Marissa Alexander among 22 character witnesses for Corrine Brown

Sentencing decision for Brown, co-conspirators to come Dec. 4

By Lynnsey Gardner - Investigative reporter, Francine Frazier - Senior web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Among those who will be singing the praises of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown during her sentencing hearing Thursday will be Marissa Alexander, who lost a high-profile "Stand Your Ground" case in Jacksonville several years ago.

Brown was a vocal supporter of Alexander, who served time for firing a gun in the direction of her estranged husband and his two children. Alexander argued that he had been abusing her and had threatened to kill her.

Brown went to rallies in support of freeing Alexander and clashed with then-State Attorney Angela Corey over her prosecution of the Alexander case in 2012.

Alexander is now a free woman. She completed the final two years of her sentence on house arrest, after agreeing to a plea deal in late 2014.

Alexander's name is on the list of witnesses who will be called to speak to Brown's character, as Judge Timothy Corrigan weighs his decision on what punishment Brown should receive for benefiting for years from an $800,000 slush fund disguised as a charity.

Brown, 71, was found guilty of 18 counts of federal mail, wire and tax fraud for soliciting donations for the fake charity, One Door for Education, using the money for herself and her associates, and lying on her taxes and congressional disclosure forms.

Brown's attorney, James Smith, said it would take "a thousand pages" to list all of her good works and contributions, pointing to decades of public service and letters that describe her as a “compassionate advocate” for people of all races.

Smith plans to bring nearly two dozen witnesses to testify to that during the sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for Thursday.

Also on the list are Brown's pastor, Bishop Rudolph McKissick Sr.; sitting U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston; Brown's 89-year-old mother, who suffers from dementia; a retired Marine; two former staffers and nearly a dozen supporters.

Among those supporters is Dr. Gasper Lazzara, a local orthodontist and philanthropist who donated to One Door and testified for the prosecution during Brown’s trial.

Brown's daughter, Shantrel Brown, is not on the witness list. She was tied to some stolen money from the scheme but was never charged.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King III came to Jacksonville to stand by Brown’s side after her indictment, but neither publicly stood by her at trial.

Former Mayor John Delaney testified in Brown’s defense, but his name was notably left off the sentencing witness list.

In a scathing 50-page report released last week, prosecutors said they are prepared for the parade of character witnesses testifying to Brown's accomplishments, but said that Brown's office “enabled these crimes, and all the good things she'll claim she did only helped her pull it off more easily.”

Corrigan has already announced that he will not release his sentencing decision for Brown or her two co-conspirators until Dec. 4.

Carla Wiley, the founder of the unregistered One Door charity, and Ronnie Simmons, Brown's chief of staff, both pleaded guilty and testified against Brown. They will both have sentencing hearings Wednesday and have each asked for no jail time.

Prosecutors argued that the two should get reduced sentences, but that those sentences should still include prison.

A court officer will recommend that Brown be ordered to serve seven to nine years in federal prison, but Corrigan does not have to follow that recommendation.

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