A federal appeals court overturned the conviction of a former Florida US official who was accused of running a bogus charity and who served time in jail. The judges found that a juror had been wrongly dismissed for saying the Holy Spirit had told him that the former congresswoman was innocent.
In a 7-to-4 ruling on Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta granted ex-Congresswoman Corrine Brown, a Democrat who had served in Congress for more than two decades, a new fraud trial that brought up their political downfall with them.
Ms. Brown, 74, of Jacksonville, was convicted in May 2017 of 18 offenses related to the personal use of more than $ 300,000 in donations to a charity she runs. They said that she had spent the money to pay for a lavish lifestyle that N.F.L. Tickets and a luxury stadium box for a Beyoncé concert.
She was sentenced to five years in prison and served more than two years before being released on bail last year pending a decision on her appeal. She had previously been released under supervision, her lawyer said due to her age, an unspecified illness and the risk of Covid-19.
However, a majority in the court found Thursday that the judge who led Ms. Brown’s case in the US District Court in Jacksonville had violated her constitutional right to a unanimous jury judgment by removing a juror and him during Replaced the deliberations of the body with a deputy.
Shortly after deliberations began, the juror informed the other members of the jury that he had received divine guidance and requested another juror to bring his comments to Judge Timothy Corrigan’s attention.
In a majority opinion, the appeals court wrote that Judge Corrigan had no reason to dismiss the unidentified juror known as Juror No. 13, whom he had questioned about the role of his belief in deliberation.
“We ask if Juror No. 13’s religious testimony established beyond any doubt that he could not render a judgment based solely on the evidence and the law, thereby disqualifying him even though there was substantial evidence that he was doing his duty that he had sworn to render, ”wrote the majority of the court. “They have not.”
It wasn’t immediately clear whether federal prosecutors would try again, Ms. Brown, who was first elected to the U.S. House in 1992 and served until 2017 and was one of the first African American women to be elected to Congress from Florida. The prosecution did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday evening.
William Mallory Kent, an attorney for Ms. Brown, said in an email Thursday evening that it was unlikely to be retried anytime soon.
“Congressman Brown is very pleased with the court’s decision,” said Kent.
Weeks after her 2016 indictment, Ms. Brown lost her seat in a primary. She was convicted of postal and wire fraud and false tax returns.
Prosecutors said Ms. Brown told donors that the money raised for the One Door for Education charity would help students pay for college and allow schools to receive computers.