Out of Hand
In the hallway on the fifteenth floor of the Harris County Criminal Justice Center, attorney Dick DeGuerin is cutting a GPS ankle bracelet off Michael Glyn Brown. A jury of six men and six women has just found the former hand surgeon, who lost his medical license after testing positive for cocaine several times, not guilty of assaulting his fourth wife, Rachel.
It's a dramatic set piece that plays out in front of reporters' cameras, meant to indicate that an innocent man shackled by overzealous prosecutors has finally been freed. A man with tremendous financial resources, Brown spent a lot of money to secure this freedom. In addition to DeGuerin, Brown hired appellate attorney Brian Wice, who was silent in front of the jury but outside their presence urged Judge Jim Wallace to exclude certain evidence. The high-priced attorneys' strategy was this: paint Rachel Brown as a lying, manipulative, gold-digging whore. DeGuerin told the jury that Rachel was in a relationship with former Houston Astro Jeff Bagwell, a relationship that Rachel maintained didn't begin until after she filed for divorce and well after Brown moved out of the couple's Memorial mansion.
Assured of his freedom, Brown finally spoke to the reporters who had crowded the hallway after each day of the six-day trial. In a thin, soft voice with a hint of a drawl, Brown said, "This whole process caused an enormous amount of human suffering, and I'm just concerned for my kids. I just want to take care of my children."
It's what a wrongfully accused, morally upright and sensitive father is supposed to say. In commercials for the Brown Hand Center, and in promotional literature, Brown has always known what that archetype is supposed to say; it's just that the words sound strange coming from him. His previous wife, Darlina, whose face he mashed to a pulp with his bare hands and a broken bedpost in 2001, wouldn't believe those words. Neither would Rachel, who accused Brown of physically and verbally abusing her for years, often in front of the children. Neither would some former employees, who accused Brown and his underlings of threatening their lives.
Brown wrote off the two daughters he had with Darlina, kids who made uncomfortable props in Brown's creepy television commercial, a grotesque mimicry of normal human behavior that continued to air long after Darlina gained sole custody of the girls and took them out of Texas, far away from their father. When Brown filed a motion to have unsupervised visits with the kids, a Harris County family court judge ordered him to first undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Brown resisted for months, then withdrew the motion entirely. That's how much Michael Glyn Brown cared about his children.
Brown needed absolute control over others, and thanks to money and coercion and threats, he could usually get it. He had plenty of bodyguards and hangers-on and lawyers and doctors in his pocket, willing to toe the line, because Brown was one hell of a piggy bank. What he seemed to lack were close friends and (male) family members brave and loving enough to stand up to him and tell him he needed help.
Based on Brown's own bizarre writings and a review of nearly 20 years' worth of court records and medical board rulings, this is the story of an outrageously wealthy and once-brilliant surgeon tortured by bipolar disorder and enabled by white-collar parasites who didn't care about Brown's mental and physical health as long as they got a slice of the Brown fortune. (Brown declined comment and did not respond to a list of questions presented to his attorneys. Curiously, considering Brown's a man who says he lives a Christian, moral life, most people we sought for interviews said they were too scared of being sued — or worse — to even talk off the record.)
Throughout it all — his savage beating of his third wife; continued cocaine use that stripped him of his medical license; continued abuse allegations from his fourth wife — the Houston Chronicle feted Brown in its society pages, and the Houston Astros welcomed him onto the diamond to throw an opening pitch. In Houston, it seemed, what you lacked in character could be made up for in wealth.
Brown's incredible ambition made him millions, but he was plagued by suicidal ideations since age 18, and, by his own account, there was only so much riches and lithium could do. He needed a wife's unconditional love; a wife who could understand his notion of the bipolar mind; a wife who could feed his insatiable desire for sex and dutifully instruct the servants to have dinner ready on time. To Brown, it was the same as "Agape love" — God's love for mankind. And it was the most precious, rare element of all.
Without it, there was just lithium, cocaine, alcohol, guns, big-game hunting, exotic cars, private planes and miserable nights of empty, empty fucking. Mechanical sex, he called it. None of these would ever fill the void left by Agape love.
Nothing — not a not-guilty, not cutting off a GPS anklet — was going to bring him peace. And that meant not just more trouble for Brown, but for those who he deemed were enemies. Without Agape love, Satan could slither in and try to make you destroy everything around you, even if you had to destroy yourself in the process.
Because Brown and his older sisters, Glenda Hughes and Jeanne Jeffcoat, did not speak to the Houston Press, we don't have much information about Brown's childhood. The scant information we have is contained in a series of letters he wrote between 1999 and 2001 and addressed to his daughter Sophie.
Brown wrote reverently of his father, Glyn, who died in 2000 after suffering from Alzheimer's disease. It seemed to crush Brown, who mentions his mother only in passing. Brown's memories of his father are strikingly conventional: He was a welder who always told Brown to do his best and to "never give up." Brown's mother Thelma is barely mentioned, but Glyn Brown is simply a stock character, dutifully playing the role of the loving father.
In hundreds of pages, Brown doesn't mention his sisters, but he spends several nostalgic pages on a beloved fishing lure. While he spends an incredible amount of time writing about how he's struggled with suicidal thoughts for much of his life, he doesn't hint at childhood trauma or any single triggering event. His demons, eventually diagnosed by a doctor as bipolar disorder, seem to have appeared spontaneously.
He graduated from Galena Park Senior High (with honors, as he would want you to know) in 1975. As he would later write in "Letters to Sophie," his high school counselor saw great promise in the "long-haired but smart and principled" kid whose 183 IQ made him smarter than his teachers. The counselor told Brown he should go to Harvard or Princeton or Yale, or "at the very least...[the] University of Texas."
Instead, he chose Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, now called Texas State University-San Marcos. He liked being able to drive his Harley through the Hill County and scuba-dive in the "crystal clear" river. (He would also want you to know that his grade point average was 3.97.)
From there, it was on to Baylor College of Medicine; he received his Texas medical license in 1983. According to his online bio, Brown was "personally asked" by legendary cardiovascular surgeon Michael DeBakey "to stay at Baylor affiliated hospitals in the Texas Medical Center in preparation for the cardiovascular heart surgery program." But Brown considered the hand "more challenging" and set off on the path that would eventually create his vast fortune.
In 1988, after finishing his surgical training at a hospital in Stockton, California, he founded the Brown Hand Center.
In the ensuing years, he would not only make money from that and other hand centers, he would patent a medical device used to endoscopically treat carpal tunnel syndrome and sell it, and other medical devices, through a company called Instratek. This initial device was an improvement of an existing device, and it allowed Brown and his partners to complete an operation in minutes. It was a high-volume, high-dollar enterprise.
But as Brown's professional career skyrocketed, his personal life crumbled.
Little is known about his first marriage, which dissolved in 1984. But his second wife, Deborah Jaramillo (who would go on to become a respected restaurateur), left him after he began to build his empire. A hint of the marital strife can be found in one of Brown's seven self-published books, Kilimanjaro: Safari in Tanzania.
In the book's closing chapter, Brown writes about pummeling Jaramillo's neck while in the throes of a nightmare about a lion attack: "I flung off the sweat drenched sheets and gasped. 'GODDAMN!' I could see Debbie's face over me and she was shaking me, telling me to wake up, that it was only another one of the dreams that I had been having every week for the last three months since my return from Africa.'"
Jaramillo left him six months later, Brown wrote, saying she had to "find herself."
But there was a silver lining. Brown found the woman who would become his next wife.
"Michael Brown is now quite content with a beautiful, twenty year old blond-haired, blue-eyed, loving, caring and affectionate woman named Darlina," he wrote. "Mike asked Darlina, 'Would you like to go hunting with me sometime?' Darlina answered, 'Of course I would. I want to go everywhere and do everything with you!'"
But Brown still had to endure grueling divorce proceedings, which occurred in the midst of fraud suits filed against Brown by former employees; the maelstrom of litigation is the first official recording of allegations of Brown's paranoia, drug use, alcoholism and death threats against perceived enemies.
By the time Brown served Jaramillo with divorce papers in 1993, he had covered the windows of his Woodlands home with reflective material so no one could spy on him.
According to former employees, he walked the grounds of his estate with a holstered pistol and pored over catalogs of surveillance equipment. One of his servants, John McKeon, swore in an affidavit that he kept a diary during his three years working for Brown. He testified to seeing Brown use cocaine, as well as "abusing alcohol, sometimes while he was on call for emergencies." McKeon also testified that, in 1992, when Brown and Jaramillo were still together, he overheard Jaramillo order prescription drugs — ostensibly for McKeon — that were meant for Brown. Also in 1992, McKeon became aware that Brown had been taking lithium "for his psychological disorders."
McKeon was one of three former employees who were prepared to testify on Jaramillo's behalf during the divorce proceedings. All three accused Brown or his underlings of trying to bully them into not testifying. In a deposition, Brown explained his belief that it was all a vast conspiracy concocted by Jaramillo and her divorce lawyer.
Their affidavits were part of two civil suits filed against Brown, one from a former Hand Center surgeon who believed Brown owed him money, the other from an unlicensed attorney who maybe-sorta did legal work for Brown and who said he was wrongfully terminated. Both plaintiffs appear to have had flimsy cases; it's mostly the peripheral filings that point to Brown's emerging malevolence.
McKeon testified that Brown sent an especially vivid warning in 1994, by poisoning his Great Dane. McKeon's veterinarian swore in an affidavit that the dog had clearly ingested a combination of prescription drugs, and that "it was highly unlikely that someone without medical knowledge would have known that using drugs to reduce blood pressure can cause a quick death by cardiac arrest." (Fifteen years later, a lawyer in another case against Brown would also claim that his dog had been poisoned; Brown also wrote in personal papers about attempting to euthanize his own beloved dog, Cocoa, with an overdose of pills.)
McKeon also swore in an affidavit that he believed Brown's brother-in-law (another potential witness in the divorce case) had been "harassed and threatened" by Brown and his sister, Jeanne Jeffcoat. McKeon said Brown filed two "retaliatory" civil suits against his brother-in-law, and Jeffcoat "filed criminal rape charges" against him,"for a rape which allegedly occurred more than two years prior to the filing of the charge." (Citing lack of physical evidence and the time elapsed since the alleged incident, which Jeffcoat said occurred at Brown's home, the Montgomery County District Attorney declined to press charges.)
"Brown is worth millions of dollars," McKeon swore in his affidavit. "Because of the divorce suit which is now pending, and other numerous lawsuits against him, it is my opinion that without the intervention of this court, Brown will do whatever he can, both legal and illegal, to avoid judgments being taken against him."
McKeon's roommate, Dudley Eppes, another ex-Brown employee, swore in an affidavit that Brown told him that if McKeon testified, Brown would kill him with a shotgun and then commit suicide.
Pamela Jo Campbell, a former medical assistant, accused Jaramillo of calling in straw-scripts of the pain reliever Lortab for McKeon, which were actually meant for Brown. She also said that Brown's bookkeeper called her in April 1993 and warned her that she knew who Campbell saw and spoke to, and to be careful. The bookkeeper allegedly called a few months later and "further stated that I'd better watch out. She said that I don't know what might happen to me or my son...." Campbell's son was seven years old at the time. "In my mind, it is clear a threat had been made on my life and that of my child's."
McKeon also swore in his affidavit that Jaramillo had found "small black boxes, later determined to be tracking devices, attached to each of her three cars."
Curiously, after his initial affidavit, McKeon recanted. Brown's attorney, Rob Todd, who would later become a Houston City Councilman, cited this recanting as evidence that McKeon and others were just disgruntled ex-employees. Unfortunately, Todd couldn't rely on that for very long, because McKeon subsequently recanted his recantation, accusing Todd of coercing him into signing a false statement.
Quite simply, Brown was not going to stand by while lesser men questioned his character.
He was the greatest hand surgeon in the world, a genius who revolutionized the practice by inventing one of the greatest medical devices in the history of modern medicine. He made tons of money for hospitals that granted him surgical privileges, such as Houston Northwest Medical Center, whose halls he stalked in scrubs and a lion's paw dangling from a thick gold chain. He demanded first-class treatment and settled for nothing less, which is why he threatened to pull patients from Houston Northwest if the administration did not give him a prime parking spot. His instructions to office staff were written on papers headlined "Proclamation," denoting his royalty.
Never mind the fact that the patented "Brown Technique" was merely a tweaking of existing technology, or the fact that Brown faced quite a few malpractice claims in the years before his license was probated and then revoked. (These were disputed claims in which Brown denied being negligent or otherwise reckless in his treatment of the patients, and were settled or dismissed with prejudice.)
Never mind that, although Brown liked to point to his "landmark study" of the Brown technique in one medical journal, his few articles were rarely cited among his peers, or the fact that a man whose idea of hunting as a "conservation tool" included taking down elephants and even a giraffe.
He was a man who once tried to reap a million-dollar fee for testifying as an expert witness, and then threatened to testify for the other side if he didn't get paid.
According to Brown's writings, he was one of God's chosen few, a five-percenter both blessed and cursed with bipolar disorder. This put him in the same rarefied air as Churchill, Van Gogh and Napoleon. Because of this, he had struggled with suicidal thoughts — almost daily — since he was 18.
Brown wrote of the bipolar mind needing two things to approach stability. The first, lithium, was easy: "4 or 5 at night with milk — done."
The other pill, the one harder to find, "is the ballast, the even keel, the rock steadiness of your spouses continual support, love, encouragement & praise 3 or 4 times what most people need."
This is what he believed he had found — and lost — after meeting Darlina Hoffman in 1993.
Although Brown wrote glowingly of his second wife Darlina in the epilogue of Safari in Tanzania, their relationship was troubled almost from the start.
A 20-year-old clerical worker for a billboard company, Darlina met the 35-year-old Brown at a pool party he threw at his Woodlands mansion. Rubbed raw from ongoing divorce proceedings from Jaramillo, Brown was apparently unafraid to show Darlina his vulnerable side. She couldn't help but fall for this smart, successful, wounded man. The relationship started immediately; he whisked her off for weekend getaways in his private jet and showered her with expensive gifts. She had no idea what she was getting herself into.
After they got married in 1995, Darlina told the Press in 2002, Brown grew more controlling. He told Darlina to drop her college plans and insisted she carry a cell phone and gun at all times. He laminated Bible passages explaining how wives must submit to their husbands and stuck them to the bathroom walls, so Darlina would never forget her role. Darlina would later allege in court that Brown demanded sex every day, whether she was in the mood or not, and that he masturbated constantly, drank excessively and abused cocaine.
In 1999, Darlina told a Montgomery County detective that Brown had assaulted her and that he "was wealthy enough and had the contacts to have her killed if she attempted to leave him with or without the baby." It wasn't the first time, Darlina told the detective.
That's when Brown summoned his attorney and friend, Rob Todd, who (according to Darlina) persuaded her to recant her story. Darlina told the Press in 2002, "Rob acted like my best friend. He could see the bruises on my neck. But he didn't want to know what happened. He didn't want to hear it. It's like he didn't care."
And in 2000, while on a weekend jaunt to Las Vegas, a drunken Brown accused Darlina of not loving him anymore, then held a knife to his throat and threatened to kill himself. Instead, Brown sawed through one of his fingers. "Parts of his finger flew up on the wall," Darlina would later testify.
A year later, things came to a head.
On the night of January 24, 2001, Darlina Brown called 911 and told the operator that her husband was trying to kill her and her unborn child.
She was cowering behind the nanny's bedroom door, which now bore gaping gunshot holes courtesy of Michael Glyn Brown, drunk and hard from a night watching tits and ass at Rick's Nightclub. It was something he liked to do. He came home expecting Darlina to submit to his carnal desire, as the Bible dictates. When she didn't, Brown flew into a rage and punched her in the face. She was eight months pregnant.
Perhaps not wanting to startle the couple's two-year-old daughter, Brown dragged Darlina up the stairs by her hair. Growing madder by the minute, he broke off part of a bedpost and used that to continue beating her.
Once Brown knew the police were coming, he fled. Montgomery County Sheriff's deputies found him, reeking of booze, in his Ford Excursion in a store parking lot. The officers handcuffed him and placed him in the squad car, then itemized the arsenal in Brown's SUV: three loaded handguns (with extra ammunition), a wooden club, two machetes, an illegal knife and an expandable baton. They also found three unopened bottles of Jack Daniel's and two flasks containing whiskey.
According to Texas Medical Board records, "the police report stated that [Brown] was continually yelling, kicking the door, and banging the windows and door. [Brown] was placed in leg restraints."
Back at the Brown home, police noted blood-smeared walls and bloody clumps of hair. They opened a safe and found a videotape and a cache of handwritten letters.
Darlina's right eye was swollen shut, partially obscuring a one-inch cut beneath it. Her lips were swollen and split; abrasions lined her neck, back, left forearm, both hands and both thighs. Brown said he had acted in self-defense. He urged police to test his blood for traces of PCP; someone must have spiked his drink at the strip club. The police declined.
The key to understanding Brown's behavior can be found in "Letters to Sophie," in which Brown presents his inner anguish like an exposed, pus-filled wound.
Houstonians knew Sophie from the most unintentionally disturbing commercial in Houston's history, a spot for the Brown Hand Center that provided irrefutable evidence that no one had the stones to stand up to Brown and tell him when he was making a mistake. The idea behind the ad was to show Brown as a good Christian man who treated his patients "like family." The spot ended with Sophie, cradled in Brown's lap, saying, "Daddy's baby girl." The ad succeeded in spreading name recognition, but observant viewers would notice just how off things seemed. Brown was wooden and seemed to treat Sophie not like his flesh and blood, but like a prop. It was like the creature from The Thing; Brown could approximate a human life form, but there was nothing underneath. This was a man's narcissistic personality disorder on display, and no one had any interest in stopping it.
Sophie serves a similar purpose in the letters. Although nominally addressed to her, the missives read just as much like Brown writing to a younger version of himself, a manual he may have wished he had had when he first started to grapple with his condition.
In the letters, his daughter also serves as a proxy for Darlina, a woman whom Brown accused of failing in her wifely duties, of not always being sexually available.
The videotape found in the safe, along with the letters, also illustrates Brown's tortured mind: He recorded himself putting a gun to his head, ranting to Darlina over a speaker-phone, and, in one chilling segment, he focuses on a pregnant Darlina, sitting on a couch in a dark room, looking like a woman wondering if she's attending her execution.
The letters vacillate between Brown praising Darlina's gifts as a mother and questioning her love for Sophie. "I am sorry for fucking your mother instead of someone else," he writes at one point. "...Sorry, she had a nice ass and I was hard."
He writes of feeling like a "battered wife," of suffering post-traumatic stress disorder because of all the times Darlina threatened to leave. Such threats devastated his fragile bipolar mind, making him want to commit suicide — therefore, "a threat of abandonment is a threat against my life."
"I'm acutely depressed," he writes after one argument with Darlina. "I have put a gun in my mouth 3 times in 24 hrs. & 9 times in 4 months."
Perhaps most disturbing, Brown spends a great deal of time instructing Sophie on sex. But if Sophie is viewed as a stand-in for Darlina, the advice reads as a window into Brown's own sexual dysfunction and the couple's problems in the bedroom.
"The man wants you to view him as the world's greatest lover, such that you feel honored when he asks for sex — say no and you crush a little bit of him," Brown writes. "....Sex doesn't always have to make you see stars. Typically, it's the man doing most of the work. You are wise, not weak, to simply give him his 10 minutes of pleasure. Act like your enjoying it and he'll only take 5 minutes [sic]. Then, don't forget to tell him wonderful he was."
And: "If after sex say 20 minutes later the conversation begins with your husband saying 'That was great!' rest assured he's not giving you a compliment (though he might want to) but rather he's trying to illicit a compliment from you. If you answer 'yes' he's gonna continue fishing and may say 'Did you enjoy it?' if you say 'I said yes, quit asking' then you are diminishing the value of the just finished love-making....During lovemaking, your partner's enjoyment should be your prime concern....not your own."
More than anything, the letters show just how much pain Brown lived with on a daily basis, pain he was reluctant to address, and pain that could have been addressed by those who should have known better.
To a layman, a man who beats his pregnant wife with a bedpost, writes about how many times he's put a gun in his mouth in the last month and instructs his infant daughter on how often to fuck her future husband might come across a tad torqued.
But to a highly skilled professional trained in the nuances of mental illness, like Northwestern- and Yale-trained psychiatrist George Glass, Brown's problems weren't a significant threat to himself or others. And while in the letters Brown admitted to abusing drugs and alcohol, Glass saw no signs of addiction.
Following his assault of Darlina, Brown checked into a rehab facility called Sierra Tucson and wrote a letter to his "dream team" of Glass and his attorneys, including Steve "Rocket" Rosen.
Brown's take on his role in the assault was conflicted. Immediately following the words "There are no good excuses, for I am accountable," he wrote, "You should all know for legal reasons though that I have no doubt my drink was drugged. $2000 was stolen. My actions en route and in the home and loss of memory are all indicative of being under the influence of an hallucinogenic drug for which the police would not test me despite my repeated requests."
He was also concerned about getting out of rehab and getting back to business as soon as possible: "I think it would be extremely beneficial in all areas to have a letter from Dr. Scott or the executive director [both of Sierra Tucson] when I leave here....Perhaps Dr. Glass could effect this. Remember, Sierra Tucson is a business."
Brown then suggested to his attorneys, and Glass, what an "ideal" release letter should include: a statement that Brown was "not a threat to myself or anyone else" and that he "suffered from depression, codependency, PTSD, all successfully brought under control." It was also to include the fact that Brown had a "support system and plan" to prevent relapse, in the form of a "spiritual ritual" that consisted of copying Bible passages onto index cards, deep-breathing exercises and meditating on a "safe place."
After the assault, when the peer review committee at Houston Northwest Medical Center requested a medical opinion on Brown's application for reappointment, Brown provided, per Texas Medical Board notes, "a one-page psychiatric report signed by Dr. George Glass. It has been reported in the media [Houston Press] and confirmed by Dr. Glass, that the report is an exact transcription of a suggested report supplied to the psychiatrist" by Brown's lawyers. In the letter, Glass stated that he never saw his patient exhibit any behavior that might interfere with his clinical privileges.
The Texas Medical Board, however, was a little more concerned.
In May 2002, Brown entered into an agreed order with the board placing him on probation for seven years "due to inability to practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety due to illness, drunkenness, excessive use of drugs, narcotics or physical condition and unprofessional conduct." Seven months later, after testing positive for cocaine, his license was temporarily suspended and his probation was extended to ten years.
The drug testing was a point of contention among Brown's previous treating psychiatrists, including Glass.
Initially, Brown tried to skirt the order to submit to drug testing by telling the board that he didn't live in Houston, but spent most of his time surrounded by the splendor of the wildebeests and endangered swamp deer on his Normangee ranch, "Castlemane."
After this matter was properly addressed, and Brown began submitting urine samples, the board received an anonymous call alleging that Brown was abusing cocaine and searching online for ways to, per board records, "'clean his hair' because he feared a hair test for drugs." This was because many of his urine samples were too diluted.
In October 2002, he was ordered to submit a hair sample as well as urine; the hair tested positive for cocaine, and the urine was negative. Glass questioned the efficacy of testing the hair, indicating his belief that Brown had not used cocaine in well over a year. (Meanwhile, in what was either a transparent bid to provide an excuse for any booze found in his system or a genuine concern for the freshness of his breath, Brown found a dentist, David Mulherin, obliging enough to write a prescription for a mouthwash containing alcohol.)
While the board received complaints from some of Brown's patients, other patients simply sued. In a few cases, plaintiffs secured the expert testimony of Houston hand surgeon Gerard Gabel, who wrote in one case that Brown's patented trigger-finger technique "does not, in review of the literature, have any demonstrable anatomic validation. In other words, there is no proven safety of this procedure...due to the number of failures that I have seen consequent to this procedure, the persistent use of this procedure is well below the standard of care when compared to conventional trigger digit release."
In another case involving the same trigger-release technique, Gabel wrote, "This is not an accepted procedure in the general community and in that sense is an 'experimental' procedure."
Of course, Brown didn't just have to face the scrutiny of the Texas Medical Board; he faced criminal charges and a civil complaint and divorce proceedings from Darlina as well.
District Attorney Mike McDougal took the unusual route of waiting for the outcome of Darlina's cases. As Dick DeGuerin would do with subsequent wife Rachel, Brown's attorneys, Rocket Rosen and Jack Zimmerman, tried to paint Darlina as a harlot who had extramarital affairs.
Darlina's attorneys, Tommy Fibich and Wendy Burgower, only had to point to the 2001 assault.
As jurors deliberated, Brown followed Burgower as she was moving the case file from the courtroom to her car in the courthouse parking lot. He told her he was going to "get" her. Fibich and Burgower brought this to Judge Michael Mayes's attention, requesting that he halt the deliberation, recall the jury and enter Brown's utterance into evidence. Mayes declined. It probably wouldn't have made any difference; the jury still found Brown liable for abusing Darlina, awarding her nearly $5 million and custody of the couple's two daughters.
Respecting Darlina's odd wish that Brown not face prison time, McDougal offered Brown a real sweetheart of a deal: Brown pleaded no contest to assault and received ten years' probation, with an added bonus — if he didn't violate any terms in the first five years, he could ask a judge to be released from probation early. If he screwed up, however, he'd face prison.
When Brown's drug testing for the Texas Medical Board turned up another positive result for cocaine in 2005, the board took it seriously enough to revoke his license. But when McDougal brought this to the attention of Montgomery County District Court Judge Suzanne Stovall, the judge took a page from the George Glass playbook and questioned the veracity of the testing procedure. Ultimately, Stovall lifted Brown's probation.
For the first time in a while, things were looking up for Brown: Although he could no longer practice medicine in Texas, he was now free of mandatory drug tests, and he had met and married the former Rachel Spaniel, a single mother with whom he would eventually have a son and a daughter.
He was making more money than ever — his tax return for 2002 showed an adjusted gross income of $1.8 million; by 2009, he was making ten times that. He had even updated the "Daddy's baby girl" commercial to include his new family, identifying himself as the "retired" founder of the Brown Hand Center.
He threw around enough money to rub shoulders with important people; he and Rachel entertained Texas Senator John Whitmire, chair of the Senate's Criminal Justice Committee, at a private lunch in their home; he contributed enough money to the National Republican Congressional Committee to receive the Congressional Medal of Distinction, the political equivalent of throwing your own surprise birthday party. For this, he, Rachel, and a few hundred other big-time contributors got to join President George W. Bush for dinner at the White House. (Whitmire would later claim he had no clue about Brown's background.)
He also wrote big checks for the Star of Hope homeless shelter and Toys for Tots. In a stunning bit of irony, he sponsored a 2005 gala for the Bridge Over Troubled Waters Women's Shelter.
Yet as he grew wealthier, he seemed to grow more paranoid. He eventually hired 24-hour security personnel, including bodyguards who escorted his children to school.
Unlike Darlina's, Rachel's story is more difficult to understand, since she knew what she was getting into when she hooked up with Michael Brown. Some of it might be that, growing up, she only seemed to know abusive men.
According to a psychiatrist's notes filed in Harris County District Court, Rachel was born to a 16-year-old girl whose spouse split a year later. Rachel would never meet her father until he suddenly appeared in her life when she was 20; in the meantime, she dealt with an abusive, alcoholic stepfather. When she was 14, she'd had enough and left home, living with friends. She got pregnant at 24 and went back to her office job two days after the baby was born, keeping her daughter under her desk. The girl's father was abusive toward Rachel, and later wound up in prison.
Fortunately for all involved, Michael Glyn Brown was there to pick up the pieces.
For much of the marriage, Rachel proved her alliance, standing by his side, both in the updated commercial, where she looked as glassy-eyed as one of Brown's taxidermied animals, or in court, where she testified for Brown when he sued Darlina for custody of their two daughters in 2005. She testified despite the fact that she told Houston police two years earlier that Brown had tried to kill her during an argument. She subsequently filed for divorce, then withdrew the papers, and chalked everything up to a misunderstanding.
It was a pattern that would repeat itself throughout their marriage. In 2006, Rachel accused him of domestic violence and of ripping a video camera out of her hands when she tried to document her injuries. She would also tell Houston police that she wanted to get out of the marriage but was afraid; that Brown forced her to do drugs under threat of killing the entire family; and that he had made her and a female friend "reenact an incident with his ex-wife when there was a gun involved."
Then, in August 2010, another allegation of abuse was taken seriously enough by the Harris County District Attorney's Office. Brown was charged with assault — ordinarily a misdemeanor, but, because of the 2001 assault, it was enhanced to a felony charge. He faced up to ten years in prison.
As far as Brown's history is concerned, it was one of the more benign allegations: Rachel accused him of throwing a variety of things — including a Humane Society humanitarian award — at her during an argument, and then twisting her arm and bending it behind her back. And even that was watered down when Brown's attorney, Dick DeGuerin, managed to amend the indictment to leave out the bending-behind-her-back part. Bottom line: Brown was accused of yanking his wife's arm. It was a dog of a case.
Because Rachel testified and Brown didn't, it was her life that was dragged through mud and not his.
Although Brown had received only probation for assaulting Darlina, the Texas Criminal Code considered it a conviction for the purposes of prosecuting another assault. Jurors were told only that he had been previously convicted; they did not hear the details of that incident. They didn't hear that one of the two prosecutors in the case, Jane Waters, testified in the Browns' divorce proceedings that the Harris County District Attorney's Office received a tip that Brown was attempting to hire someone to kill Rachel.
Instead, what they heard was a story about Brown pocket-dialing Rachel's phone, getting her voice mail and leaving a cryptic dialogue between Brown and a giggling woman. Brown was heard saying something about him and the woman being "smarter bears." They heard about Brown coming home late at night or early in the morning after Rachel received that call and falling asleep in a chair, only to be startled awake by a clearly out-of-control and jealous wife demanding to know who he had been with.
When Rachel took the stand, DeGuerin grilled her about her relationship with Jeff Bagwell; about an alleged history of panic attacks that impaired her perception of reality; about whether she swore when she asked her husband if he had been with another woman; about how she stood to gain millions from the divorce. It was a remarkably bottom-feeding performance from a man who kicked off his introduction to the jury by saying he was honored to represent Michael Brown.
Nevertheless, DeGuerin had done enough to question Rachel's credibility, perhaps most notably in the form of an affidavit she signed after the August 2010 incident in which she recanted her story and asked the District Attorney's office to drop the charge. (In a repeat performance of Rob Todd's getting Darlina to recant an earlier abuse allegation, Brown Hand Center attorney Amelia Ambriz-Najera prepared the affidavit for Rachel.)
Despite passionate arguments by prosecutors Waters and Nathan Hennigan, the jury acquitted after five hours. Brown hugged his attorneys, and they headed into the hallway for the ceremonial anklet-cutting.
The attempted tarnishing of Rachel would continue with the anonymous mailing to the Press of a seven-second video of Rachel smoking an unknown substance in her kitchen. There is no context to the video — no indication of when it was recorded, who recorded it or what it is that Rachel's smoking.
Brown must now continue to face Rachel in Family Court, where he's always been on shakier ground. Unlike with Darlina, he did not make Rachel sign a prenuptial agreement, so she stands to be awarded half of his fortune.
With no significant other by his side, it might be a lonely fight for Brown. He'll probably have to rely on his father's advice more than ever, advice he passed along to Sophie: "Never give up."
He's had to rely on those words in very dark times, as on the day in March 2000 when he wanted to have a picnic with Sophie and Darlina.
"Instead," Brown wrote, "I drove over here with a big pistol...and a big pillow to muffle the blast when I took my head off.
"Baby I could do it — I can do anything I set my mind to. Why would I? Simple — to stop the pain. It's the pain that comes from loving but feeling unlovable. ...Then I got to thinking...'Never Give Up'...that's what my Dad wanted you to know....
"Now the pages that follow are my attempt to help you through life so you don't end up in a pasture with a pillow & a pistol."
He had to rely on those words then, and he'll have to rely on them now. Because while he'll have highly paid doctors, lawyers and bodyguards to protect and defend him for the right price, he doesn't appear to have anyone close by who actually loves him.
And from the looks of it, that includes Michael Glyn Brown himself.
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.