Former US Representative Corrine Brown is on the hot seat in Florida. Prosecutors have accused Brown of misappropriating funds donated to a charity set up to help poor children, using those funds to live a “lavish lifestyle” of high-end shopping and fancy parties. The 70-year-old former representative pled not guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges.
The evidence against Brown is stark, and the sound bites coming out of the courtroom are condemning. ADA Tysen Duva said, “”(Brown) knew exactly how to lie to these donors, and knew exactly where the cash money was going…”
Duva’s narrative is that Brown created a gravy train and did everything she could to keep that going strong. He painted a picture of a stereotypical corrupt politician. Meanwhile, Brown’s defense is essentially that she was too naïve to know what was really going on. Her attorney, James Smith, said Brown was “duped” by her former chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons.
“A long time ago Corrine Brown placed her trust in Ronnie Simmons, and for years he betrayed her behind her back… Around the time of the questionable transactions in 2012 … she was into her mid-60s…”
Smith added that Brown was dealing with a major congressional workload and struggling to understand new technology, like email or texting.
That line of argument may be tough for anyone in or out of the courtroom to buy. After all, the evidence is substantial. According to the prosecution, Brown and her team gathered in more than $800,000 through a charity called One Door for Education in about four years. And where did that money go? Well, if the prosecution is telling it true, those donated funds were used for concert tickets, shopping trips to Beverly Hills and a host of other personal expenses.
Did any of the cash go to needy students? Well, according to the indictment, one unidentified student received a single $1,200 scholarship. Much of the rest of the cash was being transferred into personal accounts owned by Brown and two colleagues. Those two colleagues have already pled guilty. They will be testifying against Brown.
Brown’s political career is definitely over, no matter what happens in the case. It would be tough for her to get past the weight of the accusations. The question now is what will the consequences be? From a PR perspective, the judgment and sentence will play a big role in what’s possible for Brown from this point forward.