Suspended City Council member requests public defender to represent her in federal fraud case; Reginald Brown also to have court-appointed attorney.
Suspended Jacksonville City Council member Katrina Brown will require a court-appointed attorney in her federal fraud case.
U.S. Magistrate Judge James Klindt approved the request Thursday during a status hearing at the Bryan Simpson U.S. Courthouse.
The decision means that both Katrina Brown and suspended council member Reginald Brown, who are not related, will be represented by public defenders when they appear Monday afternoon to be arraigned.
Both face multiple federal charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering.
Federal prosecutors allege Katrina Brown and Reginald Brown used several shell corporations to illegally draw down federal and local loans and local grant money to support a failed barbecue sauce business in Northwest Jacksonville owned by Katrina Brown and her family.
After three weeks of uncertainty, Curtis Fallgatter, who was the attorney for Katrina Brown, stated Thursday he would not continue as her counsel.
“There is a business plan in place that is viable,” said Fallgatter to Klindt. “It is not at a point where I can submit a notice of appearance.”
Fallgatter said he did not believe it was fair to the court or to Katrina Brown to ask for another extension as her family continues to work out its finances.
Based on a financial affidavit Brown submitted Thursday morning, Klindt said she qualifies for a public defender.
“It appears that the debts are, generally speaking, greater than the income and assets that she has,” said Klindt.
He said her debts were not enough to prevent her from contributing $100 a month to the registry of the court to help pay for legal services.
As he did June 14 for Reginald Brown, Klindt is requiring Katrina Brown to deposit $1,000 into the registry by July 20. The $100 fee is due on the 30th day of each month, beginning in August.
Klindt did not disclose Katrina Brown’s assets or debts. He said he would select an attorney for her by Friday.
Both will be arraigned at 2 p.m. Monday.
After the court hearing, Fallgatter stated that he expects both to enter pleas of not guilty.
On council, Katrina Brown, 37, represents District 8 and Reginald Brown, 56, represents District 10.
Both have been suspended without pay by Gov. Rick Scott, who is reviewing applications from those interested in filling their roles temporarily.
A federal grand jury handed down the indictments May 31 based on an investigation led by the FBI.
Katrina Brown is accused of 38 counts that include conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, aiding and abetting mail and wire fraud and aiding and abetting money laundering. She also is accused of making false statements to a federally insured financial institution.
If convicted on all charges she faces a $12.25 million fine and up to 720 years in federal prison.
Reginald Brown faces 33 charges that include conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, aiding and abetting mail and wire fraud, aiding and abetting money laundering and failing to file an income tax return in 2014.
He faces an $8.275 million fine and up 601 years in federal prison.
While a tentative trial date has been set for Aug. 6, Klindt suggested that it could be moved to September, given recent delays.