Corrine Brown concert fundraiser postponed

Former Congresswoman says flooding near venue prompted schedule change

By Lynnsey Gardner - Investigative reporter, Staff

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A weekend concert intended to raise money for former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown on the eve of her next court hearing has been postponed because of weather.

The concert, originally scheduled for Sunday at Bethel Baptist Church, has been pushed back to Sept. 3, according to a notice posted on social media. Gospel recording artist Shirley Caesar was set to headline it.

"We regret to inform fans that Praise With a Purpose concert...has been canceled due to the inclement weather," the notice said. "We had to make the decision to cancel the concert for the safety of the fans and artist."

Brown told News4Jax on Friday that the postponement was a result of flooding from recent downpours in the neighborhoods around the church.

“There's flooding going on near the church and downtown and in the neighborhood, so I just thought it would be best to reschedule it at a better time,” Brown said. “It's been raining every single day in the community, and the community is flooding and I just didn't want any problems with people being able to get to the church.”

Heavy localized flooding in downtown was reported this week around Confederate Park, which is a half-mile from Bethel Baptist, but The Weather Authority's Mark Collins said the weather will be drying out this weekend with only the typical scattered storms.

“Downtown should be very functional (by Sunday),” Collins said. “We will have some sunshine. Any puddles would have evaporated.”

Legal expert Curtis Fallgatter, who was a federal prosecutor for 17 years, said it's not likely the concert would have caused issues for Brown legally, because the judge should understand it's an expensive case, and she needs to fund her defense.

“It's an important event for her, because she sold her houses, gave up her retirement account, so clearly she needs some money to pay for her criminal defense, so I would have to think there is a fairly good reason to cancel the concert,” Fallgatter said.

Tickets for the concert cost between $25 to $40. Brown could not say how many tickets had been sold for the concert.

Brown was convicted in May of 18 federal mail, wire and tax fraud charges connected to a phony charity, One Door for Education, that was run by associates and provided little charitable value.

Bethel Baptist Church is one of the nonprofit organizations to which Brown's tax returns claimed tax-deductible donations. Jurors found those returns were fraudulent.

Bishop Rudolph McKissick Jr., lead pastor at Bethel Baptist, said the church is only renting the venue to Friends of Corrine Brown for the concert and the church will not benefit in any way.

"She attends this church faithfully every Sunday and the event is happening here because the venue was rented, and it just makes sense," McKissick previously told News4Jax. "If I turned my back on every member who have been charged or rumored, I wouldn't have a church. It would be empty and I wouldn't have a church, inclusive of me. So you can't turn your back on them."

Oral arguments on defense motions for a judgment for acquittal and request for a retrial are scheduled for Monday at the federal courthouse in Jacksonville. Brown said she'll let her attorney do all the talking, but she has asked the community to come out to support her, and said the Rev. Jesse Jackson will be attending the hearing with her.

“I still want the community to come out and continue to pray and be with me,” Brown said.

Fallgatter said Brown has a good chance at a retrial, partly because of the dismissal of a juror who believed Brown was innocent and reports from another juror who told the I-TEAM that she felt intimidated into voting to convict Brown.

“I think it's a very solid motion and incredibly unique,” Fallgatter said. “I've been doing this a long time, and I've never seen something like that happen with a jury. The judge hasn't either, I'm sure, so it's very solid ground.”

Judge Timothy Corrigan has not set Brown's sentencing date yet, in part to let the issues play out surrounding the dismissal of that juror.

Experts said Brown faces five to seven years in federal prison, and that not taking responsibility for her crimes -- if the conviction holds -- could equal more prison time. 

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