The similarities between former House members and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers are few. But disgraced former Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida and Jon Bon Jovi are both livin’ on a prayer.
Brown’s attorney filed a 76-page appeal to her conviction on fraud and tax evasion charges Thursday, saying the judge in the case wrongfully removed a juror who claimed a “higher power” told him Brown was not guilty, First Coast News reported.
“The district court reversibly erred when it questioned a juror who had voted to acquit Congresswoman Brown,” the appeal states, “and then dismissed the juror over [a] defense objection based on nothing more that the juror having prayed for guidance and [believing] that he received guidance from the Holy Spirit that Congresswoman Brown was not guilty.”
As the jury deliberated last spring over the charges against Brown, Juror 8 informed Judge Timothy Corrigan that the juror deadlocking the panel, Juror 13, had claimed a “higher power” told him him Brown was innocent. Corrigan brought Juror 13 in for questioning.
“The Holy Spirit told me that [Brown was not guilty],” Juror 13 told Corrigan.
Corrigan removed Juror 13 from the deadlocked jury for “injecting religious beliefs that are inconsistent with the instructions of the court,” he wrote. Juror 13’s views were “inconsistent with his sworn duty as a juror.”
But “the area of religious belief” is “territory that’s difficult to navigate,” Corrigan conceded.
Brown was found guilty in May for fraudulently taking thousands of dollars from a bogus charity One Door for Education, concealing income on financial filings, and filing false tax returns. She began her five-year sentence in federal prison in January.
But there’s hope for Brown yet, her attorney, William Kent, indicated Thursday in the appeal.
While Kent “would candidly agree that God exists,” that “is not a fact that the federal court can determine to be real and external,” he argued.
A bribe or a comment from a bailiff could be considered external influences, which are not allowed to affect a jury’s decision. But a religious conviction is a “mental process” that Corrigan “should not have ... inquired into,” Kent wrote.
“Willful misconduct” is the only removable offense a juror can commit. In this case, however, “the court itself found the juror sincerely believed he was following the court’s instructions,” Kent wrote.
Brown, 71, served in the House delegation from Florida from 1993 to 2017.
Both Brown’s former chief of staff Ronnie Simmons and his ex-girlfriend, Carla Wiley, who ran the bogus charity, were sentenced to 48 months in jail and 21 months in jail with a three-year supervised release, respectively, after pleading guilty.
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