Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Ex-Jacksonville city council members fraud sentencing delayed

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The fraud sentencing hearing for former Jacksonville City Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown has been delayed again, maybe for the last time, until Oct. 27.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard set the new date Monday, telling attorneys on both sides to reserve three days for the hearing where they’ll argue about the proper punishment for dozens of felonies a jury decided last year had been committed.

The hearing had been set for Sept. 14, but both prosecutors and the defense told the judge during a Zoom hearing last week that more time was needed to prepare sentencing memos and arrange safely for an extensive in-person hearing that will involve witnesses testifying about details of the case.

Howard told the attorneys Jacksonville’s federal court is returning to something like normal operations after months of pandemic delays, noting the court clerk’s office is scheduled to reopen to the public Tuesday.

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Potential jurors are being identified to summon for trials in October, she said, noting that Katrina Brown’s attorney, Curtis Fallgatter, has a trial for another client scheduled that month.

If it happens in October, the hearing will be a little less than 13 months after Katrina Brown was convicted on 37 counts and Reggie Brown on 33 counts in a complex fraud trial.

Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, who are not related, were found guilty of charges including conspiracy, mail and wire fraud and money laundering surrounding a $2.65 million small-business loan Katrina Brown’s family had taken out to build a barbecue sauce plan before her 2015 election to the council.

Katrina Brown handled her family’s loan and filed vendors’ invoices to the company financing the never-completed project.

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Those invoices included bills from two companies incorporated in Reggie Brown’s name, although prosecutors convinced jurors those companies hadn’t done any actual work. Instead, prosecutors said the politicians were splitting the payments and using the money for their own purposes while the factory project failed.

Sentences are commonly announced at the end of the hearing but in rare cases can be announced later.

 

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