DAY 5: Ronnie Simmons' attorney tells client, ‘You're sacrificing yourself'
As lightning and thunder crashed outside the courthouse, former Florida Rep. Corrine Brown told the jury she was innocent on all 22 counts of her federal indictment.
Brown is known for her dramatics, and as her campaign slogan promises, Corrine delivered.
Tearing up multiple times on the stand, Brown told the jury she “never intentionally did anything wrong.”
The former congresswoman is accused of using “bogus charity” One Door for Education as a personal slush fund as well as falsifying her congressional financial disclosures and tax returns.
Brown proclaimed innocence by way of ignorance to the jury.
She testified she didn’t know much about One Door for Education and said her former chief of staff Ronnie Simmons never told her it was not a registered nonprofit.
She was the fourth and final witness for the defense, after seven days dominated by 40 prosecution witnesses.
Simmons testified on Wednesday that he would hand Brown cash he withdrew from his girlfriend Carla Wiley’s “charity” when they were alone in the congressional office.
Brown testified she did get cash from Simmons, but she said they were travel reimbursements.
“Any cash that Ronnie ever gave me, I always felt -- and he told me – it was his personal cash,” Brown said.
She also contradicted Simmons by denying she asked him to withdraw thousands of dollars from One Door and deposit it into her account.
Brown wept and paused to blow her nose while she told the jury.
“There’s a lot of young people in this community that end up in jail. A lot of them. I never would have wanted that to happen to Ronnie, never.”
The former congresswoman also got emotional talking about one of the donors who contributed to One Door, Bob Picerne.
“I would not want him to think that he donated any money for me and it didn’t go to what it was intended to go toward,” said Brown. “All of them [the donors], every last one.”
Brown’s defense attorney, James Smith, asked her the question many have been thinking: “How could you not know about thousands of dollars going into your bank account?”
“I wish I could just answer that. I wish I paid more close attention to my finances. I was always busy working on things for my constituents,” Brown said.
Brown also told the jury why she said her staffer Von Alexander was depositing money into her personal bank account.
She said she loaned Alexander money because Alexander was in danger of losing her house and her car. She said the deposits were Alexander paying it back.
Brown said she did not know why Alexander was paying back those “loans’ with checks from One Door.
U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecutor Tysen Duva will continue to cross-examine Brown on Friday morning. Then the judge will dismiss the jury until Monday for closing arguments.
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