Judge rules Katrina Brown can represent herself at trial

'If your house was on fire, would you call 911?' judge wonders

By Scott Johnson - Reporter, Eric Wallace - Senior Producer, I-TEAM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A judge has ruled former Jacksonville City Council member Katrina Brown can represent herself in her upcoming federal fraud and money laundering trial.

In court Thursday, Brown insisted that she be allowed to “exercise her constitutional right” to defend herself, despite efforts by U.S. Magistrate Judge James Klindt to talk her out of it.

“If your house was on fire, would you call 911 so you could have professional firefighters put it out?" he reasoned. "Or would you pull out the garden hose?”

Eventually, the judge relented.

The discussion was part of what is called a Faretta inquiry, which aims to make sure defendants know what they’re doing when they ditch outside counsel and represent themselves instead.

Attorneys Richard Landes and John Leombruno were appointed to represent Brown after Darcy Galnor, her previous court-appointed attorney, withdrew because of “irreconcilable differences.”

If convicted on all counts, Brown could face a maximum 720 years in prison and more than $12 million in fines.

Brown and fellow former City Council member Reggie Brown, who are not related, are charged in a 38-count federal indictment that became public in May 2018.

They face charges including conspiracy, money laundering and fraud -- the latter centering on money loaned to Katrina Brown's failing family barbecue sauce business, KJB Specialties.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Aug. 14 with the trial set for Aug. 19.

Copyright 2019 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.