By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
Brown retreated to his cop friend's house, where he was visited by Tidwell. He says the sheriff hugged him, offered condolences—and then warned him that the prostitution probe would not go away. "I told him, obviously, I'll cooperate," Brown says. "I hadn't done anything wrong except eat lunch with two guys who turned out to be deputies. I never said I'd do anything illegal for them."
But a month later, Brown was arrested by Tidwell's deputies. He had already resigned from the BIA and returned his honorary deputy sheriff's badge to Tidwell. "Every builder had one," Brown said. "You could buy one for a $1,000 donation."
He was forced to answer to 16 counts involving pimping, pandering, keeping a house of ill fame, soliciting an act of prostitution, prevailing on a person to visit a place of prostitution and other charges. According to court documents, prosecutors based all their charges against Brown on the allegation that he "handled and reviewed" a $250,000 check the undercover officers showed him to prove they were serious about opening a massage parlor.
Brown claims he was dragged into the case by the BIA's political opponents. The DA "was going to use this case to bring down the BIA," he asserts. "It was a convenient time to make a big, big thing out of nothing."
And the BIA-bashing county media—including one paper that had previously termed Brown "the sixth supervisor"—willingly fueled the fire.
"There were stories on me on the 6 o'clock news every night for a week," he says, "and I didn't even recognize the guy they were talking about. I got a taste of what the media can do. Even now, when I see a guy raked over the coals in the media, I wonder what's really going on."
After Brown's arrest, deputy district attorney David Whitney announced he was reopening the investigation into Jamie Brown's death. The California Highway Patrol had ruled that excessive speed caused the wreck, but foul play had not been ruled out. Whitney told the press that Jamie Brown was not on her way to meet her husband at a restaurant but to reveal the prostitution investigation to a friend.
Evidence of foul play was never found. Brown believes the cause was what the CHP initially reported: excessive speed. He says that once, after he bought the Jeep for his wife, she drove alongside his car down the same steep stretch of the Cajon Pass where her accident occurred. He says that when they arrived at their destination, he scolded her for driving too fast.
Prosecutors could never prove Brown was on either massage parlor's payroll. He says he toyed with filing charges of malicious prosecution against the DA but copped to a misdemeanor plea because he was "so burnt-out" and "mentally beat up." He was also out of money. Brown claims he and his attorney, with the blessing of prosecutors, came up with his own charge. "I'm the only person in the state of California ever charged with the heinous crime of conspiracy to establish a house of ill fame," he says of his plea-bargain agreement.
But in March 1989, after noting that Brown was "the one person willing to come forward" and "that he has been very cooperative," Judge Frederick A. Mandabach ordered that the guilty plea be "vacated and set aside," and that the case against Brown be dismissed.
In exchange for lawyer's fees, Brown's defense attorney took ownership of his gun collection. Considering Brown's emotional state at the time, removing the firearms from his home was a smart move.
"I'd like to think it's in the past," Brown says. "It was a hard lesson in politics. I didn't realize how the system could bring you down. But I knew it would eventually come up again. It was certainly one consideration in getting involved in anything public again. But it's who I am. And I am so committed to what I'm doing."
Sitting outside the coffeehouse, Brown vows that he's "a totally different person. I look back at my tenure on the BIA, and I'm not proud of what had seemed to me then to be accomplishments. The whole experience humbled me. I look at what I valued, and if I was like I was 10 or 15 years ago, I certainly would not be out fighting for the environment now. I'm a much happier person than I was then."
After the dust from his bust had settled, Brown "withdrew" for a year, traveling the country with his son, Austin, to buy antiques "as therapy."
"I gave up everything to raise him," he says. "It was the best choice I ever made to be his father. Having an 18-month-old baby—if he did not have me, who would he have? Later in life, it hit me: I don't know who needed who the most."
He worked on boats and for a trucking company for a while because he wanted to do something he'd never done before, something that would not force him to wear three-piece suits and mingle with power brokers. He wound up back in Orange County in 1991 and lived on a boat in Huntington Harbour. Two years later, he bought the Wrigley family's yacht. "I spent more on restoring it than I did on buying it," he says. He later sold the mahogany vessel.