Former congresswoman Corrine Brown will have to wait longer than she originally expected to learn her fate.
The jury deliberating on her 22 federal counts had to start their deliberations from scratch on Wednesday morning.
That’s after the judge decided to remove a juror from the panel after a complaint that he was making statements related to Brown about “higher beings.”
An alternate juror was brought in to take his place.
An emergency hearing was scheduled overnight after a concerned juror called a courtroom deputy’s cellphone on Tuesday night.
During Wednesday’s 8:15 a.m. hearing, Judge Timothy Corrigan said that juror told the deputy she and other jurors have been concerned about one juror’s statements about Brown and “higher beings.”
Brown’s attorney James Smith called them “extreme religious beliefs.”
After a closed court session for about an hour and a half, Judge Corrigan allowed the media and public back in, and announced he was removing the juror in question -- an unemployed white man -- from the jury panel.
The judge replaced him with an alternate juror, a young Hispanic man.
That man and three other alternates were in the courtroom for the whole trial, unaware they were alternates.
After closing arguments wrapped, the alternates were kept separate from deliberations, just in case of a situation like this.
The judge told the jury they must start their deliberations on all 22 counts from scratch so the new juror can be part of the decision-making.
After 12 hours of deliberations on Monday and Tuesday without a single question for the judge, the jury asked its first two questions Wednesday.
Starting back at square one, the jury asked the judge about how much responsibility should fall on Brown for her false tax returns and what the government has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt when it comes to mail fraud.
Just 33 minutes into deliberations on Wednesday morning, the jury came up with its first question for the judge: “Is the defendant responsible for everything on her filed taxes if she did not provide the information to the CPA or sign her tax form?”
Four of Brown’s 22 counts are related to her taxes: one count of corruptly endeavoring to obstruct or impede the due administration of the Internal Revenue Laws and three counts of filing a false U.S. individual tax return for tax years 2012, 2013 and 2014.
On the stand, Brown did not dispute that there were problems with her tax returns, including inflated charitable donations.
Brown argued that she was minimally involved in preparing those returns and that, at least one year, she did not sign it herself.
Judge Corrigan responded to the jury in a handwritten note, telling them simply to follow jury instructions.
The jury also wanted to know whether the government needs to prove all four criteria listed on their jury instructions for Brown’s seven counts of aiding and abetting mail fraud.
The judge responded that, yes, the government needs to prove that Brown:
- Knowingly participated in a scheme to defraud.
- That fraud was about a material fact.
- Intended to defraud someone.
- Used an interstate carrier like FedEx to do it.
The jury will return to the courthouse on Thursday morning to continue deliberations.
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