Pa. jury mostly deadlocks on charter school fraud

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - January 9, 2014

Dorothy June Brown, 76, took multiple salaries from four schools she founded, and earned millions more from her consulting company, the indictment charged. Brown made $2 million in one year alone, prosecutors said.

However, three jurors were not convinced that she broke any laws, leading to a 9-3 deadlock on 54 counts against Brown, most of them involving checks that changed hands. The jurors had been working on the case since November, with a two-week holiday break in the midst of deliberations.

"I thought the prosecution did a phenomenal job. I wish the others were able to look at the evidence impartially," said juror Christine Dick, 55, of Malvern. "They had reasonable doubt. ... That's their right."

Federal prosecutors immediately vowed to retry the case, one of several they have pursued involving publicly-funded charter schools.

"We're very thankful that the jury didn't find her guilty of anything," defense lawyer William McSwain said.

Brown has mixed emotions about the verdict, he said.

The jury previously acquitted co-defendants Michael Slade Jr, who is Brown's nephew, and Courteney Knight before breaking for the holidays. Two other company officials pleaded guilty before trial.

Brown, a former Philadelphia School District veteran, is part of a well-known family in Philadelphia. Her husband, Bill, led a commission that investigated the city's 1985 MOVE bombing. Her brother, Harold Hairston, is a former city fire commissioner.

One of her schools, the Laboratory Charter School, won a prestigious National Blue Ribbon from U.S. education officials.

A defense expert had testified that Brown's pay was not unreasonable for administrators of high-performing schools. But prosecutors said the case is about fraud, not test scores.

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