GONZALES — For a second time in four months, state Sen. Troy Brown pleaded no contest to a criminal charge alleging he committed violence against a woman and, as part of his sentence for this latest conviction, must serve a day and a half in jail at a date to be determined.
Brown, a two-term Democrat from Assumption Parish, entered the second plea Wednesday afternoon in a deal with Ascension Parish misdemeanor prosecutors to avoid a trial set to begin.
Under the no contest plea to domestic abuse battery Wednesday, Brown did not dispute allegations that he bit his wife during a struggle over a cell phone in their Geismar home in July but did not admit civil liability.
“It serves the best interests of justice for all parties involved,” defense attorney Harry Ezim said of the deal after the plea was finished.
Ad hoc Judge Frank Foil, a retired appellate judge, fined Brown $300, gave him to 30 days in jail and ordered him to do 64 hours of community service and participate in a domestic violence program. Brown also got three months of probation and was assessed other costs.
Not seeing the video below? Click here.
All but two days of Brown’s jail time were suspended with credit for time served. According to jail records, Brown served 10 hours in Ascension Parish Prison near Donaldsonville in July and has another day and a half to serve.
Under the sentence, Brown must work with his probation officer to determine when he will serve out the reminder of the jail time will be served. He also can’t have a handgun while on probation.
In September, Brown pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor simple battery count on allegations he punched his girlfriend in the eye during a dispute after the Bayou Classic football game in late 2015.
The two incidents, eight months apart, have led to calls for Brown to step down as senator and have already cost him a Senate committee leadership job and his spots on committees, but the River Parishes senator, while he has apologized for his mistakes, has refused to leave office. Despite his two misdemeanor convictions, state law does not require him to step down.
His latest plea came shortly after Brown’s defense attorneys failed to convince Foil to continue the trial and that they had not been given all the evidence in the case, in particular the full recording of a 911 call made after the biting incident.
In Ascension on Wednesday, after an hour and a half recess set aside for the attorneys to negotiate, Foil began to move to sequester witnesses and start the trial once he dispatched Brown’s defense attorneys’ motions.
Brown’s defense attorney Harry Ezim then turned to Assistant District Attorney Morgan Gravois to ask her something that was not audible from the audience, to which she firmly said, “No.”
It would later turn out that Gravois was asking whether she would reconsider a plea, she said.
With that answer, Ezim then asked Foil for a 10-minute recess and plea negotiations began in earnest anyway. Attorneys emerged with a deal written out by hand on legal paper shortly before 3 p.m.
Foil had Gravois read out the sentence from the pad, asked Brown if he understood and accepted the sentence, which Brown indicated he did, and then ordered the sentence that Gravois provided.
Brown’s wife, Toni Baker Brown, one of the state’s witnesses, sat patiently by herself through the morning as the busy misdemeanor docket in Ascension Parish Court was dispatched.
For a time she and the senator sat directly across from each other, separated by a main aisle, but the two did not share words and hardly a glance.
Later, by the time of the last-minute plea negotiations, Toni Brown had been sequestered from the courtroom as a witness for trial. She returned to court minutes before her husband’s plea.
Once the plea was completed, she then testified that she wanted to dissolve a stay-away order that has been standing against her husband since July 18 in connection with the domestic battery charge.
Sen. Brown, who has not been able to live in his Geismar home where Toni Brown lives, has said he is in Assumption Parish. His Geismar home is not in his Senate district.
Toni Brown, who declined comment, walked out of the courtroom after she testified and did not talk to her husband or his attorneys.
Sen. Brown's attorneys have said he is trying to reconcile with his wife and has been in anger management classes. In mid-October, the senator filed for divorce from Toni Brown, but a hearing set for Monday was continued without date.
Sen. Brown left the courthouse late Wednesday afternoon with his attorneys. When asked if he wanted to make a statement, Brown said, “No, we’re good. We’re good. I’ll follow with a statement.”
A statement had not been made available by deadline Wednesday.