Onetime real estate broker John Stetler Jack" Brown seemed to have played his legal cards like a champ. His winning run started, oddly enough, soon after he admitted to a friend and former Paradise Valley neighbor in 1987 that he was molesting her 7-year-old daughter.

Brown not only wasn't arrested. He asked his insurance company to pay for his crimes. First, he settled a civil lawsuit with the victim's mother. Then, incredibly, he joined forces with her and the victim in a precedent-setting 1989 suit against the State Farm insurance company.

Last year, Superior Court Judge Philip Marquardt ordered the company to pay the victim and her mother $900,000 in damages through Brown's homeowner-liability coverage.

The reason? Marquardt concluded that the acts weren't intentional" because Brown couldn't help repeatedly molesting the child. And because the molesting was ruled unintentional, the insurance policy covered it-much the same way that a policy would cover damage from an accidental fire but not from arson committed by the homeowner. (The victim and her mom haven't seen a penny yet, because State Farm has appealed the controversial ruling.)

The system protected Jack Brown in other ways, too. Court files in the case referred to him, with rare exception, as John Doe."

Last week, however, the logic-defying case of Jack Brown took another unexpected turn: Five years after the gruesome acts, he has been arrested and indicted.

Maricopa County court records show that Brown, now 45 and living in California, posted $25,000 bond and was released from custody.

The April 16 grand jury indictments against Brown stem in part from admissions he made in the civil cases about the molestations. One piece of evidence is a letter Brown wrote in 1987 to his young victim's mother shortly after the assaults came to light.

I wanted to express great regret to you and your family for my behavior," the apology began. I would hope that someday you and your family might forgive me but I know that it is not possible now."

Brown's attorney, Bob Storrs, says he hasn't yet received police reports or other materials related to the investigation. I really don't know how this got started," Storrs says of the indictment for the '87 sex crimes.

Judges, attorneys, social service workers and mental-health professionals knew of the molestations. So, of course, did several members of the little girl's family. But apparently no one contacted law enforcement authorities in either state.

Instead, sources at the County Attorney's Office confirm, police and prosecutors launched their investigation only after New Times published a story on the case (Like a Good Neighbor," July 31, 1991).

The story described how State Farm's attorneys argued-logically enough, it would seem-that child molestation is an intentional act. After all, how could repeated sex crimes over a nine-month period be anything but intentional? That should have excluded Brown from liability coverage.

But psychologists hired by Brown's lawyers concluded Brown is a regressed child molester" who wasn't able to control himself sexually with the little girl.

Judge Marquardt (then just months away from his own resignation from the bench after admitting to addictive marijuana use) agreed with that analysis. [Brown's] mental state overmastered his will," wrote Marquardt in a ruling wrought with irony. His ability to act intentionally was negated by his mental state."

The judge concluded that if a person cannot form the intent" to do wrong, public policy mandates that insurance coverage applies. It remains to be seen whether that defense will fly in criminal court.

Brown is charged with seven felony counts, including charges of vaginally and anally penetrating the little girl with his fingers, and having her masturbate him to ejaculation on at least one occasion. He is scheduled to appear in court April 27 for an initial appearance and arraignment.

None of the adults who knew about the crimes against the girl has been charged with the crime, under Arizona law, of not reporting a suspected child molestation to authorities.


KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin