No separate trials for suspended city council members Katrina, Reggie Brown

Federal judge denied requests for separate trials on fraud charges

By Eric Wallace - Senior Producer, I-TEAM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Suspended Jacksonville city council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown will go on trial together this August after a federal judge denied their requests for separate trials.

The Browns, who are not related, were named in a 38-count federal indictment last May that included charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud. The fraud allegations involve money loaned to Katrina Brown’s family’s barbeque sauce business.

In October, Katrina and Reggie Brown each filed motions asking for a separate trial, arguing that a joint trial would unfairly prejudice the jury against each one due to the nature of the charges and the defenses they planned to mount. In her ruling Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Morales Howard wrote that neither met the required burden of demonstrating compelling prejudice.

Katrina Brown had also asked for a separate trial for four of the charges against her, the charges of attempted bank fraud and making false statements to a federally insured institution.  She argued that the charges were improperly joined to the others because they involved different conduct, occurred over a different time period and had no evidence in common with the other charges. The judge rejected her argument, stating there was a common tie, and that her arguments didn’t demonstrate compelling prejudice.

In a separate ruling also issued Wednesday, Howard denied motions by the Browns to dismiss charges of wire fraud and money laundering. In their motions, they argued that they were being charged with multiple crimes for the same acts. Prosecutors said the mail fraud charges were because the two mailed checks and the wire fraud charges stemmed from when checks were deposited and money was transferred electronically. The judge ruled that charges each require an element of proof that the others do not, and therefore are not multiplicitous.

COURT DOCUMENTS: Ruling on motions for separate trials | Ruling on motions to dismiss some counts

The motions at the center of these rulings were originally filed in October. However, after Katrina Brown’s attorney was allowed to withdraw in January, a new attorney was appointed to represent her, and that attorney was given additional time to file arguments related to these motions, if desired.

Katrina and Reggie Brown are scheduled to go on trial Aug.19. They are due back in court for a status conference July 22.

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