The federal scandal involving former Florida congresswoman Corrine Brown entered a new chapter on Tuesday when her chief of staff and co-defendant Ronnie Simmons entered a guilty plea to 18 counts against him in federal court.
“After reviewing 40 thousand documents with my client, studying the evidence compiled by the government and after numerous gut retching sessions in which reality and conscious collided, Ronnie Simmons has decided to end his battle and admit his responsibility for misdeeds which he committed,” Simmons’ attorney wrote in a letter obtained by First News in Jacksonville Wednesday.
Simmons pleaded guilty on two counts to conspiracy and corruption felonies: conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft of government funds.
The former chief of staff said he helped create a fake charity and used the money raised from that charity to put more jingle in his and Brown’s pockets. Both he and brown are accused of using the money from the charity as their own personal funding source.
Simmons also admitted he hired a member of his family for a different job in Brown’s administration and that they shared funds from the salary via a joint checking account.
Part of Simmons’ plea requires him to surrender his Fifth Amendment rights, which would protect him from being called as a witness against himself.
Simmons’ attorney said he agreed to the plea when he realized he would not be fully acquitted of all charges.
The maximum penalty for the charges against Simmons is 30 years and prison and a $500,000 fine, but his attorneys say he will get off with a lighter sentence where he will only have to pay $50,000 -- but he will be forced to testify against his former boss, 12-term congresswoman Brown.
Once he is sentenced, the remaining charges against him will be dropped.
Brown maintains her innocence, but the backlash over her indictment has already had catastrophic effects on her career. She ran for reelection in November but lost to Al Lawson, who now sits in her seat in Washington, D.C.
“Ronnie is aware...he has a price to pay for the mistakes,” his attorney wrote. “He is ready. He has no guarantees or promises as to what his sentence would be other than what the federal guidelines indicate. Nonetheless, he has confidence that his decision will bring him and his family peace after a long year of struggle and anxiety.”
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