Editor's Note: This piece was authored by Townhall intern Chris Reeves.
Longtime Florida Congresswoman Corinne Brown, who was found guilty by a judge on 18 counts of fraud-related charges last May, showed up to prison on Monday morning to begin serving her five-year sentence. Brown is currently appealing her convictions, but recently lost a motion to stay out of prison while she does so.
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, the original charges against Brown stemmed from her role in fraudulently soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations for the supposed benefit of needy kids’ educations. According to Brown’s prosecutors, however, this money actually went to paying Brown’s personal bills [emphasis mine]:
Evidence at trial showed that between late 2012 and early 2016, Brown participated in a conspiracy and fraud scheme involving One Door for Education – Amy Anderson Scholarship Fund (One Door) in which Brown, Simmons, Wiley and others acting on their behalf solicited more than $800,000 in charitable donations based on false representations that the donations would be used for college scholarships and school computer drives, among other charitable causes. Testimony by One Door donors showed that Brown and her coconspirators solicited donations from individuals and corporate entities that Brown knew by virtue of her position in the U.S. House of Representatives. Many of the donors were led to believe that One Door was a properly registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, when, in fact, it was not.
According to other pieces of evidence presented during her trial, Brown used this massive inflow of cash to (among other things): pay off debts to the IRS, host a golf tournament, buy premium concert and NFL tickets, and fund expensive conferences and parties for her friends in Washington. Most damningly, only $1,200 of One Door’s funds went towards providing two scholarships for university-related expenses.
For her part, as might be expected, Brown maintains her innocence on all of the above charges and claims that she simply mismanaged her finances. Last year, when they launched their appeal case, Brown and her lawyers argued that a juror who believed he heard a voice from the Holy Spirit telling him that Brown was not guilty was improperly dismissed. At the time, James Smith—Brown’s attorney—said that the juror’s removal violated his client’s right to a jury of her peers.
As Brown surrendered to prison officials today, she likewise had the moral support of at least some religious clergy. Bishop Kelvin Cobaris, who accompanied Brown to the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex where Brown will serve at least part of her sentence, characterized the former congresswoman as a “strong leader” who “sends her love to all of her constituents and those who have supported her throughout this process."
Brown lost her primary bid to be re-nominated to run for Congress back in 2016, but she still got 39 percent of the vote. At that point, she had yet to be convicted on her fraud charges, but details of the case were widely available to the public.