LIKE A GOOD NEIGHBOR
Seven-year-old Tina Harris looked up at her mother and blurted out the truth. "You told me if I ever was afraid to do anything, if I didn't want to, I didn't have to," Heidi Harris says her daughter told her on that early evening of April 14, 1987.
Tina told her mom she didn't want to go to Jack Brown's home that night. As usual, family friend Brown had agreed to baby-sit for Tina and her younger brother at his posh Biltmore Estates condo while Harris went to dinner.
"The reason she did not want to go with [Jack] any longer was because he was making her rub him all over," says Harris, a divorced woman in her thirties. "I asked her what exactly she meant. And she just reiterated that he was making her rub him all over."
Heidi Harris was so upset she went into the bathroom and threw up. Tina approached her moments later. "She said, `By the way, Mommy, white stuff came out.'"
Shortly after that revelation, Jack Brown arrived to pick up the kids.
"I was in a bad state of shock and didn't know what to do," Harris says. (Tina and Heidi Harris are pseudonyms. The other names in this story are real.) "I asked Jack if it was true. He admitted the whole thing to me."
MDRV Another mother in a similar situation may have pounded hell out of the man who had been molesting her daughter. But Heidi Harris didn't. Even Brown--then a 39-year-old real-estate broker--was surprised at how the child's family handled the matter. Harris' brother, for example, took Brown outside for a quiet talk.
"He told me what he had done--sexually molested her," the brother says. "He begged my forgiveness and said he was sick about it. He kept saying, `I can't believe you are not beating me up. I think I would kill somebody if they did that to my daughter.'"
The Harris clan didn't kill Jack Brown. More surprising, they never even told the police what he'd been doing to Tina. To this day, Brown has evaded prosecution and prison for crimes that he confessed to in writing and under oath. For reasons she never has fully explained, Heidi Harris didn't want him prosecuted. Neither did the therapists who treated Brown after Tina implicated him.
Not only has the family declined to take action; so have two states. Brown molested Tina in Arizona and possibly Colorado, and a jurisdictional glitch helped him escape justice. Authorities in those states apparently looked to the other to take command of the case. Neither did.
Jack Brown hasn't had to pay for his crimes. In fact, he's asked his insurance company to do it for him.
In the Brown case, the hunger for money has been stronger than the desire for vengeance. Maricopa County's civil courts have become the site of this bitterly fought battle. Heidi Harris, who didn't seek prosecution, instead demanded a huge cash settlement from Jack Brown. When he didn't pay up, she sued him.
The pair settled their suit in 1989. But in a logic-defying twist, the molester and the victim's mother are now on the same side against Brown's insurance company, State Farm. And the company has been ordered to pay Tina and her mother $900,000 in damages from Brown's liability coverage.
Because of the case's unlikely turns, according to an attorney involved in the morass, "The molested child, the molested child's mother and the molester are all on the same side."
Every child molester should have Jack Brown's good fortune. Even the court files protect him. They refer to Brown with rare exception as "John Doe." UNTIL 1987, MOST SAW Jack Brown as just another middle-aged guy having a rough time finding his niche. He was raised in suburban Alexandria, Virginia, the son of a prominent State Department lawyer who once served as that agency's inspector general.
Brown was graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1969 with a degree in finance. He then served a two-year stint in the navy that included a yearlong tour of Vietnam. After an honorable discharge, Brown returned to college, earning a master's degree in communications. He worked for the civil service for a time, then in 1977 became a partner in a Denver investment firm.
Brown stayed with the firm for six years, during which time he met his future wife. The couple developed marital problems that in 1982 caused them to meet with a Denver counselor.
"He did not like being touched or touching her," counselor Brigitte McBroom recalls. "He wished to keep his clothes on and wished for her to keep her clothes on, or at least some clothing so that the bodies would not be exposed to touch or sight. And that he just behaved, in her words, kind of weird around the whole issue of lovemaking."
During this time, the Browns met Heidi Harris and her then-husband through mutual friends. The Harrises had two small children, Tina--born in 1979--and a son born in 1982. In 1983, the Harrises rented Mrs. Brown's Denver home.
After Brown's investment firm broke up in 1983, he spent about a year as a financial consultant for a wealthy Texas family. Heidi Harris says Jack Brown often baby-sat for her kids during this time.
The Browns moved to Phoenix full- time in 1985. That year, they had their only child together, a daughter. They lived in the rich, white, insulated world of Paradise Valley, but their security was deceptive. Jack Brown tried to start a software company in Phoenix, but it never got off the ground. It seemed that everything he touched turned sour. The family was living mostly off Mrs. Brown's investments.
The change of scenery to Phoenix had done nothing to improve Jack Brown's failing marriage. In March 1986, the couple went to Phoenix psychologist Sandy Mazen for help. But they separated a few weeks later, and Mrs. Brown filed for divorce. Jack Brown moved into a condo at the Biltmore Estates while Mrs. Brown and her daughter remained at the sprawling Paradise Valley home.
Now divorced, Heidi Harris with her children visited Phoenix numerous times in 1986, maintaining friendships with both Browns. She trusted Jack Brown, and often let her kids stay overnight with him at his condo. Now and then, Brown's own daughter also spent the night. Tina Harris had a special friendship with the girl. She also loved to go horseback riding with Jack Brown.
It was during this period, 1986 and early 1987, that Brown molested Tina at least three times. He tried to explain his behavior during a 1989 court deposition: "This was an extremely compressed stress period for me. Financial, family separation, relocation to Phoenix, not really knowing very many people down here. I had come from a position of financial stability, multiple houses, a high opinion from my peers of my work in Denver and in Washington . . . I feel that I had a substantial detachment from my normal environment."
Mrs. Brown moved back to Denver in early 1987. Her divorce from Jack Brown was final that summer. She frequently let Heidi Harris and her kids stay at her Paradise Valley home; they were there on a visit in April 1987 when Tina revealed the molestations.
On that trip, Tina knew it would be only a matter of time before Jack Brown came around. The thought frightened her. The night before Tina pulled her mother aside, she watched a television show called The Molester, a Friend of the Family.
She then demonstrated great courage in talking to her mom, especially because of the secrecy pact--typical of child molesters--that Brown had forced on her.
"He told her she wouldn't be able to ride his horses anymore and that Mommy would be very angry with him," Heidi Harris says. "`None of us will be able to be friends anymore, and it will be horrible, and you know your mommy and daddy aren't very good friends right now anyway. It'll make them worse friends.'"
It was months before Tina spoke to her mother again about what Jack Brown had done to her. "`There was something I hadn't told you,'" Tina whispered to her. "I said, `What's that, honey?' She said, `He stuck his finger up me, too. It hurt so much.'"
THE DAY AFTER Tina first confided in her mother, Jack Brown and Heidi Harris visited the office of Phoenix social worker Cynthia Morse. Harris says she went with Brown after his estranged wife warned he'd lie to the social worker in a one-on-one situation. Morse says she thought at first that Brown and Heidi Harris were a married couple, so unusual was a joint visit from a molester and the mother of a victim. Brown again confessed his crimes, though he was vague about details. Morse told them she'd have to turn the case over to someone with more experience.
Harris, however, wanted Brown to surrender to authorities. "I said I thought it was much better that he take this on his own, be a man about it," she says.
After they left, Morse says she telephoned the state's Child Protective Services (CPS) for information on what to do next. Reporting such criminal activity is mandatory for Arizona's mental-health professionals, but Morse doesn't remember if she gave Brown's name to the CPS caseworker on the other end.
Five days after Tina told the truth about Brown, he typed a one-page letter to the girl and her mother.
"I wanted to express great regret to you and your family for my behavior," the apology began. "I have been under a great deal of stress. This does not provide any clear explanation for my behavior with [Tina]. I would hope that someday you and your family might forgive me, but I know that it is not possible now."
Brown added, "I of course have contacted my church and will be meeting with them this next week." Two years later, under oath, Brown admitted he never had contacted his church.
In a just world, detectives would have snapped up Brown's written confession and sprinted to a grand jury for a criminal indictment. A long prison sentence under Arizona's severe child-molesting laws would have seemed likely.
But nobody turned Jack Brown over to the cops. Cynthia Morse, for one, didn't want Brown to go to jail.
"I wanted to make sure that Mr. [Brown] could get the support and the counseling that he needed and was asking for at that point," Morse recalls.
She sent Brown to his onetime Phoenix marriage counselor, Dr. Sandy Mazen. Mazen says Morse told him she had reported the case to Child Protective Services, and so he never reported anything himself.
Brown met with Mazen numerous times over the next months. He told Mazen--well-known in Arizona as an "expert" in child molestation--of his sexual contacts with Tina: "He indicated that the victim had her underwear on, that he never removed her clothes, but that he had her rub his penis twice and that he masturbated to orgasm in her presence."
Harris and her kids returned to Denver after the molestations of Tina came to light. There she contacted Denver therapist Nancy Balkany. The protection of Brown continued. "No one ever used his last name with me," Balkany says. "It was always Mr. Doe."
Balkany also met with Tina, who discussed the molestations in some detail. Later that summer of 1987, Harris and her kids moved to Phoenix, where she and Tina started sessions with psychologist Herbert Collier.
Brown's luck still held. Balkany says she telephoned Collier to discuss which one of them should contact state CPS officials. "I am obligated by law to report that kind of thing," she testified. "I think he kind of put it off on me and I put it off on him, because [Harris] was residing in Phoenix now. The authorities when I called them in Denver said, `We can't do anything, you're in the wrong jurisdiction, nobody lives here anymore, and we can't do anything.'"
When the State of Arizona finally became involved, it found Heidi Harris unwilling to cooperate. A CPS caseworker called her during the summer of 1987.
"I told them I had absolutely nothing to say to them," she recalls, "that I was really under a lot of stress and did not want to talk to them. When they called me an unfit mother for not turning him in, I hung up the phone. It was very upsetting."
"I don't think he did it intentionally," she explained in a 1989 deposition. "I think he was sick. I don't think that going to jail is going to help him--I think getting mental-health help by a psychologist is going to help him."
HEIDI HARRIS MAY have smelled a potential windfall. While she wouldn't press criminal charges, she sued Brown in 1988 for "wrongfully, illegally and improperly" molesting Tina. Harris' attorneys asked Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Stanley Goodfarb to award her and her daughter $1.5 million.
Brown agreed before his trial not to fight the suit if Harris vowed not to go after his personal assets. He offered her a $32,500 cash settlement if she would consent to look to Brown's insurance company, State Farm, for the big money. Goodfarb didn't allow State Farm to contest the arrangement before he assessed damages. In March 1989, he awarded Heidi Harris and Tina $900,000.
In an effort to avoid having to pay that sum, State Farm's attorneys argued--logically--that child molesting is an intentional act. That should have excluded Brown from liability coverage. To State Farm, it was as if Brown had torched his home and then asked for insurance money.
In the criminal courts, Jack Brown's "intentions" wouldn't have mattered. If you molest a little girl, you're going to prison. But the Brown case is being fought in a civil, not a criminal, arena, and the settlement between Jack Brown and Heidi Harris turned enemies into allies against State Farm. The insurance company sued the pair--the molester and the victim's mother.
State Farm continues to ask, How can repeated acts of child molesting over a nine-month period be anything but intentional? And should an insurance company--and, in effect, its policyholders--be obligated to pay for an insured's criminal behavior?
"If [Brown] was deprived of his ability to reason and could not intend his acts, then there should be coverage," State Farm attorney Bud Roberts argued. "If he had no such mental deprivation, then there should be no coverage."
But it would be State Farm's key expert witness who gave Heidi Harris' lawyers the courtroom advantage they badly needed.
IF ALL THIS weren't enough, the Maricopa County judge who presided in the State Farm case was Philip Marquardt. Marquardt quit the bench in disgrace recently after police arrested him on marijuana charges. He contended during a farewell press conference that he couldn't stop himself from smoking pot because his mental state had overpowered his will.
Those close to the Brown case found deep irony in that statement, for Jack Brown's mental state was the chief focus in the State Farm case. As often happens in civil cases, the outcome of State Farm's lawsuit against Jack Brown and Heidi Harris boiled down to the testimony of hired guns. State Farm's expert, Dr. Phillip Esplin, tried to show that Brown had known what he was doing when he molested Tina.
If the judge agreed with Esplin, State Farm's "intentional act exclusion" would go into effect. That would mean the company wouldn't have to pay Heidi Harris and Tina anything.
"Sexual molestation is sexual molestation," Esplin testified. "[Brown] had an interest sexually in the child. He acted on the interest. He tried to get away with it and ultimately got caught. To try to lay it on his financial status or his marital status or his self-image is very self-serving. I would just describe him as a child molester. I am rather shocked that there has not been a more rigorous pursuit criminally."
But Esplin unintentionally hurt State Farm's case more than he helped it. In a pretrial deposition, the psychologist had introduced the idea of "regressed child molestation." Harris' attorneys Bill Drury and Chuck Struble swooped onto the concept like owls on mice.
Psychological texts indicate that a "regressed" child molester differs from a pedophile--an adult who craves children for sexual gratification--in that his condition is temporary and is characterized by great stress and anxiety.
The Harris team's expert witness, Sandy Mazen, had been saying Brown suffered from a "generalized anxiety disorder" when he molested Tina. But soon he began calling Jack Brown a "regressed child molester" who wasn't able to control himself with Tina.
Mazen now told then-Judge Marquardt that Brown hadn't been capable of acting "in accordance with reason" when he molested the girl. "This resulted in an irrational compulsion or impulse to engage in such behavior," he said.
Mazen compared a "regressed child molester" to a person who overeats, gambles, steals, or starts fires--often "temporary" disorders. He admitted he didn't know Jack Brown's whole story. But Mazen--whose resume shows far more experience with molesters than Esplin's--was steadfast.
"I am saying," he testified, "that consciously [Brown] most likely did not know that it was wrong. Or was not aware of the negative implications of the behavior."
State Farm's attorney Bud Roberts came unglued after Mazen's testimony. "Mazen's opinions at trial were literally absurd, inherently incredible and unreliable," Roberts wrote. "Upon what psychological basis did Mazen render his opinion that [Brown] was not a pedophile? None. In short, [Brown] said he molested [Tina] because of stress and Mazen accepted that self-diagnosis hook, line and sinker . . . ."
On February 28, Marquardt--just months away from his own embarrassing resignation from the bench--made up his mind.
The judge agreed with Mazen that Jack Brown's "mental state had overmastered his will. His ability to act intentionally was negated by his mental state."
The judge cited a 1982 Arizona civil case to back his ruling. It says that if someone cannot "form the intent" to do wrong, public policy demands that insurance coverage applies.
Marquardt's ruling shocked the insurance industry. "State Farm will continue to attempt in appeal of this matter," Roberts said recently, "to apply a strong and overriding public policy which states that `pedophiles' and `child molesters' should not be allowed to hide behind liability policies when sued for such acts."
But Harris' attorney Chuck Struble notes that his side had offered to settle the protracted case for "substantially less" than $900,000 before and after Marquardt's ruling. "State Farm refused to engage in any settlement negotiations, much less make any reasonable settlement offers," Struble wrote. Another judge is considering State Farm's arguments for a new trial. It alleges that Marquardt's "addiction to drugs" made him unfit to sit in the Jack Brown case. No one dares predict what will happen in this tangled situation.
And what of the key players? Jack Brown is maintaining a low profile somewhere in California. The Harrises are still living in the Phoenix area.
Because of State Farm's appeal, it will be years, if then, before the Harrises see any of the $900,000 awarded them more than two years ago.
Now eleven, Tina Harris is a fine, seemingly well-adjusted student at a local private school. But a psychologist who has counseled Tina says she continues to mistrust all but a few adult males in her life. And she has more bad dreams than she should. Dr. Herb Collier says Tina has been permanently affected by Jack Brown's molestations, and that her prognosis for a mentally stable future remains guarded.
Tina rarely mentions Jack Brown anymore. "I don't dream about him and I don't think about him," she told Dr. Collier a few years ago. "He's a real jerk."
Every child molester should have Jack Brown's good fortune. Jack Brown hasn't had to pay for his crimes. In fact, he's asked his insurance company to do it for him.
In the Brown case, the hunger for money has been stronger than the desire for vengeance.
They lived in the rich, white, insulated world of Paradise Valley, but their security was deceptive.
In a just world, detectives would have snapped up Brown's written confession and sprinted to a grand jury for a criminal indictment.
Heidi Harris may have smelled a potential windfall. She sued Brown in 1988 for "wrongfully, illegally and improperly" molesting Tina.
"I am rather shocked that there has not been a more rigorous pursuit criminally.
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