Four days after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, then-Democrat U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown descended the stairs of Air Force One alongside President Barack Obama.
A month later in 2016, Brown, whose district reached into Orlando before it was redrawn last year, cast her vote as a superdelegate for Hillary Clinton’s nomination for president.
But her days of hobnobbing with the powerful are over for the Jacksonville Democrat, whose fall from grace was complete Monday when she she emerged from a limousine-style minibus at the federal prison in Sumter County to begin serving a five-year sentence for fraud and other crimes tied to a purported charity for poor students that prosecutors said she used as a personal slush fund.
Brown, who served 24 years in Congress before her defeat in 2016, was sentenced last month for using about $800,000 meant for poor students to pay for Bahama vacations, a Beyoncé concert and to pad her own bank accounts.
But at the Coleman federal correctional complex she will spend her days near notorious criminals such as convicted gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, who spent 16 years as one of the country’s most wanted fugitives, and Texas tycoon Robert Allen Stanford, convicted of running a $7 billion Ponzi scheme.
Brown, 71, likely will do clerical or janitorial work during her days at the prison camp, where she will be held with 391 other female inmates, said Larry Levine, director of Wall Street Prison Consultants, which helps incoming prisoners adjust to their new confinement.
“When they get high-profile inmates like her, they like to treat them like [expletive],” said Levine, who did time at 11 prisons over 10 years for racketeering and narcotics traffic, among other charges. “Seriously, she’s got a rough road ahead of her.”
Bishop Kelvin Cobaris, lead pastor and founder of The Impact Church in Orlando and “spiritual adviser” to Brown, said she was accompanied by family to the prison.
“I saw emotion. I didn’t see nervousness or fear,” he told TV reporters outside the prison along County Road 470, about 50 miles northwest of downtown Orlando. “She was just ready to go and face what she needed to face.”
The low-security prison camp is separate from the rest of the correctional complex that houses more than 6,600 prisoners in three different security levels — high, medium and low.
There are no walls or fences at camps, Levine said, and most inmates are serving five to 10 years for non-violent crimes.
Because doors are often not locked, the inmates are subjected to multiple headcounts day and night.
Levine said he’s certain inmates will be both wary and keen on their new politically-connected prisoner.
“I was locked up with politicians — they have entitlement issues, they think they’re entitled to things and people resent that,” he said. “They’re going to think she’s rich — she can claim she doesn’t have any money.”
Brown will wake 6 a.m. on weekdays to wait in line for the bathroom and then for breakfast. Afterward, she will tidy her room and the small locker “that is her existence” where she keeps all her possessions, Levine said.
“It’s [the movie] ‘Groundhog Day,’ ” Levine said. “Because it’s the same [expletive] every day.”
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