This insurgent accused of Tampa on January 6 shows up at Florida House from prison

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LARGO — Jeremy Michael Brown, the only Republican awaiting the winner of the Democratic primary for a seat in the Florida House representing parts of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, faces charges related to the Jan. 6 uprising.

And he’s campaigning from Pinellas County Jail, where he’s being held on a felony federal weapons charge stemming from his arrest for misdemeanor trespassing and disruptive conduct in connection with the attack on the United States Capitol.

Brown was pictured outside the Capitol in full tactical gear as hundreds disrupted Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. He said he believed fraud was involved in the 2020 presidential election.

Now Brown, 47, is running for public office under the same electoral system he says is tainted. Unless he is found guilty of one of the crimes, he will be on the November ballot against the Democratic nominee.

A spokesperson for the Florida Department of State’s Division of Elections said attorneys are still investigating whether there are any issues that could affect his candidacy.

“We don’t know, the state office doesn’t know and to be honest, I don’t care,” Brown told the Tampa Bay Times during a Friday jail visit. “I’m going to run until they tell me no. It’s almost as if our government is incompetent.

Jeremy Brown, 47, is accused of participating in the January 6 riot at the United States Capitol. Federal agents say they found unregistered firearms and two hand grenades at his Tampa home. [ Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office ]

The Cases Against Brown

In Washington DC, Brown is accused of being among dozens of rioters who breached a secure area outside the US Capitol on January 6, although he is not charged with entering the building.

Federal prosecutors says Brown claims to be a member of the extremist group Oath Keepers, several of which have been charged with seditious conspiracy and other crimes. He coordinated travel plans via chat messages, writing that he would be bringing his recreational vehicle, which he called “Ground Force One,” according to a criminal complaint.

In a separate space But a related criminal case, Brown faces a litany of charges after federal authorities said they found two illegal firearms and a set of hand grenades when they executed a search warrant at his Tampa home. A federal judge previously ordered Brown to remain in custody pending trial, expressing concern over a profane handwritten sign he placed outside his home after an earlier visit by law enforcement. officers. The sign stated that if they returned they should “bring a larger tactical package”.

Brown is mounting legal challenges to the searches conducted by authorities on his property. A judge has yet to rule on the matter. A trial date in the Tampa case is set for October.

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A grand jury this spring brought new charges alleging Brown also had unauthorized possession of secret national defense documents related to his time in the military. Eight of nine counts against Brown in Tampa case are felony charges with up to 10 years imprisonment.

Brown denies the charges. He claims that FBI agents in December 2020 tried to recruit him as a confidential informant, but he refused and then felt compelled to speak out.

Supporters raised thousands of dollars in his defense and held rallies outside the prison for Brown. They accuse the federal government of taking political prisoners of conservatives who traveled to Washington DC last year.

One of Brown’s biggest supporters is Cathi Chamberlain of Defend Florida, a right-wing group against government mandates and federal excesses that claims the 2020 presidential election was stolen. The two met after Chamberlain invited Brown on his podcast.

Chamberlain said she pitched Brown the idea of ​​running for the prison post, “because it’s very difficult for a conservative to get the word out about everything we do.”

She challenged him to publicize what he is going through as well as “the socialism that goes beyond our country”. Brown previously ran for Florida’s 14th congressional district in 2020 but pulled out before the primary.

“I told Jeremy that if he ran for office I would put my whole career on hold and become his campaign manager, that he now calls me his ‘campaign commander,'” Chamberlain said. “He gives everything a military name.”

Cathi Chamberlain, Jeremy Brown's campaign manager for his Florida District 62 race, poses as Brown's
Cathi Chamberlain, Jeremy Brown’s campaign manager for his Florida District 62 race, introduces herself as Brown’s “campaign commander.” She brings a cardboard cutout of Brown to campaign events. [ Courtesy of Cathi Chamberlain ]

Campaigning from prison

Chamberlain worked in information technology and at one time led an all-female construction team. On the right-wing speech circuit, she collected signatures to qualify Brown as a candidate instead of paying a fee.

Chamberlain wears a life-size cutout photo of Brown from her 2020 congressional run. She wears orange prison scrubs that sell for $50 a pop to fund her campaign. They read “Detainee #1875858 Brown for Florida State House 2022” depicted in barbed wire.

Brown’s campaign raised nearly $16,000 and spent about half of it.

Brown has said from prison that he is running to bring attention to the problems of this country, including voter fraud on “both sides” that aids the establishment. No widespread electoral fraud took place in 2020.

J. Edwin Benton, a Florida election expert and professor at the University of South Florida, said he was not aware of any case of running for office while incarcerated. He said if Brown wins, he could be sworn in jail and serve as an elected representative in absentia. Only a felony conviction would end his candidacy as Brown would lose his right to vote under Florida law.

“As far as I know, we’re in uncharted waters,” Benton said. “There’s nothing in the constitutional law of the state that would prevent him from doing that just because nobody thought of the possibility.”

Brown is a long way from being elected to the Florida Legislative Assembly. The redesigned House District 62 includes the heavily Democratic areas of South St. Petersburg and East Hillsborough, including East Tampa, Riverview, and Gibsonton. According to a Times analysis, 72.4% of the region voted for Biden.

The Aug. 24 primary is between House District 70 representative Michele Rayner (D-St. Petersburg), her predecessor Wengay Newton and newcomer Jesse Philippe. Brown was uncontested in the primary by another Republican candidate and therefore qualified for the general ballot.

Times writer Dan Sullivan contributed to this report.

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