Jan Brewer's Criminally Insane Son and His Mysteriously Sealed File

It's no secret -- not really -- that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's son is seriously mentally ill.

During her years in the state Legislature and as a member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, she mentioned it often in passing, and earned a reputation as a big-hearted advocate for the mentally ill who often put her conservative politics aside to do right by one of Arizona's most vulnerable populations.

But during her time as governor, she's mentioned it less. She's caved to political pressure and allowed vital services to the mentally ill to be cut.

And something funny's going on with her son's 20-year-old case. On January 9, 2009, in a very unusual move, his criminal case files were sealed. But New Times has obtained the police report behind the incident.

More on Ronald Brewer and the governor after the jump.

Ronald Brewer, 46, is not just mentally ill. He was deemed criminally insane in 1990, following a July 1989 arrest and subsequent indictment for the sexual assault and kidnapping of a Phoenix woman. According to a Phoenix Police Department report dated July 29, 1989, Brewer, then an unemployed 25-year-old, forced his way into a woman's apartment on West Indian School Road and threatened to hurt her "real bad" if she didn't engage in sexual acts, including performing fellatio.

According to a police interview with the victim, the entire ordeal lasted "approximately 20 minutes. During the assault, she feared for her life and thought the suspect was going to kill her if she did not cooperate."  

Those details are not available for public inspection at county Superior Court -- even though in a typical criminal case, they probably would be. On January 9, 2009, Superior Court Judge Pendleton Gaines sealed the entire case file at the request of Ronald Brewer's attorney.

On December 1, 2008, President-Elect Barack Obama nominated then-Governor Janet Napolitano to be the head of Homeland Security. Her successor? Secretary of State Jan Brewer. Brewer assumed office as governor on January 21.

The timing is curious.

This marked the first time that Ronald Brewer's entire file was sealed. Previously, his mental-health files were sealed, which is typical. Criminal cases are rarely sealed, and then, only parts of such a case would usually be kept from the public.

Phoenix Newspapers (a.k.a. the Arizona Republic)  filed a motion in July asking the judge to reconsider his January 2009 sealing order.

That motion also is under wraps. The court docket suggests that a ruling by the judge is pending.

The docket also strongly suggests that Ronald Brewer has several times over many years attempted to gain permanent release from his confinement at the state hospital in Phoenix, and has successfully won temporary release at various times.

But, as of now, he remains confined.

Last year -- even as state budget cuts were affecting tens of thousands of Arizonans -- ground was broken on a new building to house the forensics unit at the Arizona State Hospital. Governor Brewer reportedly was not in attendance on the grounds of the state hospital where her son is housed, but a member of her staff spoke, sources tell New Times.


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.
Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.