Corrine Brown, a former U.S. Representative that represented the Duval County district of Florida, was found guilty of 18 of 22 counts of fraud, corruption, and conspiracy early Thursday afternoon, according to reports. The 18 charges carry with them a maximum jail time of 357 years, though Brown, 70, is not likely to receive all 350-plus years at her sentencing.
The verdict, which had to be unanimous, came after over 11 hours of deliberation from a restructured jury that seemed content to take its time and review the facts before making a decision.
According to reports, the charges were brought forth after news surfaced that the congresswoman may have stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from a children's charity to finance extravagant trips, parties, and frequent shopping excursions.
The representative's attorney indicated that he would file a motion for a new trial soon after Brown's sentencing, but admitted that he was disappointed by today's conviction. When asked for his thoughts about the proceedings, he claimed that while a win would have been ideal, the congresswoman and her supporters could rest easy knowing that Brown has a legal team that cares very much for her and will continue to do whatever it takes to fix what happened today.
As for Representative Brown herself, sources indicate that the congresswoman, who served the Duval County community since her election in 1993, had no comment as she was escorted out of the courthouse to her waiting vehicle. Her daughter, Shantrel Brown, and her longtime pastor, Rudolph McKissack, accompanied her. Later on in the afternoon, local news station News4Jax reported that Brown did indeed release a statement maintaining her innocence and vowing to "restore her reputation."
"While I respect the jury's decision, I disagree with it, and I want to make it clear that I maintain my innocence. I did not commit these crimes, and I intend to file a motion for a new trial. I will continue to stand on my record of decades of faithful service to this community and the nation. I have a long record of charitable service to the community and that will continue even during this process. I want to thank my family and friends for their prayers and support during this difficult time. I ask that you continue to pray for and support me. This fight is not over and as I'm sure you know, I will continue to fight to clear my name and restore my reputation."Corrine Brown was one of the first African-American women to be elected to public office at a time where the idea of black politicians was still relatively unheard of. In fact, a young Brown at one point had to deal with legal issues after winning an election over outspoken white talk radio host Andy Johnson. Sources claim that Johnson's loss prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to rezone the primarily minority district that Brown won under the premise that it constituted an issue of racial gerrymandering. Though Brown was upset and fought against the changes to her district, she ended up winning reelection during her next campaign anyway.
As a congresswoman, many of Brown's supporters credited her with helping orchestrate more economic opportunities, particularly for minorities. She was loved by many in the community, and frequented black mega-churches like Bethel Baptist and Shiloh Baptist, where she enjoyed heavy support from constituents. Considered a pillar of Jacksonville and surrounding areas, the Democratic representative reigned supreme over all of her political opponents for almost 20 years. In 2016, after Brown's district was accused yet again of gerrymandering and rezoned for the second time in two decades, the politician lost her bid to the representative seat to fellow Democrat Al Lawson.
Brown and her defense team currently await her sentencing hearing. It is scheduled to take place within 90 days.
[Featured Image by Mark Wallheiser/AP Images]