Guilty on 18 counts: Former Dem rep convicted for corruption, tax evasion

A former Democratic Congresswoman faces a potentially long prison sentence after losing in federal court yesterday. A jury found Corrine Brown guilty of wire fraud and conspiracy charges, in a case filed last year by the Department of Justice. Brown got convicted on 18 of 22 counts, four of which involve her tax returns and one for concealing information from her Congressional financial disclosures:

After a historic, nearly 25-year career representing Florida in Congress, former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown was found guilty on Thursday of taking money from a charity that was purported to be giving scholarships to poor students.

The verdict came after prosecutors outlined a pattern of fraud by Brown, 70, and her top aide that included using hundreds of thousands of dollars from the One Door for Education Foundation for lavish parties, trips and shopping excursions. She was convicted of 18 of the 22 charges against her, including lying on her taxes and on her congressional financial disclosure forms. …

Federal prosecutors said Brown and her associates used One Door to bring in more than $800,000 between 2012 and 2016, including a high-profile golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass. Brown’s indictment said the Virginia-based One Door only gave out one scholarship for $1,200 to an unidentified person in Florida.

Brown remains free on her own recognizance until sentencing in 90 days. She’s looking at what could end up being a de facto life sentence, depending on how the judge crafts the penalties. The fraud convictions would likely get grouped together, but even with that, the base for federal fraud is six years, and the amount of corrupt takings in this case (and the use of a charity front) could push that all the way up to Level 10 on the federal sentencing table, with a 6-12 year stretch minimum. Conspiracy could add another 10 years, but that’s likely to get wrapped up in the fraud convictions. The tax evasion charges are likely to get addressed separately, but for a first-time offender, it seems unlikely that the judge would apply those consecutively rather than concurrently.

The wildcard for Brown will be her status as a member of Congress. A federal judge may very well decide that this is a case where a message has to be sent that those in power will be held accountable for their abuses, rather than have her years of public service used as a mitigating factor, but perhaps it could go the other way around. It seems most unlikely that Brown will stay out of prison at all, nor should she after these convictions. Best guess is that Brown ends up with an effective sentence of 8-10 years at a minimum security facility. At 70 years of age, that may be all she has left.

Brown insists she’s been railroaded by the Department of Justice and plans to appeal. Her legal team will no doubt move to allow her to remain free on bail, but that would be a very unusual outcome for a fraud and corruption case. She’ll almost certainly be making her conspiracy-theory claims from inside prison rather than outside of it.