Friday, January 10, 2020

Corrupt Congresswoman CORRINE BROWN sentence upheld

Juror 13 was dismissed after saying "the Holy Spirit" said then-Rep. CORRINE BROWN (D-FL4) was innocent.  A panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld BROWN's conviction by 2-1 vote -- decision is here.  While the reporter predicts BROWN will probably serve the rest of her sentence, the case could be heard by the full Eleventh Circuit, sitting en banc.

Footnote: I spent a lot of time in the Eleventh Circuit building in Atlanta, including four full days in the en banc courtroom, where I tried an environmental whistleblower case against the EPA heard there by USDOL Administrative Law Judge Clement J. Kennington, who also had the perspicacity to obtain use of the Georgia Supreme Court's main courtroom.

From the Jacksonville, Florida Times-Union:
Judge was right in ex-U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown’s fraud conviction, appeals court says
By Andrew Pantazi
Posted Jan 9, 2020 at 1:38 PM

The ruling means the former 12-term congresswoman from Jacksonville, convicted of fraud, will continue serving a sentence scheduled to end in 2022.

A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown’s conviction on a string of fraud charges that netted her a five-year sentence in prison.

The ruling means Brown, now 73, will remain in custody until 2022 unless some new decision overrides the finding of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta.

The former 12-term congresswoman entered a minimum-security women’s camp at the Coleman Federal Correctional Institution in Sumter County in January 2018.

A Jacksonville jury had found her guilty the previous year of wire and mail fraud and several related charges involving a children’s charity that prosecutors described as a sham that funneled donations totaling tens of thousands of dollars — largely from Brown’s political supporters — into the veteran lawmaker’s pocket.

Attorneys for Brown had argued she was wrongly convicted based on a judge’s decision to remove from her case a juror who said he had received guidance from the “Holy Spirit” attesting to Brown’s innocence.

They argued that U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan violated the Jacksonville native’s rights by changing the jury’s composition while deliberations were going on.

The ruling about Corrigan’s decision sharply split the appeals panel judges, each of whom wrote an opinion.

U.S. Circuit Judge Robin Rosenbaum and Senior U.S. District Judge Anne C. Conway sided with the government’s arguments against Brown, with Rosenbaum, a Barack Obama appointee, writing the decision that affirmed Brown’s conviction.

U.S. Circuit Judge William Pryor, a conservative judge who has been eyed as a potential U.S. Supreme Court nominee in the past, dissented and warned the decision misunderstood deeply held religious beliefs.

Pryor, a George W. Bush appointee who President Trump openly named as a possible Supreme Court nominee, said the decision could encourage “discrimination against a substantial segment of the citizens in our Circuit who pray for and believe they receive divine guidance in their daily affairs.”

“For example,” he wrote, “African American and evangelical Christians are more likely than others to believe that God speaks to them, and the majority’s decision now requires that these eligible jurors be stricken for cause if a discriminating lawyer elicits during voir dire [jury selection] that God communicates with them.”

Conway, a George H.W. Bush appointee, is a trial judge with the Middle District of Florida, the district where Brown was convicted. She took senior status, a form of semi-retirement for judges that allows them to still hear cases, in 2015. She has served as a member of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court since 2016.

Conway wrote, in her concurring opinion, that “this is not a case which turns on a juror’s religious beliefs or religious freedom to engage in prayer or seek guidance during deliberations when applying the law to the evidence in the case. Rather, it is a straightforward case about whether the district court—having concluded based on direct questioning that a juror was not following the court’s instructions — abused its discretion in dismissing that juror based on an assessment of the juror’s credibility and capacity to follow the court’s instructions.”

Yet Pryor said the juror’s statement that “the Holy Spirit told me that Corrine Brown was not guilty on all charges” was just his way of saying “he had asked God to help him weigh the evidence and that he thought God was leading him strongly toward acquittal.”

Thursday’s ruling means Brown is likely to remain imprisoned well after other defendants in the fraud have left the justice system behind.

Carla Wiley, president of One Door for Education, the nonprofit that Brown touted, was released from custody last July after completing a 21-month sentence.

Brown’s former chief of staff, Elias “Ronnie” Simmons, is scheduled to finish a four-year sentence and be released from a Baltimore halfway house in June.

Steve Patterson: (904) 359-4263

Andrew Pantazi: (904) 359-4310

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