Rep. Corrine Brown, chief of staff plead not guilty to fraud, conspiracy

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and chief of staff Elias “Ronnie” Simmons were arraigned Friday in federal court.

Brown, 69, and Simmons, 50, were indicted Friday on fraud and conspiracy charges. Brown faces 23 charges and Simmons faces 18.

Brown and Simmons both pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Brown and Simmons appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge James R. Klindt.

Brown faces a maximum of 357 years in prison and nearly $5 million in fines if she is convicted on all charges. Simmons faces a maximum of 355 years in prison and nearly $5 million in fines if he is convicted.

The trial must happen within 70 days, according to federal court rules. The discovery phase in the case is expected to take two weeks.

A special status conference is scheduled for Aug. 12, and a trial date has been set for Sept. 6.

Prosecutors recommend $150,000 unsecured bond for Brown and Simmons. Prosecutors also recommended that Brown and Simmons both turn in their passports, travel restriction to U.S., report to pretrial services, no contact with Carla Wiley or Vonn Alexander. 

The judge set a bond of $50,000, which does not have to be paid now, but will be owed if the terms of the release are violated.

The attorney asked for accommodation to allow Brown to do her job in Congress.

Previous coverage on Rep. Corrine Brown:

“My heart is just very heavy. This has been a very difficult time for me, my family, my constituents. But I’m looking forward to a speedy day in court to vindicate myself,” said Brown.

Brown’s attorney says the government demanded Brown be in court Friday despite the fact that she would miss several votes in Congress.

“Its decision to treat Congresswoman Brown like a common street criminal rather than a sitting member of Congress shows that this is a politically motivated prosecution,” said Elizabeth White.

The judge granted Brown and Simmons $50,000 secured bonds. They only have to pay that amount if they violate their conditions of release.

The conditions of their release are that Brown and Simmons cannot break any laws, must report any contact with law enforcement to pretrial services, must remain at addresses provided to pretrial services, must restrict travel to within the U.S., and have no contact with One Door for Education president Carla Wiley or former Brown staffer Vonn Alexander outside the presence of counsel.

The trial is set for Sept. 6.