Longform

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.

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Contributor Craig Malisow covers crooks, quacks, animal abusers, elected officials, and other assorted people for the Houston Press.
Contact: Craig Malisow