WARRENBURG – Robert L. Brown, 40, convicted of physically and sexually abusing two young girls, was sentenced to 189 years in prison during a sentencing hearing Monday in Johnson County Circuit Court.
Circuit Judge Bill Collins sentenced Brown to five consecutive eight-year terms on three counts of child abuse and neglect and two counts of child endangerment. The charges stemmed from incidents in which he allegedly whipped the 10- and 8-year-old girls with a window blind rod the night of April 8-9, 2017, and padlocked them in their rooms on April 13, 2017, leaving them alone without access to a bathroom, a phone or a way to escape in an emergency.
Collins also sentenced Brown to nine consecutive 15-year sentences on nine charges of statutory sodomy and two, seven-year consecutive sentences on charges of witness tampering, and made the sentences consecutive to the sentences in the first case.
The sodomy charges alleged that between Sept 1, 2016, and April 14, 2017, he had deviate sex with the 8-year-old child on seven occasions, and between March 1 and April 14, 2017, he had, or attempted to have, deviate sex with the 10-year-old on two occasions.
The girls testified during trial that Brown had threatened to kill them by poisoning them or shooting them if they told anyone about the sexual abuse.
Prior to sentencing, defense attorney Casey Symonds asked the court for new trials in both cases, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to convict Brown on the charges.
In his motion for a new trial in the abuse case, he said the girls presented testimony that was rife with inconsistencies and contradictions, including a note the older girl said her mother had forced her to write during a supervised visit with Brown and her mother.
He said another witness testified that the note had been written before the visit.
The note, entered as an exhibit at trial “clearly establishes that the abuse … did not actually occur,’” the motion states, and that the girl lied about the abuse because she was mad at Brown for taking away her phone.
Symonds also argued that recordings of jail phone calls between Brown and his wife and Brown and his mother that were played at trial prejudiced the jury, and that the state had insufficient foundation for admitting the recordings, which he said “bore no relevance to the offenses charged.”
Symonds also said there was no physical evidence to corroborate the girls’ allegations of sexual abuse, which were not reported for more than a month after they were removed from the home.
The motion also stated that referrals to Brown as a pedophile and that testimony from other witnesses who said Brown had sexually abused them when they were young was irrelevant and prejudicial.
Assistant Prosecutor Jo Leigh Fischer said the recordings had been edited to eliminate more prejudicial elements, including Brown’s prior criminal convictions.
The contradictory timeline in the girls’ testimony “did not mean it didn’t happen,” she said, adding that case law has established that uncorroborated testimony from children is sufficient in such cases.
“The evidence showed Brown was a child molester,” Fischer said, adding, “and that’s exactly what he is.”
She said the state had proven every element in the case and that nothing that happened at trial was unconstitutional.
Collins denied the motions for a new trial.
Fischer asked Collins to impose the maximum sentence of 10 years on the abuse and neglect and endangerment charges, stating Brown had not shown any remorse or taken any responsibility for his actions.
“He still wants to throw the co-defendant (Brandi Brown) under the bus,” she said.
Fischer said Brown has failed to learn his lesson from prior felony convictions and violated probation on numerous occasions between 2010 and 2017.
She said he also committed perjury when he took the stand during his trial.
“The girls will have a lifetime of healing and coming to grips with the things that have happened,” she said.
In the sodomy cases, she asked for consecutive 20-year sentences on each count, with 10 years on each of the witness tampering charges.
“Look at the amount of time the defendant has ruined somebody’s life,” Fischer said. “It’s an egregious number.”
In the sentencing assessment report, she said, Brown focused on the impact on himself and took no accountability for his actions.
Symonds said Brown has maintained his innocence and said the average sentence in an abuse case is four years and in sodomy cases, 15.2 years.
“That’s dramatically lower than what the state has recommended,” he said. “(Brown) is not the monster the state has made him out to be.”
He asked Collins to assess the minimum sentences of three years on the abuse, neglect and endangerment charges, seven years on the sodomy charges and three years on the witness tampering charges and to make them concurrent.
“A sentence to 70-odd years serves no purpose,” he said, noting Brown is 40 years old.
Symonds said he plans to file a notice of intent to appeal and said the appellate division of the Public Defenders Office will probably handle the appeal of the conviction and sentence.
Johnson County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Russell said Brown will have to serve 85 percent of some of the sentences and 100 percent of others.
“He’s in for a significant amount of time,” Russell said. “The juries didn’t buy any of his stories and the court didn’t want him out for any period of time.”
He said he hopes the sentences send a message to other offenders.
“Hopefully, people will be getting the message that Johnson County is not the place to victimize children,” he said.