtis Falgatter, who not involved with this case.
Falgatter said with COVID-19 concerns and outbreaks in some prisons, Attorney General William Barr urged wardens to let vulnerable inmates out. He believes the disgraced lawmaker is fortunate.
“She’s basically on home detention which is a form of incarceration, but you get to be in your home, watch TV, you can go out for emergencies,” Falgatter said. “Typically they let you go out and get groceries and stuff like that. But otherwise, you are confined in your home.”
The exact terms of her release haven’t been made public since she was one of thousands of federal prisoners released this week because of COVID-19. At her sentencing, Brown was ordered to pay back $250 a month every month after her release. She owes more than $500,000 in restitution and back taxes.
She also had three years of probation following that five-year sentence, meaning she’s not a free woman for quite some time to come. She will likely be required to wear a GPS monitor.
News4Jax reached out to federal prosecutors with the Attorney’s Office for comment. They had not commented at the time of publishing.