A former Florida congresswoman pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of lying to avoid paying taxes, avoiding retrial and prison.
Former Democratic Representative Corrine Brown was convicted in 2017 of charges including mail and wire fraud, conspiracy and filing false tax returns.
Brown, 75, served 27 months of a five-year sentence in a minimum-security prison camp until 2020 when she was transferred to home confinement. The disgraced congresswoman was reportedly moved to avoid exposure to COVID-19 during the height of the pandemic.
Her attorneys appealed her conviction, and last year an appellate court overturned the verdict and ordered a new trial on her 18 charges. The retrial had been scheduled for September.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta did not reject any evidence from the trial, which alleged misuse of funds donated to One Door for Education Foundation, called a sham charity Brown used as a slush fund. One door reportedly received approximately $800,000 but only gave out one $1,200 scholarship. Brown allegedly spent freely from the charity’s bank balance to fund an opulent lifestyle for her and her friends.
The court said the judge in Brown’s case had acted improperly by removing a juror who said “the Holy Spirit” had told him Brown was innocent and replacing him with an alternate juror during jury deliberations. That decision invalidated the guilty verdict, requiring a new trial, the appeals court said.
Invalidating the guilty verdict means Brown is no longer required to pay $515,000 in restitution to fraud victims ordered after the first trial garnered fraud convictions.
The trial level judge ordered the former congresswoman to pay $62,650 to the Internal Revenue Service. She also agreed not to seek restitution for $31,000 that has already been paid out after the first trial to fraud victims.
Perhaps more important for the long-term public servant is that the plea deal means she will get to receive her congressional pension.
First elected to Congress in 1992, Brown represented the Jacksonville area for almost a quarter century.
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