Federal jury in Dorothy June Brown fraud trial to resume its work on Wednesday

Posted: January 08, 2014

The jury in the federal fraud trial of charter-school founder Dorothy June Brown was not able to resume deliberations Monday because one member could not get to the courthouse because of inclement weather.

U.S. District Court Judge R. Barclay Surrick said deliberations would resume Wednesday.

Jurors in the $6.7 million fraud trial have not met since Dec. 19, when - after more than a week of deliberations - the foreman indicated they were having problems reaching consensus on the 60 counts facing Brown.

The veteran educator, 76, is accused of defrauding the four charter schools she founded of $6.7 million, and participating in a cover-up scheme.

Before recessing for a two-week holiday break, however, the jury acquitted Brown's codefendants, Michael A. Slade Jr. and Courteney L. Knight, who each had been charged with one count of conspiring to obstruct justice and two counts of obstructing justice.

Slade, 32, Brown's great-nephew, is a suspended chief executive of one of her charters, Laboratory Charter School. Knight, 66, a teacher, was once the CEO at another.

Brown is charged with 48 counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, 10 counts of obstructing justice, and one count of witness tampering.

The trial began Nov. 6. During five weeks of testimony, jurors heard about phantom charter board members, fabricated documents and forged signatures on phony contracts between schools and two education management firms Brown controlled.

Before the trial started, two former administrators pleaded guilty and subsequently testified for the prosecution.

Joan Woods Chalker, a longtime Brown employee and a former CEO of one of Brown's charters, pleaded guilty to three counts of obstruction of justice.

Anthony Smoot, who handled the finances for Brown's schools for years, pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to obstruct justice and to obstructing justice during the four-year federal probe.

Smoot is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 31, and Chalker on March 24.

martha.woodall@phillynews.com 215-854-2789

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