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Posted: November 09, 2017

Government recommends lighter sentences for former Rep. Corrine Brown’s co-defendants, citing “substantial assistance”

Carla Wiley (left) and Ronnie Simmons (far right) outside of the federal courthouse in Jacksonville on the days of their respective testimony in the trial of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown.
Carla Wiley (left) and Ronnie Simmons (far right) outside of the federal courthouse in Jacksonville on the days of their respective testimony in the trial of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown.

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By Stephanie Brown

Jacksonville, FL —

Under new sentencing recommendations put forward from the US Attorney’s Office, the co-defendants in the trial of former Northeast Florida Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown would not avoid prison time.

The government has recommended lighter sentences for Brown’s Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons and the President of “One Door For Education” Carla Wiley, because of their “substantial assistance”. In Simmons’ case, the government is recommending a few steps down from what his Probation Officer has outlined, which would lead to a sentence somewhere between 2 years 9 months and 3 years 5 months, according to advisory guidelines. Wiley’s sentence would fall between 1 year 9 months and 2 years 3 months. 

The judge will decide the final sentence, with both Simmons and Wiley appearing in court Wednesday, November 15th. 

FULL COVERAGE: The federal fraud trial of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown

The government’s motions come a day after Wiley submitted character letters to the court, in an effort to avoid prison time outright. She could face up to 20 years, after pleading guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She cooperated with the government- including testifying both during the grand jury phase and Brown’s trial- leading to indictments against Brown and Simmons. 

Simmons pleaded guilty to two counts- conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and theft of government funds- in February 2018. As part of his plea, he also testified against Brown during her trial. He could face up to 30 years in prison, per the plea agreement. 

Brown was convicted on 18 of 22 federal fraud related charges for raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for “One Door” while promoting the group as a charity, but using the money for personal expenses and lavish events instead. She also failed to report the money she was making from the group and overreported her charitable contributions in tax forms and financial disclosures. Brown is facing sentencing November 16th- the day after Simmons and Wiley. 

Simmons took part in the scam with Brown and was the one who introduced One Door to her. He was dating Wiley at the time, and Wiley testified that she essentially let Simmons take over control of the group, including the checks and debit card. Simmons also got his sister a job on the Hill in order to share in her paycheck, without his sister actually performing much work. Wiley separately transferred money from One Door to her personal account online.

Brown has tried unsuccessfully to get a new trial or be acquitted outright. She also made two motions to postpone her sentencing hearing, but both were denied by the judge. 

Separate motions for an order of forfeiture filed Thursday recommend a forfeiture of $654,292.39 against Wiley and $760,292.39 against Simmons. The motions say the vast majority of that sum will be shared among the three co-defendants, instead of individually imposed.


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