JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown will spend five years in federal prison for her role in a federal corruption conspiracy that involved stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a fake education charity for needy children.
It's up to a federal judge to decide whether to send Brown to prison for her 18 convictions on felony fraud and tax charges, or if she deserves leniency after decades of public service.
"In theory, these 18 counts could run consecutively and she could be doing hundreds of years," said Randy Reep, a local attorney not affiliated with the case.
Sources tell News4Jax that if sentenced to prison Monday, Brown and her attorneys struck a deal with the government that she would not be immediately remanded into custody but will be allowed to go home and will be sent a letter in the mail telling her where and when to report.
Brown attended services at The Bethel Church Sunday, where Bishop Rudolph McKissick Sr. led the congregation as they prayed for her ahead of Monday's sentencing.
"If she (Brown) were my sister, if she was my mother, if she was my aunt, if she was my daughter, I'd be praying hard for her," McKissick Sr. said. "Because God gives us what we don't deserve and he keeps us from getting what we do deserve."
McKissick Sr. also led a prayer circle Monday morning with Brown outside the federal courthouse before she headed in to await the announcement of her sentence.
Monday's sentencing hearing marks the final chapter of a legal saga that has unfolded over the last 17 months since the 12-term congresswoman's career-ending indictment.
Brown, 71, lies at the center of a scheme that collected hundreds of thousands of dollars for a bogus charity -- funds that were used instead to pad a lavish lifestyle that far exceeded the lawmaker's means.
It's unclear whether U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan will side with a court officer's recommendation and order Brown to serve up to nine years in prison, or if she'll receive probation.
"No one should be surprised if Corrine Brown leaves that courthouse from the back exit tomorrow (Monday) in cuffs," Reep said.
Corrigan said during the sentencing hearing that he vowed to impose a sufficient sentence that is not greater than necessary.
n a blistering memo last month, prosecutors called for a stiff sentence. They cited Brown's abuse of position and lack of contrition, noting her claims that she is the victim of a racially-motivated prosecution.
On the other hand, Brown's defense attorneys have lobbied for a sentence that will allow their client to avoid incarceration, pointing to her years of service, age and health, among other factors. They want probation.
At its core, the case is focused on One Door for Education, a group billed as a charity for disadvantaged children that raised more than $800,000 over a four-year stretch. In fact, most of that money benefited Brown personally. Of the $833,000 raised, only $1,200 went toward scholarships.
The rest paid for things such as events and travel for Brown and those in her orbit, as well as dozens of cash deposits to her personal bank account and a range of frivolous expenses, like nearly $14,000 for Beyonce tickets and $15,000 for a suite at a Jaguars vs. Redskins game.
A jury found Brown guilty in May of 18 counts of federal mail, wire and tax fraud for soliciting donations for the fake charity, using that charity as a “slush fund” for herself and her associates, and lying on her taxes and congressional disclosure forms.
Brown did not act alone -- her longtime chief of staff Ronnie Simmons acknowledged taking money as well, but noted in his testimony that he kept little for himself. Also entangled in the case was Carla Wiley, Simmons' one-time girlfriend and One Door's founder, who stole more than $100,000.
Both Simmons and Wiley accepted plea deals and testified against Brown. They, too, will be sentenced Monday, but prosecutors have sought lighter sentences for them, citing their cooperation in the government's case against Brown.
"They did something Brown hadn't done to this point, which is accept responsibility," Reep said. "They cooperated with the government right away. They didn't go to an adverse trial. They were in fact witnesses against Brown in her case."