By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
But when Brown still hadn’t returned any of Stovall’s three phone messages by Wednesday morning, May 20, Stovall drove to Brown’s San Ysidro apartment and ã banged on the door.
"Do you know why I’m here?" he asked.
"Yes," answered Brown, who had come to the door wearing a robe. "It’s because of the man who died in the hotel room in National City."
Although Brown was "nonthreatening, polite, well-spoken and obviously well-educated," says Stovall, it was also clear to him that Brown was not someone for whom "personal appearance was a high priority." When Stovall asked him to come down to the station, he put on a wrinkled shirt and a stained jacket. Not only did his apartment smell like "garbage," but the couch was bloodstained and the stuffing was falling out. The stove was "filthy" and the sink was stacked with dirty dishes. There were books, professional journals, travel bags and medical supplies scattered about the floor. "If a child had been living there," Stovall says, "I’d have put him in a foster home."
Brown declined to say whether or not he’d amputated Bondy’s leg, says Stovall, but he talked about virtually everything else, including driving Bondy to the clinic and visiting him at the Holiday Inn the following day to inspect the wound. (He saw some "minor red marks," Brown tells me, and "possibly" a pale-blue tint, indicative of emerging gangrene.)
At first Brown didn’t want to make a statement, says Stovall. "Then he said, ‘Okay, I’ll make a little statement.’ He ended up making a 29-page statement." Although Stovall still didn’t know what had happened to Bondy, he was convinced that something illegal was going on. After 90 minutes, he left the interview room to tell his superiors that he was going to arrest Brown.
Brown, who tends to be oblivious to the psychic atmosphere, didn’t even realize that he was in trouble. After waiting 45 minutes for Stovall to return, he says, he was bored and restless — "There was nothing to read." Deciding he had better things to do, he walked out of the station and headed home. He had gone two blocks and just turned a corner, he says, when suddenly two police cars and what seemed like 12 officers appeared.
It reminded Brown of the "Toonerville cops." Then, he says, "one pulled out a gun and pointed it at my head." Brown looked at the weapon in astonishment. "All I could think," he says, "was ‘What a fucking big gun!’"
If the gun amazed Brown, his arraignment dumbfounded him. The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Stacy Running, asked the judge to hold him without bail on the grounds that he was an "incredibly dangerous individual to the citizens both of the United States and Mexico."
To Brown, none of this made sense, either legally or morally. "I didn’t think any laws had been violated on either side of the border," he says. "Or, from now on, is every surgeon who performs an operation where the patient later dies of infection going to be arrested for murder?"
Friends and former patients were outraged as well. It wasn’t Brown’s fault that Philip Bondy died, says Ann, whose sex-change surgery was a great success (but who asked to be identified only by her first name). "That old man was already sick. He just wanted his leg cut off so he could get a hard-on. Dr. Brown was just doing his job."
To Brown’s ex-wife, Julie, and their two teenage sons, his arrest came as a devastating shock. "My oldest boy was going to spend the day [with him]," says Julie, a hearty, buoyant woman who has remained on close terms with Brown. "He called over there. ‘Can I speak to my dad?’ The police said, ‘Your dad has been arrested for murder.’"
As soon as the police finished searching Brown’s apartment — they took everything, including the garbage disposal, she says — they came over to search hers. "There were a bunch of guys in yellow jackets, like a SWAT team. They had a search warrant. They asked me to sit on the couch. The first thing they did was take pictures of my fish tank. I heard on the news that Brown had been arrested for cutting off the man’s leg. What did they think — that I was keeping it in the fish tank?
"They were here for hours. They told me I was going to jail and that I would never see my kids again. I was crying. I begged them, I said, ‘Please don’t take my kids away.’ They said Brown bought me from my father. ‘Did he pay for you?’ I said I wasn’t a cow. ‘Yes, it was an arranged marriage, but so what?’"
Julie, a native of the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, met Brown in 1981, when he opened a practice there. "He asked me if I would like to get married," she says. "I said, ‘I don’t know.’ I was 17. He was 59."
Although the two were divorced in the early ’90s, after Brown was sent to prison for practicing medicine without a license, Julie says she still loves him. "He raised me. He taught me to read and write. He’s a really good man. If I had it to do again, I’d marry him in a heartbeat."