The 12 members of the jury are deliberating 22 federal charges against former Rep. Corrine Brown, but they all center on the same question: Did Brown know she was defrauding people or did she simply fail to notice what was happening around her?
After two weeks of testimony, it took the prosecution and defense about three hours to present the jury their closing arguments on Monday.
The former congresswoman’s daughter Shantrel Brown was not called as a witness in the case, and Monday was the first time she’s shown up to court.
She watched as prosecutor Eric Olshan told the jury her mother profited from so-called “bogus charity” One Door for Education, lied to donors, and lied on her taxes and on congressional financial disclosure forms.
The first sentence of prosecutor Olshan’s closing argument: “When Corrine Brown wanted something, she got it.”
Olshan also pointed to the 31 times that cash was withdrawn from One Door and then a cash deposit appeared in Corrine Brown’s account.
Olshan hammered Corrine Brown on the $142,000 in cash deposits the IRS testified was not declared as income on her taxes.
He painted the former congresswoman as someone who controlled the people around her, conspiring with them to commit fraud.
“You are in the position to tell that defendant what no one told her in all those years she was abusing the power of her office so she could benefit herself. You can say, ‘No, enough,’” Olshan told the jury.
Corrine Brown’s defense attorney James Smith painted the former congresswoman’s chief of staff Ronnie Simmons as someone who betrays the women who trust him.
Smith also introduced something new about all the cash Simmons deposited into his boss’ personal account.
“Is he putting this money back into her account because he’s stealing from her too?” Smith asked the jury.
“They never checked. The reason they never checked is because … they have these blinders on.”
Smith accused the government of ignoring evidence of his client’s innocence.
Smith also reminded the jury of Corrine Brown’s emotional breakdown on the stand Friday, when she sobbed uncontrollably while testifying about Simmons’ “betrayal.”
Smith told the jury that Corrine Brown is “an old woman that they took advantage of…. She never intended to cheat or defraud anyone. She was defrauded. She was the victim in this case.”
“I hope you understand it’s been an incredibly stressful three weeks for her,” said Smith outside the courthouse.
Now all his client can do is wait while the jury deliberates.
“I’ve done cases where verdicts have come back in 45 minutes. I’ve done cases where verdicts have taken a few weeks. I mean, I would say, given the amount of information they have, it’s going to take some time,” Smith said.
If she’s convicted on all counts, the 70-year-old former congresswoman faces a maximum of 357 years in prison and nearly $5 million in fines.
Cox Media Group