Questionable doctor's tortuous journey through legal system continues

Richard A. Brown (center) is led away in handcuffs and leg irons from District Court in Devon by deputy constable Patricia Kurdert (left) and PA narcotics agent Robert R. Semach in June 2008.

Richard A. Brown, an embattled Chester County defendant, wants to be addressed as a doctor, he told a Chester County judge.

 That was among 21 issues he and his wife, Janice K. Brown, 53, argued today in pretrial motions -- and one of the few  that was uncontested. Against the advice of Judge Ronald C. Naglej, the couple is representing themselves on tax evasion charges.

 The prosecutors -- State Senior Deputy Attorney General Nancy S. Hartsough and Chester County Assistant District Attorney Christopher L. de Barrena-Sarobe -- said they did not object to calling Richard Brown a doctor. It is accurate that he had a valid medical license for a couple of decades before it was revoked; however, a grand jury concluded that Brown obtained it by fraud. The jury said Brown falsified documents from two of the three foreign medical schools he attended in the 1970s and forged evaluations. By the time authorities uncovered the deception, the statute of limitations had expired, precluding his prosecution on those charges, Nagle ruled. But prosecutors had plenty more.

In April, Brown, 67, of Tredyffrin Township, Chester County, was sentenced to eight to 16 years in state prison on 16 counts of illegally prescribing an assortment of antidepressants, painkillers, and speed. Detectives said he ran a narcotics mill from his home office a few blocks from the Strafford train station. A Chester County jury convicted him Feb. 2 - after a series of court challenges that took more than three years.

The investigation into Brown's medical practice spawned the tax charges. Prosecutors alleged that the Browns underreported their income  and illegally claimed a poverty credit for the tax years 2002 through 2005. The trial on those charges was scheduled for July 25, but today Janice Brown said the couple needs more time. She also urged the judge to release her husband from prison so that they don't have "limited access to one another," He refused.

Prosecutors objected strenuously to another delay, but the judge suggested that he was erring on the side of caution. "I do not want this case to be tried twice," Nagle said.

Then Janice Brown made the couple's surprise final request: "We will waive a jury trial." The prosecutors appeared stunned.

"We demand a jury trial," Hartsough countered.

The reason for their opposition? An hour earlier, the Browns had sought the judge's recusal, suggesting that his knowledge of the previous cases -- including Brown's probation for a 2001 conviction on similar narcotics charges -- might prejudice Nagle against them. Their sudden interest in having him become the sole arbiter appeared to be a setup for an appeal if the judge ended up issuing an unfavorable ruling.

De Barrena-Sarobe said the commonswealth would consider withdrawing its objection if the Browns were willing to sign a waiver barring them from addressing any appeal issues related to judicial bias. Nagle suggested the Browns discuss that option. The parties will reconvene July 25,  the date the trial won't be starting. Like many of the previous Brown proceedings, it has been continued.