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Corrine Brown fundraiser on eve of next court hearing

Former congresswoman doesn't think event at her church should be an issue

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A commercial promoting a concert fundraiser for former U.S. congresswoman and convicted felon Corrine Brown is raising eyebrows.

"We need to be there for her," the announcer says.

The concert, headlined by Gospel recording artist Shirley Caesar and sponsored by Friends of Corrine Brown, is to be held Sunday night at Bethel Baptist Church -- the night before her next court hearing. Bethel is one of the nonprofit groups for which Brown claimed donations on tax returns. A jury determined those tax returns were fraudulent. 

In May, that jury convicted Brown on 18 of 22 federal charges, including mail fraud, wire fraud and tax fraud connected to an unregistered charity, One Door for Education.

"So many people in the community say they are praying for me. I need them to come out and pray with me," Brown said Wednesday afternoon.

Bishop Rudolph McKissick Jr., lead pastor at Bethel Baptist, said the church is only renting the venue to Friends of Corrine Brown for the concert and the church will not benefit in any way.

"She attends this church faithfully every Sunday and the event is happening here because the venue was rented, and it just makes sense," McKissick said. "If I turned my back on every member who have been charged or rumored, I wouldn't have a church. It would be empty and I wouldn't have a church, inclusive of me. So you can't turn your back on them."

Brown said hosting the event at her home church shouldn't be an issue. She said defending herself has been expensive and this concert will help.

"I've noticed hat people make things up as they go, and that's what we're going to court about: making things up," Brown said.  "I've sold my beach house. I cashed in my retirement, but I still have additional legal fees and I'm going to pay them and do whatever it takes to get my name cleared."

As a pastor and friend, McKissick said he has been by Brown's side while she has fought rumors, then federal prosecution. He said McKissick said he will be with her in court Monday, as well.

"I am hoping for a dismissal," McKissick said. "I've known this woman since I was 6 years old, and even if she made some mistakes, haven't we all?"

As for accusations that Brown overstated her donation's to his church, McKissick downplays that.

"I don't see that as controversy because, once again, I'm her pastor. And let's say that is true, she wouldn't be the first. And I'm not saying that is true. I stay out of that. I'm not her legal, I'm her spiritual counselor."

Oral arguments on defense motions for a judgment for acquittal and request for a retrial are scheduled for Monday afternoon at the federal courthouse in Jacksonville.

Brown said she'll let her attorney do all the talking at the hearing. Brown said she hoped all 4,200 people who buy tickets for Sunday's concert will be by her side as she returns to court.