Mogul in Huge Tax Case Claims Dementia, But U.S. Doesn’t Buy It
(Bloomberg) -- Texas software mogul Robert T. Brockman has an unusual defense against charges that he used an arsenal of code names, untraceable phones and an “Evidence Eliminator” to sock away $2 billion in the largest tax-fraud case in U.S. history.
Lawyers for Brockman, 79, claim that even though he ran a multibillion-dollar software company until last month, he suffers from dementia so advanced that he’s unable to stand trial. Prosecutors warn that Brockman might be engineering an infirmity defense to avoid justice -- a position that recalls the hard line the U.S. took with Vincent “the Chin” Gigante -- the mafia boss who spent decades feigning insanity to avoid prosecution.
Brockman faces a 39-count indictment that accuses him of tax evasion, money laundering and other crimes involving a vast fortune he earned investing in Vista Equity Partners and secretly stashed in offshore tax havens. Weeks after his Oct. 1 indictment, he stepped down from his longtime position as chief executive officer of Reynolds and Reynolds, a giant in the market for software used to manage auto dealerships.
His lawyers now assert that Brockman’s intellectual capacity has steadily eroded in the past two years and he scored an 87 on an IQ test -- far below the expected level of a man who holds several patents and historically paid great attention to the details of his business. They say he’s mentally unfit to aid in his defense and asked a federal judge in San Francisco to hold a competency hearing.
“Four highly qualified doctors in Houston, Texas, have examined Mr. Brockman on multiple occasions over a twenty-two month timespan and concluded that his dementia makes him incapable of assisting in his defense,” they said in court papers this month.
In addition to dementia, Brockman’s legal team says he suffers from Parkinson’s disease, depression and hallucinations. During one exam, Brockman described “a bug on a testing room floor that was not present to either the examiner” or to the defendant’s wife, one doctor wrote.
Prosecutors suspect that Brockman may have manufactured his dementia diagnosis. They say a careful look at his actions suggests he may have a “motive to malinger,” and that “his claims are deserving of healthy skepticism.” The physicians that Brockman’s legal team obtained opinions from are all affiliated with the Baylor College of Medicine, to which Brockman has donated tens of millions of dollars, prosecutors note.
“The government has serious concerns about the claimed incapacity,” Michael Pitman, a prosecutor on the case, told the judge at a hearing this month. “When did the defendant first start to complain about symptoms that he suggests incapacitate him? That timeline is very strongly indicative of a defense being manufactured in response to an investigation.”
Brockman reached out for an appointment with one of his doctors the day after authorities raided the Bermudian home of Evatt Tamine, who managed his offshore assets. Tamine had previously written Brockman that he was building a relationship with another Baylor doctor who “work[s] as a strong barrier against an attack from the IRS,” prosecutors said. After Tamine came under increasing scrutiny during trips to the U.S., he proposed storing a phone and other electronic equipment at the doctor’s Houston office rather than risk traveling with them, they added.
“While presenting to his defense attorneys and doctors as a man of rapidly diminishing mental capacity, signs of a more robust mental acuity trail in his wake,” prosecutors wrote of Brockman.
Ultimately, Tamine received immunity to help U.S. prosecutors unravel the financial matters, according to court records. He has testified three times before the grand jury in San Francisco and has provided emails and other documents to prosecutors, according to a person familiar with the matter.
In contrast to the government’s portrayal, Brockman’s lawyers paint a picture of a man in rapid mental decline, who in October suffered a delusional incident in which he imagined that his son had broken into his computer in the middle of the night.
The judge’s decision on whether Brockman is competent will come down to a “battle of the experts,” said Frank Agostino, a New Jersey tax attorney not involved in the case. The judge must determine the facts and rule whether Brockman can assist in his defense, Agostino said.
“If he can’t assist in his own defense because his memory is gone, or it’s slipping away, or he’s having delusions, he can’t get a fair trial,” Agostino said. “If the reports are at all credible, his condition is deteriorating rapidly.”
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