Katrina Brown offered to testify for Reggie Brown, but judge says it's "far from obvious how this testimony would be exculpatory."

Former Jacksonville City Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown can’t stand trial on fraud charges separately, a federal judge has decided for the fifth time.

“Trying this case twice would result in enormous disruption and duplication of effort by the court, the witnesses and the government,” U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard wrote in response to a request Katrina Brown renewed after she decided last month to defend herself without a lawyer.

Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, who aren’t related, are scheduled to go on trial Sept. 23.

The one-term councilwoman argued she could testify in Reggie Brown’s defense, but only if she was tried separately on the charges, which revolved around a small-business loan Katrina Brown’s family landed to build a never-completed barbecue sauce factory.

But after reading an affidavit describing how Katrina Brown planned to testify, Howard wrote she was “hard-pressed to determine that Katrina Brown’s testimony would be of assistance” to Reggie Brown.

“[I]t is far from obvious how this testimony would be exculpatory,” Howard wrote at one point in a 19-page ruling.

The key charges in a 38-count indictment filed last year are conspiracy and wire and mail fraud involving invoices to Katrina Brown’s family business for non-existent work from companies that listed Reggie Brown as the manager.

Prosecutors said checks from the lender managing the $2.65 million loan were sent to Reggie Brown and a lot of the money ended up with Katrina Brown.

But while Katrina Brown’s affidavit said Reggie Brown didn’t know anything about any invoices, it also said that Katrina Brown told him to take money out of his company bank accounts and give it to her.

That affidavit “can be viewed as inculpatory,” the judge wrote in an order that rejected Reggie Brown’s third request to sever his trial from Katrina Brown’s and her second motion to be tried separately from Reggie Brown.

Steve Patterson: (904) 359-4263