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50 attend rally for jailed commissioner
NAACP calling for Carolyn Brown's release
donald brown speaks
Donald Brown speaks about his wife, Carolyn Brown, at Thursday's rally. - photo by Photo by Alena Parker.
The NAACP’s pursuit for justice drew a crowd of about 50 during the group’s news conference Thursday regarding former county tax commissioner Carolyn Brown.
Since 2002, Brown ha s been serving a 30-year sentence for racketeering and two counts of theft by conversion.
Conference attendees mainly questioned why Brown was denied parole.
Edward Dubose, NAACP state conference president, announced his group’s intent to push for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation.
“We believe that when the U.S. Justice Department investigates the case, it will reflect there is truly a criminal spirit in Liberty County,” Dubose said. “This is the first step in long process.”
He said he will plan future demonstrations — including one on the anniversary of Brown’s arrest — until officials understand Brown was “made to be the fall person for the corruption in Liberty County.”
Rev. Liston Singletary III, local NAACP president, also spoke at the event.
“Why not grant Carolyn Brown parole?” He asked. “She is not a murderer. She’s no threat to society.”
Scheree Moore, a representative from the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, said Brown’s next tentative parole hearing is set for April 2015 and once the board makes a decision, the case normally is not reviewed again.
“They look at everything before they review a case and make a decision,” Moore said, adding that the nature of the crime, any past criminal history and personal history often top the list.
“Of course, cases always come back before the board if there is extenuating circumstances brought before the board to review the situation,” Moore said. “And the board has the right and liberty to reconsider any case.”
However, new information does not automatically mean the case is revisited.
“The main thing is public safety,” Moore said. “You want to return an offender to the community without jeopardizing public safety.”
NAACP representatives say Brown was an upstanding citizen and only followed the procedures set by her predecessor when she was accused of overpaying herself commission and fees.
“If Carolyn Brown had the intent of defrauding the people of Liberty County … a reasonable person would conclude she did a disservice to herself by keeping meticulous records of all her checks written with copies of them,” Singletary said.
However, there is a “clear disparity between white-collar crimes and street crime,” according to Dr. Paul Mullen, an Armstrong Atlantic State University professor, who said the system has changed with time.
Harsher sentences have been necessary recently because the lax treatment “didn’t seem to deter the great gains pos-
sible from fraud,” he said.
A former attorney, Mullen said judges’ sentences are based on statute, but have some discretion.
“Parole is difficult if you are a repeat offender, show a lack of remorse or failure to accept responsibility for crimes or have some issues while
incarcerated,” Mullen said.
He cited the case of legendary financier Michael Milken, who was indicted on 98 racketeering counts but served only 10 years after he agreed to a plea bargain.
In 2006, Brown submitted a writ of habeas corpus, which is a legal action through which a person who thinks they are being held unfairly can seek relief from the unlawful detention of him or herself.
 “You can’t compare apples with oranges,” said Thomas Durden, the district attorney for the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, which includes the Superior Court of Liberty County. “There was a lot of tax money used for personal purposes and that’s just highly illegal and highly unfair to hard-working tax payers.”
Durden did not try the case. The deceased Lewis Groover, then assistant DA, was lead counsel.
“Our office’s position was we need to be firm and we asked the court to take in account that this was public money that was misappropriated,” Durden said.
Dr. Trent Davis, Georgia Southern University professor, said there is always a victim
in crimes that fall under
the racketeering umbrella.
“While most financial or economic crimes do not cause direct, tangible physical harm, these are not victimless crimes either,” Davis said.
During the conference, Singletary said the “truth needs to finally be told,” about Brown’s alleged crimes.
 “If this is a person who’s guilty, why would I want to invite outsiders into the matter, who have no bias?”he said.
“This is worth looking into ... with a thorough investigation.”
But everything is now matter of the parole board.
“Once again as far as the future of this case — this case is over,” Durden said. “It’s been reviewed and only thing that could be considered is really not a decision that the district attorney could make.”
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