Coeur d’Alene attorney and community activist Bob Brown will spend six months in jail for molesting his 14-year-old step-grandson two summers ago, a judge decided Wednesday.
In an emotional hearing attended by his pastor, friends and prominent residents, the 60-year-old former chairman of the Kootenai County Democratic Central Committee issued a litany of apologies - to the boy and others he “shamed and embarrassed.”
“I knew it was wrong,” he said. “It was totally my fault.”
Brown pleaded guilty in March to lewd conduct with a minor for initiating oral sex with the boy.
Judge J. William Hart imposed a three- to 10-year prison sentence but suspended it in favor of probation and jail time.
Brown must also pay restitution to the victim for all costs associated with the molestation, undergo alcohol treatment and sexual identity therapy and perform 300 hours of community service.
If he successfully completes probation, the prison term will be erased.
Because of Brown’s prominence in Coeur d’Alene, the case was handled by a Minidoka County judge and prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General LaMont Anderson of Boise.
On Wednesday, Anderson argued Brown has a history of sexually deviant behavior with children. The prosecutor cited two other incidents of inappropriate conduct reported by one of Brown’s daughters and his stepson.
Anderson said he received numerous letters from “prominent citizens” expressing shock at the charges and characterizing Brown as an honest man and tireless contributor to the community.
“But people do not expect their friends are child abusers. Child abuse is a secret crime. Bob Brown also had a secret,” Anderson said.
After molesting the boy, Brown repeatedly asked him not to tell anyone, Anderson said. It wasn’t until the next summer that the teen finally asked his mother to take him to a clinic for a physical exam. Since then, he has dropped out of school. He suffers from frequent migraine headaches and irrational fears.
Anderson credited Brown for admitting the crime, taking full responsibility and enrolling himself in alcohol-treatment and counseling programs.
But he criticized the defendant for not seeking out a sex offender specialist and asked why Brown’s doctors didn’t question him more about his sexual deviancy.
Anderson argued that a strong sentence, including jail time, was needed.
Society, he said, won’t tolerate two systems of justice - one for the rich and one for the masses. “Just because he’s a man of prominence and has done all these things doesn’t wash a great deal with me,” Anderson said.
Seeking leniency, defense attorney Tim Gresback said Brown is “getting to the roots of his aberrant behavior.”
He has quit numerous boards and organizations, resigned as a lawyer, divorced his wife, registered as a sex offender and remained sober for a year, Gresback said.
“I think a lesser man could have used the resources that Brown had in this community to further traumatize this child in a trial, and he chose not to do that,” Gresback said.
Calling it a “crime of vulnerability,” the judge said some time behind bars is appropriate.
Hart also suggested Brown spend 100 hours of community service in a soup kitchen, 100 hours volunteering for an alcohol-treatment program and 100 hours serving in a leadership role.
That, Hart said, would “allow the community to heal and acknowledge that while this is a very bad thing, some small good thing has come out of it.”
Afterward, Anderson called the sentence adequate. Kootenai County sheriff’s Detective K.E. Johnston said allowing Brown to serve 180 days in the county jail was “unusual but appropriate.”
“To some the sentence is too lenient; to others it is too harsh,” Gresback said later in a prepared statement.
“To me, this case is simply sad. Judgment, in the final sense, is to me based not only on our best or worst moments, but all of those in between. Bob Brown has nothing to fear.”
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