Judge gives Katrina Brown additional month to prepare for trial

Former Jacksonville councilwoman says she needs time to prepare her defense

By Eric Wallace - Senior Producer, I-TEAM, Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After hearing arguments Tuesday from Katrina Brown on her request for more time to prepare to face a trial on fraud and money laundering charges, a federal judge agreed to delay the trial until next month.

It was the former Jacksonville City Council member's first court appearance since persuading a judge to let her represent herself. Brown said she needs time to build her case, review and gather evidence, and interview witnesses.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard asked why she needs more time to review discovery and file motions, asking why that wasn't done over the past 14 months since her indictment. Katrina Brown responded, saying she felt that her first court-appointed attorney “didn’t do any work” on her case. 

Katrina Brown told the judge she’s reviewed some things, but not everything. She compared it to being a passenger on a road trip, where you know where you’re going, but don’t necessarily know all of the turns unless you're driving.

Katrina Brown, who parted ways with her first court-appointed attorney in January over "irreconcilable differences," felt that benching attorneys Richard Landes and John Leombruno was the best move.

Landes and Leombruno will remain involved as standby counsel, which means they can provide basic advice on courtroom procedures. They must be ready to step in if Brown has a change of heart.

The trial was set to begin in two weeks, but the judge ruled it will now begin Sept. 23, with jury selection to start the Wednesday before.

READ IT: Motion to continue trial

Brown and former colleague Reggie Brown, who is not related, are charged as part of a 38-count federal indictment centering on money loaned to her family’s failed BBQ sauce company.

In another ruling Tuesday, the judge denied a motion by Reggie Brown's defense asking for their trials to be held separately. A similar request made earlier this year was denied, but it was requested again after Katrina Brown was granted permission to defend herself.

The motion continues, "Now he faces the prospect of sitting helplessly by while Ms. Brown flails about trying to be both lawyer and client. This spectacle can only prejudice his case in the eyes of the jury and make it all but impossible for the jury to reach an individualized verdict as to him."

READ IT: Second motion to sever trial

In October 2018, Reggie Brown asked to be tried separately. That same month, Katrina Brown asked to be tried separately on fraud charges.

Prosecutors later filed two documents outlining their opposition to the motions, arguing why they should be tried together.

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