Tech mogul in largest US individual tax case may have dementia
Robert Brockman has been indicted on tax evasion and money laundering and is accused of hiding $2bn in income over two decades in the Caribbean
New York — Robert Brockman, the software executive charged in the largest tax case against a US individual, is facing progressive dementia that will render him unable to help in his defence, according to a legal filing citing his doctors.
Brockman (79) was indicted on tax evasion and money-laundering charges that accused him of using a complex trust structure in the Caribbean to hide $2bn in income over two decades. His lawyers want his case moved from San Francisco, where he was indicted on October 1, to Houston, where he lives and his doctors treat him.
In a filing late on Monday, physician James L Pool said Brockman has symptoms consistent with Parkinson’s disease, Parkinsonism, Lewy body dementia, or some combination of them. The diagnosis can only be “totally confirmed” with an autopsy, but each results in rigid muscles, slow movements and tremors, according to Pool, a pharmacology professor at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
“All are characterised by progressive dementia, and in Mr Brockman’s case, the medical reports confirm cognitive impairment, which includes, but is not limited to, both short- and long-term memory loss,” according to Pool’s declaration.
Brockman’s condition renders his “long-term memory inaccessible and defective”, according to the filing. “For these reasons, I concur with the medical position that Mr Brockman cannot assist his attorneys in his defence.”
US district judge William Alsup will hold a hearing on Tuesday to consider Brockman’s request to move his case to Houston. Brockman’s lawyers have also said they’ll seek a competence hearing for Brockman. The justice department can present its own medical experts to refute Brockman’s claims. Alsup has directed lawyers in the case to file their papers on that matter by December 8.
Prosecutors have said they oppose a venue change. A spokesperson for the justice department didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment on the Monday filing by Brockman’s legal team.
Brockman, the former CEO of Reynolds & Reynolds, a maker of software for motor dealers, has pleaded not guilty. He was the first investor, two decades ago, in billionaire Robert Smith’s initial private equity fund, eventually putting up $1bn.
Smith, the CEO of Vista Equity Partners, avoided prosecution after agreeing to co-operate against Brockman. Smith admitted he evaded $43m in taxes from 2005 to 2014, prosecutors said. Both men hid money from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by using Swiss bank accounts and secretive Caribbean trust structures initially set up by the same Houston lawyer, according to prosecutors.
Another witness against Brockman is Evatt Tamine, an Australian lawyer who worked with him in Bermuda. The filing on Monday included an October 2018 immunity agreement in which Tamine agreed to co-operate against Brockman and Smith.
Prosecutors are expected to oppose the claim by Brockman’s lawyers that he is not competent to stand trial, and the legal burden for establishing that is high.
In their filing, Brockman’s lawyers said that three doctors affiliated with Baylor have confirmed Pool’s findings about his medical condition. Each will testify in a hearing to determine whether Brockman is capable of assisting in his defence, according to the filing.
Defence lawyers will call other witnesses, including his wife and colleagues, to establish that Brockman has “demonstrable cognitive and memory challenges”, according to a filing by one of his attorneys, Kathryn Keneally.
At a court hearing on November 17, defence lawyer Neal Stephens said the case against Brockman involves 22-million pages of documents. The judge, who has set a trial date of November 15 2021, said he is considering a venue change even before reading all the legal filings on the question.
At that hearing, Brockman’s lawyers didn’t address the question of his competence. Rather, they said the government’s indictment didn’t show that Brockman filed his tax returns in the Northern District of California. Alsup said the rising coronavirus pandemic could force a slowdown in trials.
“I’m sure the government wouldn’t mind trying this case in Houston, Texas,” Alsup said. “They got fair-minded jurors down there, just like they do here. So it might be better if Mr Brockman did want a speedy trial. Now, if he does not want a speedy trial, then all this is really just delay. Delay city. And I don’t care for that.”
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