Michael Brown Trial: A Butt-Dial and a Humanitarian Award Used as a Weapon
A butt-dialed voice mail allegedly revealing an extramarital affair spurred the argument leading to Michael Brown's assault charge, prosecutors argued in the first day of testimony in the ex-hand surgeon's trial.
After spending August 12, 2010, with her children (and requisite security personnel, natch) at NASA, Rachel Brown checked her phone, only to hear a recording of her husband flirting with an unidentified female, prosecutor Nathan Hennigan told jurors. Rachel wasn't able to confront Brown until the following morning, when he was sleeping off a drunk on a living room recliner, Hennigan said.
"That's when all hell breaks loose," the prosecutor alleged, before describing how Brown chased his wife around the living room and kitchen, trying to pelt her with vases and, in an awesome bit of irony, a Joanne King Herring Humanitarian Award. Brown ultimately grabbed his wife and twisted her arm, although things could have escalated had it not been for a bodyguard who arrived on the scene and forced Brown into a master bedroom, directing him to shower and calm down.
The couple's three young children witnessed the assault, Hennigan said. After Rachel filed charges -- and after Brown moved out -- Brown threatened to cut off the utilities and boot Rachel out of the house unless she dropped the charge, Hennigan said. He also claimed that an attorney for the Brown Hand Center persuaded Rachel to sign an affidavit of non-prosecution, but later felt she had had "enough."
But Brown's attorney Dick DeGuerin said it was Rachel who, in one of her patented panic attacks, ambushed her sleeping husband with a hot cup of coffee and the allegedly incriminating voice mail, yelling, "Who were you fucking last night? Who were you fucking, motherfucker?....And then, it was on." (In a narrative that wasn't explored as deeply as we hoped, DeGuerin said that one of the parties in the accidental call was heard saying, "We're both smarter bears.")
Rachel had no bruises or other obvious signs of injury, DeGuerin said, and waited at least 30 minutes -- well after Brown had already left the residence -- before calling 911. Rachel even called her parents and a bodyguard (the Browns have 'em on call!) before calling the police, DeGuerin said.
He also said Rachel had been recording the couple's phone conversations since February 2010. (It was suggestive of a premeditated scheme, best characterized by co-counsel and Awesome Quote Machine Brian Wice, who told Judge Jim Wallace before the jury was seated that Rachel was "directing this charade like Spielberg.")
In fact, it was Wice's objection to the introduction of these taped calls -- which were not played today -- that was among the most exciting parts of a long day of testimony, in part because of a reference to an extraneous offense that apparently occurred in Monaco.
Following opening statements, the jury heard from one of the couple's stable of nannies; the police officer who responded to the 911 call; the bodyguard who broke up the fight and subsequently drove Brown to his Normangee ranch; and a detective with the family violence unit who investigated the incident.
The jury also heard Rachel's 911 call, wherein she sounded more annoyed with the dispatcher's incessant questioning than like a woman who had just suffered a painful assault. In fact, none of the go-to words that reporters like to use for 911 calls -- "chilling," "desperate," "dramatic," "panicked" -- seem to apply. (At one point, an unidentified male voice is overheard telling Rachel to tell the dispatcher that she's hurt and needs an ambulance, two apparently trivial items that seemed to have slipped the young woman's mind. And at one point, Rachel actually tells the dispatcher, "I have a doctor's appointment at 9:45." We were waiting for her to casually mention where she planned to have lunch that day, but it never came up.)
Since, we swear to God, much of today's testimony involved endless inquisitions into hugely significant matters like the temperature of coffee in Rachel's cup and how much broken glass was observed on which side of what piece of furniture, we'd like to present the rest of the info in an abbreviated manner. (Had it not been for the common-sense, let's-move-things-along-here-folks admonitions by Judge Jim Wallace, we're pretty sure we'd still be in court, listening to DeGuerin and prosecutor Jane Waters objecting to each others' oft-leading questions about how many times the F-bomb was uttered on the day in question.)
Here, then, is what else was alleged in testimony today:
-- Michael Brown likes to carry a bag full of handguns between home and the shooting range, and then just plop the bag of unloaded pistols on the ol' floor when he returns to a home occupied by three children; but keys to his 8-10 luxury automobiles are stored in a punch-code safe in the kitchen.
-- The youngest two children have their own nannies, who are required to wear scrubs while on duty.
-- The couple has two on-call bodyguards (not to be confused with security guards) who occupy an apartment about a half-mile from the Memorial home.
-- One of the nannies said she was told by Michael Brown never to call 911.
-- The officer who responded to the 911 call did not photograph the scene, and it's not his standard procedure to do so, thus opening the door to endless hours of excruciating testimony of how the living room floor might have looked on the day in question.
-- The HPD detective who interviewed the couple's 12-year-old daughter said it's standard operating procedure to allow witnesses in criminal investigations to e-mail or fax written statements whenever it's convenient for them, outside the presence of detectives. The daughter faxed her statement seven days after she was interviewed.
-- If you're a reporter covering the trial for KTRK, don't tweet photos from the courtroom, or else Judge Wallace will scold you in front of everyone.
It looks like Rachel, and possibly her father, will be among the witnesses testifying Wednesday, so stay tuned!