Corrine Brown co-conspirators sentenced to prison

Charity founder Wiley gets 21 months; chief of staff Simmons gets 4 years

By Lynnsey Gardner - Investigative reporter, Jim Piggott - Reporter, Garrett Pelican - Digital executive producer, Eric Wallace - Senior Producer, I-TEAM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After months of legal wrangling, Monday was the day of reckoning for former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and her co-conspirators convicted in a federal corruption case.

Brown, 71, was sentenced to five years in prison.

Former Brown chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, 51, and his ex-girlfriend, Carla Wiley, 55, both of whom cooperated in the case against the longtime lawmaker, were also sentenced Monday to prison time for their role in the conspiracy.

READ: Sentencing order for Brown, co-conspirators | RELATED: Corrine Brown sentenced to 5 years in prison

Wiley, who founded the bogus charity at the center of the corruption case, was given 21 months in prison with three years of supervised release. She will likely serve her time at a federal prison near Virginia, where she is from.

Simmons was sentenced to four years in prison with three years of supervised release.

Simmons and Wiley were ordered to pay $544,137.25 and $452,515.87 in restitution, respectively, which will be paid in $250 monthly installments.

They are being allowed to voluntarily report for their prison terms, which will begin no sooner than Jan. 8.

Both Simmons and Wiley pleaded guilty and testified against Brown. Prosecutors sought lighter sentences for them, citing their immediate cooperation in the case.

"They did something Brown hadn't done to this point, which is accept responsibility," said attorney Randy Reep, a legal analyst who has no ties to the case.

Wiley's attorney had asked for probation, but U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan said because she established the charity and took more than $100,000 from it, probation wouldn't be appropriate.

He did say, however, that Wiley was the least culpable of the three conspirators.

Regarding Simmons' role, Corrigan said he rejected the notion that he wasn't responsible because he was merely obeying the orders of Brown, his boss. But he acknowledged the difficulty Simmons faced in turning on a woman he looked at as a mother figure.

"This was a crime borne of entitlement and greed, committed to support a lifestyle that was beyond their lawful means," Corrigan wrote in his sentencing order. "In short, this was bad business."

A jury found Brown guilty in May of 18 felony fraud and tax charges for fundraising for the sham charity, using that charity as a slush fund, and lying on tax and congressional disclosure forms.

Brown, whose 12-term stay in Congress imploded soon after her 2016 indictment, faced up to 277 years in prison.

SKETCHES: A look inside federal courtroom as sentences read

In pushing for a stiff sentence, prosecutors cited Brown's lack of accountability for her crimes, saying she lied on the stand, and that she claimed to be the victim of a racially-motivated prosecution.

But James Smith, Brown's attorney, sought leniency, pointing to his client's decades of public service, her age and health, as well as precedents set in previous federal corruption cases.

 

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

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