SOUTH BEND — Objecting to being labeled “a victim,” the wife of Corwin Brown stood solidly beside her husband and told a judge that he did not deserve to go to prison.
“It wouldn’t be good for him,” Melissa Brown said in court Tuesday morning. “It wouldn’t be good for me. It wouldn’t be good for our children.”
In the end, St. Joseph County Superior Court Judge Jane Woodward Miller agreed with that assessment, sentencing Brown to four years of probation, allowing the former NFL and college football player to avoid prison time.
Those charges stem from an August 2011 incident that started as a fight and erupted into a police standoff outside the couple’s Granger home, ending only after Brown shot himself in the abdomen.
In June, Brown — who went on to coach at Note Dame and for the New England Patriots — pleaded “guilty but mentally ill” to one count teach of confining and battering of his wife, both Class D felonies.
On Tuesday, Brown appeared before Miller flanked by his wife and attorney William Stanley, all three speaking about Brown’s struggles with mental illness and the damage it caused his family.
Melissa Brown said that her husband was “in a state he had suffered from for a long time,” ultimately resulting into the call for police on Aug. 12, 2011.
But Melissa Brown also said that with proper medical care, her husband has shown great improvement to the point that he has moved back in with her and their children.
Corwin Brown, sobbing as he spoke, apologized for his actions and, in a testimony that was hard to hear because of his crying as well as his soft speaking voice, said his greatest priority was rebuilding the relationship with his family.
“My wife and my kids are the real victims here,” Brown said.
Brown’s attorney, William Stanley, said his client has shown a continued willingness to work with doctors, psychologists and family members to seek treatment for his illness.
“The fact that he is back with his family...is probably more beneficial than any medication,” Stanley told Miller.
Football not the issue
But while Brown’s family had previously attributed his mental illness — by issuing a letter to the media, shortly after his arrest — to head injuries suffered during his football career, there was little mention Tuesday about the what role, if any, football played in Brown’s illness.
Stanley, speaking to Judge Miller, said he didn’t want to bring football into the discussion about Brown because ultimately the real issue was to seek justice in the case.
After the sentencing, Stanley said the issue before the court had nothing to do with whether football causes head injuries or not, but about two lives interrupted by mental illness.
“The real issue was what was best for Corwin,” Stanley said.
‘What a tragedy’
And what was best for Brown — avoiding time in prison — was actually what chief deputy prosecutor Ken Cotter asked Miller to agree to.
“Normally, I would be asking for executed time,” Cotter said, referring to serving time in prison, for a crime as serious as to what Brown pleaded guilty to.
But Cotter said that Corwin Brown’s ongoing treatment, along with Melissa Brown’s desire to stand by her husband, would do more for the former football player than any time in prison.
Miller said she consented to Brown’s request, in part, because he had no pervious criminal history. She also cited his medical reports — sealed from the public — as evidence about the damage his brain had suffered.
“What struck me about this is what a tragedy this was,” Miller said.
Besides sentencing Brown to four years of probation, he was also ordered to pay more than $8,000 in restitution to the St. Joseph County and Mishawaka police departments to compensate for the time spend in a standoff outside his home.
By pleading guilty, Brown also will be prohibited from possessing a firearm and Miller ordered that he continue with his medical treatments and medication.
But Miller waived the probation requirement that Brown stay within St. Joseph County, citing his need to travel to Chicago for treatment.
“There’s a lot of hope and help out there,” Miller told Brown. “I am glad you were able to see that there’s a light out there.”
Staff writer Dave Stephens: