Sources: Federal Grand Jury Reaches Decision On Corrine Brown

Jul 7, 2016
Originally published on July 7, 2016 1:59 pm

A federal grand jury has concluded its proceedings, including an investigation of Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Florida). News4Jax also learned federal prosecutors could announce a decision as early as Friday.

Three sources tell News4Jax a decision has been reached on whether to indict the 10-term Democratic congresswoman, who represents the 5th District, which stretches from Jacksonville to Orlando.

While prosecutors have not said what that decision might be, a grand jury has two main options: return an indictment or decline to issue charges. 

A former federal prosecutor told News4Jax that in his 17 years of experience, he has only seen a grand jury fail to return an indictment twice, while returning on average 350 indictments a year in different cases.

Brown’s attorney Bill Sheppard told News4Jax he had not heard anything regarding a grand jury decision, but added he likely would not hear anything until the decision was made public.

Brown's staff told News4Jax on Wednesday that Brown would be back in Jacksonville on Friday, and they did not know anything about the grand jury's decision.

The case began unfolding in January. News4Jax first reported federal agents served Brown a subpoena at a Northside restaurant while she met with supporters and local leaders.

The Department of Justice then announced it had reached a plea deal with Carla Wiley, a former Brown associate. Wiley admitted to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in connection with a questionable Virginia-based nonprofit, the One Door for Education Foundation. Wiley served as the organization’s president.

Court documents also detailed a scheme to defraud donors of $800,000. The court papers say the money was used to benefit individuals identified only as Person A and Person B. Person A is described as a public official and Person B is described as an associate of Person A. Previous News4Jax reports detailed reasons why “Person A” was likely Corrine Brown.

Court filings show Wiley deposited the $800,000 into the group's bank account over the past four years but gave out one $1,000 scholarship. Wiley transferred thousands of dollars to herself; the money was also used to fund parties, an NFL luxury box, and other extravagances in Washington.

The documents also show One Door for Education was never properly registered with the IRS as a nonprofit organization. News4Jax obtained a flyer for a 2013 golfing fundraiser at TPC Sawgrass. It showed the event was hosted by Brown and sponsored by One Door for Education.

Brown's photo also appeared on the One Door for Education's website, shown in the same photos as Wiley. Despite that, Brown publicly denied knowing Wiley to reporters in May.

"Who? I don't know who that is," Brown said. "Don't discuss local gossip with me."

That same month, federal prosecutors asked a judge to delay Wiley’s sentencing because she was being a “cooperative witness.”

Following the plea deal with Wiley, the U.S. House Ethics Committee announced it was going to investigate Brown. At that time, Brown told News4Jax she was not guilty of any wrongdoing.

"I am clean," Brown said at the time. "Goodness, clean. Yes."

Later, an ethics subcommittee was formed to investigate Brown, voting to defer its work at the request of the Department of Justice.

The panel was charged with looking into allegations that Brown may have improperly solicited charitable donations, used campaign money for personal use and failed to comply with tax laws.

Over the past six months, Brown has repeatedly told News4Jax she can't talk specifically about the investigation but feels it is somehow connected with the changes to her congressional district.

"They're all together. The goal is to get rid of Corrine Brown," she said. In June, Brown dropped her appeal of the newly redrawn districts, which ended her redistricting fight.

She is running for re-election in the newly drawn district, which now stretches from Jacksonville to west of Tallahassee.

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