The Good Doctor

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"When I picked up Sophie, he lost it," Darlina later told a courtroom. "To him, I was saying I was going to leave forever. He just started punching me, hitting my head up against the wood wall. Then he picked up Sophie; he was holding her with one hand and punching me on the head with the other. He put Sophie down on the floor underfoot and continued punching me." According to the wife, she stayed a virtual prisoner the rest of the night, sitting on the couch while Brown refused to let the daughter go.

Detective Dottei responded to the call made by the woman after Michael left for work the next morning. Her offense report said she found Darlina with a scratch on her neck, a bump on the left side of her head and a swollen right eye and left ear.

Darlina told the officer she knew the stakes involved in contacting the authorities. Her husband had assaulted her several times in the past, and told her he "was wealthy enough and had the contacts to have her killed if she attempted to leave him with or without the baby," according to the offense report.

Dottei conferred with Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Mike Valdez. Assault and terroristic complaints were issued against the doctor. The investigator also got a court order that would keep Michael in jail for at least 24 hours so Darlina could find safe haven before he was released.

However, as officers began to look for the doctor, Darlina started to have doubts. First, Dottei says, the wife pleaded not to have her husband arrested at his business as "he will kill me for sure if he is arrested in front of his peers."

Darlina had even phoned her husband at his office to tell him that arrest warrants had been issued. She told Dottei she was afraid and she "fucked up." The turnaround was complete when the wife, after talking by phone with her husband, agreed to drop the charges.

To make sure that happened, the doctor summoned up an old ally: attorney Rob Todd, who left Houston City Council last month because of term limitations. Todd had represented Michael since the early '90s on various legal matters. Darlina says Todd accompanied the Browns on at least one ski trip and was a frequent guest at pool parties.

Three days after Darlina reported the attack, Todd showed up at her residence to escort Darlina to formally retract her allegations.

"I told Todd I'd meet him at the courthouse, and he said, 'No, no, I'll come pick you up,' " recalls Darlina. "I told him at that time, 'I'm gonna tell them that he hit me. I'm going to tell them I don't want to press charges. But I'm not going to lie about it.' "

According to her, Todd replied, "If you do that, then they're not going to drop the charges."

Darlina says the councilman never once asked her whether her husband beat her. "Rob acted like my best friend," she recalls. "He could see the bruises on me, 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."

(Contacted by the Houston Press, Todd cited both his attorney-client relationship with Brown and a judge's gag order in declining comment.)

Darlina says Todd told her that if the charges stood, her husband would lose his medical license and she would be left penniless. With Todd on hand, Darlina signed an affidavit retracting her story. The following Monday, Todd again picked her up for a meeting with Assistant D.A. Valdez.

"I had to sit there and lie through my teeth," recalls Darlina.

Detective Dottei knew it, too.

"Oh, yeah. Definitely. In the beginning, she was cooperative, and that's how I got the charge and called the cops. Then it was recalled after she went in and dropped the charges.

"Yeah, if he had left her alone, I think that would have gone through."

The investigator had her own exchanges earlier with Councilman Todd. According to Dottei's report, Todd warned her that she had committed a federal offense by personally contacting his client earlier about surrendering, and that he would get her in trouble with her superiors. Dottei says Todd admonished her that she was not to speak with Brown again.

More than two years later, Dottei still chuckles at the memory. "He was amusing to me," she says of Todd. "By telling me I had committed a federal offense by contacting his client. Puh-leeze. Pissed me off, but it wasn't threatening.

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Tim Fleck
Contact: Tim Fleck