Closing arguments in the corruption trial of ex-Florida U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown are pitting the elderly public official against the man she says she trusted most, chief of staff Ronnie Simmons.
Brown’s attorney told jurors Monday morning that Simmons is the one who set up a fake charity purported to give scholarships and computers to poor kids. James Smith III also told the jury that Simmons made all the withdrawals, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars, for personal use by him, Brown, and others. Smith said Simmons was so trusted by Brown and her staff, that “If Ronnie said it was OK, she believed him.”
Simmons, who has pleaded guilty to setting up a fraudulent charity and taking money for himself, testified earlier in the trial that Brown ordered him to move money from the charity to her personal bank account, which prosecutors say she then used for V.I.P. tickets to sports and entertainment events, high-end shopping excursions, and even private jets.
Brown is also accused of blowing up amounts she contributed to charity, so she could take bigger tax deductions, but even that she blames on Simmons, who prepared her taxes.
Once closing arguments are finished, U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan will give the jury instructions for reaching a verdict.