Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown was sentenced on Monday to five years in federal prison for fraud and tax crimes that include raising about $800,000 for a sham charity, which the Florida Times-Union called “a remarkable defrocking of the once-powerful and garrulous Jacksonville Democrat who inspired devotion and vitriol in equal parts throughout her decades in public office.” Brown’s longtime chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, was sentenced to 48 months in prison, and the fake charity’s founder, One Door for Education President Carla Wiley, was sentenced to 21 months.
The trio fractured under the weight of the prolonged federal investigation and trial. Wiley and Simmons were once lovers, and Brown has said she loved Simmons like a son. In court, they were on different sides. Brown’s defense lawyer argued at trial the aging congresswoman was the unwitting victim of her charming and manipulative chief of staff. U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan largely rejected that defense and rebuked the actions and motives of the three defendants. All three, he said, were knowing participants in a “shameless” conspiracy to bilk wealthy donors out of money by using a fake charity that purported to help needy kids. “This was a crime born out of entitlement and greed committed to ensure a lifestyle that was beyond their means,” Corrigan said. The judge said Brown, 71, would report to prison no earlier than Jan. 8.