Nakia Brown: After She Initiates Cheaters-style Fracas, Sues State For Crime Victim Compensation
Nakia Brown & Tristen Nottage: Drama at Prairie View
If you've ever seen the shit-show that is Cheaters, that Dallas-bred abomination of televised romantic desolation, you know the drill.
Woman comes back to bleak exurban apartment complex and sees car of suspected romantic rival. Heart in throat and fists in tightly-clenched balls, woman goes to boyfriend's door and demands to be let in for "the confrontation," as Cheaters never fails to put it. Tension builds, and we break for commercials as stentorian announcer reminds us, "Coming up: THE CONFRONTATION."
Back from the break, we hear "the suspect" spew a pack of lies from other side of door, and woman #1 beats a strategic retreat. Meanwhile, man and woman #2 ("the companion" in Cheaters parlance) attempt stealthy getaway and are spotted by woman #1. At last we get the Cheaters money-shot: the dramatic, name-calling parking-lot altercation. (Take it from a reformed Cheaters-aholic: As a viewer you occasionally feel a catharsis watching this; more often, you feel like you need to be doused in Pine-Sol, scrubbed raw with a wire-hair brush, and then rinsed off with a fire-hose. It's just not worth it, kids.)
At any rate, on a mid-February day over two years ago, that Cheaters scenario pretty much unfolded in real life for Prairie View undergrad Nakia Brown, her sometime boyfriend Mark Williams, and Tristen Nottage, Brown's rival for Williams's affections.
Rashomon and Cheaters, two great works of art
But in this case, there was no gel-haired, soul-patched, smooth-talking little douchebag with a microphone nor a camera crew nor a security team to stave off the proceedings before they degenerated into a full-on catfight fracas.
And partially because neither Joey Greco nor his Man Friday "Gomez" (nor Greco's sorely-missed predecessor Tommy Grand) were around to tamp down the aggro, the Texas 1st Court of Appeals got to hear a salacious little tale in the form of Brown vs Office of the Attorney General, Crime Victim Services Division.
We begin on February 15, 2008. It was the day after Valentine's Day, and Brown had just returned to her apartment after a shift at her on-campus job at Prairie View. She saw Nottage's car parked suspiciously near the door to an apartment where Williams was known to lay his head, and she knew that Williams and Nottage had a little thing going.
Brown marched up to Williams' door and somehow gained admittance to Williams' apartment -- perhaps thanks to a gullible, unknowing or treasonous roommate. Meanwhile, Williams and Nottage had barricaded themselves in the Helmsdeep of his bedroom sanctuary, where he tried to tell Brown that the car wasn't Nottage's and that she needed to leave. Brown responded by dialing Nottage's cellphone number and presumably heard it ring. (Shades of "Trapped in the Closet": " I tried my best to quickly put it on vibrate...")
At some point after that, Brown left the apartment, and Williams emerged too and told her to leave. Brown did so, but only to go to her apartment and gather up all the gifts Williams had bought her for Valentine's Day and festoon them all over Nottage's car. If only she had left it with that stylish kiss-off...But she didn't, and two years of litigation followed what happened in the next few minutes.
Meanwhile, Nottage made a break for it. As she approached her newly flower- and lingerie-strewn ride and attempted her getaway, before she could get in, Brown spotted her and her temper got the better of her. She slugged Nottage, and Nottage returned the favor. Eventually the fight was broken up by witnesses, and Nottage was able to get in her car and try to drive off.
But before Nottage got out of the parking lot, she hit and injured Brown and an unnamed witness with her car, and thus we have the case heard by the 1st Court of Appeals.
Initially, Nottage was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and arrested, but she was eventually no-billed by a Waller County grand jury, which evidently decided that Brown had instigated the attack. Nottage was never tried for any crime related to this post-Valentine's Day mini-massacre.
Undeterred, Brown filed an application for payment under the Crime Victims Compensation Act, seeking reimbursement for medical and other expenses. The attorney general denied her claim; she appealed it for review by the same body and they denied her again. Just as the grand jury had done, the AG's office had determined that her own actions had led directly to her injuries.
So she filed suit in the 1st Court of Appeals, asking that they take a fresh look at her case.
At any rate, let's step back to the events of that day. And at that point, a sort of Rashomoneffect creeps into the narrative.
According to Nottage and Williams, Brown and her friends and cousins surrounded Nottage's car and pounded on it while shouting obscenities. She said she never knew she hit anybody.
Brown's version had it that she was just standing in the parking lot with her friends when Nottage drove right at her, struck her, made eye contact with her, and then accelerated again and ran over her leg with both the front and rear tires of her car.
As far as the court was concerned, those points were moot. When they issued their ruling, the court also found that since Brown had indisputably initiated the chain of events that led to her being hit, and since Nottage had not been tried or convicted of any crime as a result of that chain of events, Brown was not a crime victim, and thus not eligible to be compensated as such.
So there you have it: if you catch your lover cheating on your own very doorstep, the day after Valentine's Day, with someone you know well enough to have their number in your cellphone, don't punch them and then expect to get paid, even if they run over your leg with their car.
Nope. She should have gotten Joey Greco on the case.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.