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Wife testifies against surgeon at assault trial

Thursday, September 15, 2011
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It was another day of dramatic testimony in the trial of Dr. Michael Brown, the former hand surgeon accused of abusing his wife. On Wednesday, Rachel Brown, the doctor's fourth wife, took the stand and the jury gained a lot of insight into their marriage.

Rachel Brown took the stand Wednesday morning to tell her side of the events from August 13, 2010. Prosecutors allege Dr. Brown, a well-known Houston surgeon and founder of the Brown Hand Center for carpal tunnel syndrome, became violent during a confrontation with Rachel, twisting her arm behind her back as their children watched.

She showed the jury how she says she was attacked by her husband.

"He grabbed my arm and jerked it back," Rachel Brown testified in court.

Prosecutor Nathan Hennigan asked Rachel Brown to describe exactly what happened.

Rachel: He grabbed my arm and was bending it back like this.
Prosecutor: Could you get it away from him?
Rachel: No.
Prosecutor: What did it feel like when he was pulling on your arm?
Rachel: I felt like it was about to break.

Wearing a plain gray suit, and speaking softly, Rachel Brown testified it was a phone message she received from Dr. Brown that made her angry. When she confronted him, she testified that he attacked her.

Prosecutor: What was your impression of what was going on?
Rachel: My impression was that he was having an affair.
Prosecutor: How did that make you feel?
Rachel: It made me feel very angry.

The judge denied a defense motion to keep recorded phone calls between the Browns out of court. The jury heard several phone calls recorded by Rachel Brown.

"So tell me who she is?" Rachel Brown could be heard saying on the recording.

"Rachel, you can't handle it. You can't handle it," Dr. Brown replied in the recording.

She says Dr. Brown was drunk and with another woman. The phone conversation had lots of expletives as she confronted him about the alleged affair.

She cried in court as the jury heard the recording of Dr. Brown shouting and using profanity. At one point, Dr. Brown shook his head in court.

Prosecutors also played a recording of a 911 call made by Rachel Brown after the alleged assault. In the recording, Rachel Brown tells the dispatcher she was assaulted and that she can't move her neck. Rachel Brown could be heard declining an ambulance.

She went on to testify that the alleged assault happened in front of at least two household employees and her children who heard and saw the incident. A commercial for the Brown Hand Center features Dr. Brown and Rachel Brown with their children.

"If she's credible and tells the story correctly, then they'll be inclined to believe her. She just has to be able to tell the truth," said KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy.

Defense attorney Dick DeGuerin suggested during his opening statements Monday that Rachel suffers from panic attacks, and was motivated to press charges because of the family's extravagant lifestyle.

Rachel Brown said the couple is separated and are seeking a divorce.

Dr. Brown has a previous conviction for assaulting another wife, and that means the jury will hear about that relationship as well. Brown completed community service for that previous assault, which erased it from his record.

He pleaded no contest to the assault which happened in 2002. That was an aggravated assault for beating his then-pregnant third wife, Darlina Brown, with a bed post. He was sentenced to 10 years supervised probation and fined $1,500. But if convicted on these new assault charges, Brown's past could land him in prison. It means prosecutors have a special circumstance on their hands that makes the misdemeanor assault a felony.

The 54-year-old doctor is also not practicing medicine anymore, but not because he retired voluntarily. Brown was stripped of his medical license in 2006 over cocaine use.

If convicted, Brown could face up to 10 years in prison.

Two big names are also expected to testify: Jeff Bagwell, the former Astros player and alleged boyfriend of Rachel Brown, and the owners of the upscale Festari For Men clothing store near the Galleria.

(Copyright ©2014 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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