Former Florida Rep. Corrine Brown’s former chief of staff Ronnie Simmons told the jury Wednesday that Brown not only knew about stealing money from his girlfriend’s so-called “bogus charity,” she directed him to do it.
Simmons took the stand for five hours, dominating most of day six of testimony in Brown’s federal fraud trial.
She faces 22 charges.
Simmons has already pleaded guilty to two federal charges.
Testifying in Brown’s trial was part of his plea agreement.
Action News Jax asked Simmons’ attorney Anthony Suarez why his client stole money from One Door for Education and deposited some of it in his own personal bank account.
“Well, that must have been just plain greed,” Suarez said.
Simmons testified that Brown would tell him to withdraw cash from his girlfriend Carla Wiley’s foundation, One Door for Education, and then deposit it into Brown’s personal account.
Simmons testified he would also hand Brown cash in person that he withdrew from One Door when they were alone in the congressional office.
“I usually don’t tell her no,” Simmons said.
Simmons said Brown would direct him how to fill out One Door checks, and he would also hand Brown blank One Door checks on which he forged Wiley’s signature.
He said he’s been handing Brown blank checks that he signed in someone else’s name since 1993.
“You don’t say 'no' to Corrine Brown. And that’s the way it was. When she said, ‘This is how we’re going to do it,’ that’s how it was done,” Suarez said.
Suarez would not answer whether Simmons has recommended to Brown that she should plead guilty, too.
“I said, ‘Ronnie, you have a choice. You either come clean and try to help yourself, or you go to trial,” Suarez said.
Simmons testified he “had no idea” his girlfriend was also stealing from One Door to the tune of $140,000.
Brown’s defense attorney James Smith tried to paint Simmons as a habitual liar who took advantage of the former congresswoman as she aged.
Smith got Simmons to confirm on the stand that, before he pleaded guilty, he told Corrine Brown and her daughter Shantrel Brown that the feds were threatening to indict his sister.
Simmons now admits his sister was a “ghost employee” in Brown’s office, and he used her salary to pay off his boat loans.
Simmons testified that he struggled with his decision to plead guilty.
“It was more difficult because of my relationship with the congresswoman,” Simmons said. “It was just the right thing to do: Tell the truth and get it over with.”
The prosecution plans to wrap up Thursday. Smith said Brown could take the stand by the end of the day.
© 2020 Cox Media Group