LISTEN LIVE

Congresswoman Breaks Down On Stand, Claims Prosecution 'Trying To Destroy' Her Life

May 8, 2017
Originally published on May 6, 2017 8:47 am

Prosecutors finished questioning former Congresswoman Corrine Brown Friday, but not before the Jacksonville politician broke down in tears on the witness stand.

Brown repeatedly denied charges she knowingly took money from sham charity One Door for Education to fuel lavish parties and expensive shopping excursions.

Brown questioned the motives and evidence of the prosecution, while prosecutor Tysen Duva referred to government exhibits like a $3,000 One Door check that was deposited in her daughter’s account and the $1,000 of that amount which eventually made it to Brown.

She told the court it was for buying backpacks for kids while she was in Los Angeles, though there was no evidence she withdrew the money or made that purchase. Instead, prosecutors presented bank records showing she spent hundreds of dollars while shopping in Beverly Hills around the same time.

At that point, Brown began to sob. “Do you think I would do that?” she said. She later accused the prosecution “was trying to destroy” her life.

Prosecutors allege Brown was the architect of a scheme to raise $833,000 under the auspices of providing scholarships for kids. But bank records indicated just $1,200 made it to that cause, while the rest was spent on personal expenses.

Brown was also grilled about inconsistencies in in her tax returns. She told prosecutors she made mistakes on her taxes and should have been more diligent, but added she didn’t purposely inflate her charitable giving or attempt to hide extra income.

“Let’s be honest, I made mistakes,” she said “… The responsibility to double check my taxes was mine.”

Between 2009 and 2015, Brown repeatedly exaggerated her donations, including a 2014 donation of $7,200 to Bethel Baptist Church in Jacksonville. But when investigators peered closer to her financials, they only found evidence of $1,378 in donations.

Brown admitted she never gave that much money and that the amount she donated in untraceable cash during Sunday services would not be enough to fill the gap between what she claimed and what was on church records.

Brown seemed to blame aides and her accountant for discrepancies, saying repeatedly that she should’ve confirmed her returns were filled out properly.

Duva continued questioning Brown about her tax returns, including unclaimed income between July and August 2013 when an extra $10,000 ended up in her personal bank account. Investigators testified had Brown not received that extra money she would have been $7,000 in the hole during that time period.

“I am just like everyone else. I know how to rob Peter to pay Paul,” Brown said.

As News4Jax reported, prosecutors said Brown would write the One Door checks out to the business of another staffer, Von Alexander, who owned a public relations agency. Alexander testified she would deposit the checks into her agency's account, then write checks out to cash as instructed by Brown. Alexander said she then deposited that cash into Brown's personal account.

Prosecutors again presented evidence that One Door funds were used to finance numerous expensive events.

But despite this evidence, Brown said she didn't know One Door money was going directly into her account.

Jurors are set to begin deliberations after closing arguments Monday. The jury must reach unanimous verdicts for Brown to be found guilty on 22 counts of fraud, conspiracy and tax crimes.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at rbenk@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk.

Copyright 2017 WJCT-FM. To see more, visit WJCT-FM.