JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Former Jacksonville City Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown -- who were convicted of federal charges of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering more than a year ago -- were in court Tuesday for a long-delayed sentencing hearing.
Katrina Brown was found guilty last year of 37 charges and Reggie Brown was convicted of 33 charges related to a federally-backed loan and a city grant obtained by a barbecue sauce business owned by Katrina Brown’s family.
On Tuesday morning, Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, who are not related, arrived separately for the first day of sentencing. Both had on masks and briefly talked with reporters before walking in.
“Thank you very much for the support, and continue to pray for me," Katrina Brown, who arrived first, said to her supporters.
Reggie Brown, who arrived a little while later, told his supporters: “I appreciate all the prayers that is coming from the community, and I think it’s going to be good.”
In the courtroom, Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown looked on as the defense team tried for a final time to convince the judge of a merciful sentence.
“The thing that I have been saying from the onset is that I’m innocent. We never had any conversation about doing anything wrong unethical or illegal,” Reggie Brown said.
Katrina Brown’s father took the stand, saying he has been a businessman for years of Jerome Brown BBQ and invested in the sauce manufacturing business Katrina Brown was managing. He added he would only invest in a legitimate business.
Jerome Brown made a plea to the judge: “I would like her to consider Trina (Katrina) has never been in trouble doing nothing, never got a speeding ticket. She has been a great daughter.”
Jerome Brown asked for mercy for his child, explaining that after a recent stroke, he and his wife need their daughter at home to help them day to day. As her father spoke, Katrina Brown was overcome with emotion.
During recess, Katrina Brown did not speak.
Reggie Brown said he is innocent and there was never a malicious thought while doing business.
“I put too much time in -- whether it’s military or working for others -- to come to this point in life,” Reggie Brown said.
Reggie Brown told News4Jax this has been a low point in his life, but he is innocent.
“If it wasn’t for family, friends, constituents, the prayers and support, I would really feel that this has not been a great experience. This has been the worst two years I’ve experienced in life,” he said.
The defense also called on Glenn Martin, a loan operations manager who worked for the company that provided the loan Katrina Brown business defaulted on, and Josh Shilts, an accountant hired by the defense to analyze the financial documents of the fallen business.
The United States and the defense are still debating how much of a loss the actions of Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown amounted to. In court, it was estimated that Katrina Brown contributed to approximately $544,000 in losses, and Reggie Brown approximately $45,000.
The state said that the fraud started small and it grew through RB Packaging and A Plus Training and the community never benefitted from the thousands of dollars that flowed between the businesses.
Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown were granted several delays in sentencing. Their most recent motion to delay in the sentencing in early October that again cited the coronavirus pandemic was denied.
Sentencing was originally set for Jan. 27, but the hearing was postponed after Katrina Brown got a new attorney. The hearing was then moved to March, but it was delayed once more in May in response to defense motions. This current sentencing date was challenged earlier this month, citing the coronavirus pandemic, but the judge denied the request and the sentencing began at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Court will begin at 11 a.m. Wednesday. It is expected they will be sentenced by the end of the day.