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Actual abuse of 5 Browns daughters went far beyond charges

Published September 6, 2011 11:10 am

Crime • Documents say father victimized daughters for years.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A newly released police report shows the extent of child sexual abuse perpetrated against the three women of the piano group The 5 Browns went far beyond the three counts their father, Keith Brown, went to prison for.

The report and court documents detail abuses that happened over a span of at least eight years, hundreds of times for at least one of the daughters, and across state lines. Keith Brown exchanged emails about the abuse with his daughters before they went to police, the report stated.

The abuse would last some time for one daughter, and as that daughter got older, Brown would shift his focus to younger daughters, Deputy Utah County Attorney David Sturgill said last week after speaking with the Brown family.

Yet the egregious crimes may never have fallen into the public eye. Reporters following up on a car accident involving Keith Brown stumbled across charges filed against him just days before. On the way home from a Valentine's Day dinner with his wife, Brown drove his Porsche off the road and plunged 300 feet into a creek in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Police said he had been traveling too fast for the area.

"The position of a case of this magnitude was to have it resolved as quickly and quietly as possible," said Steven Shapiro, defense attorney for Keith Brown. "The intention was to not have this be any sort of a media event."

Sturgill said Brown's prosecution was treated "like any other." He pointed out it's hard enough for a victim of sexual assault to come forward, let alone have others know about it. "If I had my way, it wouldn't be reported on [by the news]," Sturgill said.

But Alana Kindness, executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said media reports of abuse are advantageous to other victims. She believes the women of The 5 Browns coming forward have made a difference for other victims of a similar crime.

"I was very grateful to those young adults for coming forward," she said. "People say, 'Oh, I see this can happen to anyone.' It doesn't matter what neighborhood they come from or what family they come from. … It helps break down those misconceptions about who perpetrators are and who the victims are."

Being properly informed on the behavior of a suspect and the behavior of a victim "is critical in helping [other] victims to understand and not feel shame," Kindness said.

The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not name victims of sexual abuse, but early on in the case the Brown sisters — Melody, Deondra and Desirae — consented to identifying themselves as their father's victims.

The women first met with an officer at the Lone Peak Police Department on June 30, 2010, the report states.

"Each victim told me [she feels] terrible about bringing this information forward; however, due to their father recently obtaining some young female clients where he represents them in his business, they are concerned these things may begin to occur with some of these clients," the police report stated.

Shapiro said many close to the family knew about the abuse well before the daughters ever came forward. "My understanding of how it happened was the girls spoke with investigators significantly after their father had already spoken with his ecclesiastical leaders and had a conversation with his family," Shapiro said.

The police report indicates authorities contacted Keith Brown a month later on the phone but did not want to discuss what they wanted to talk to him about.

"I explained my concern for releasing any detail over the phone due to the nature of the investigation and stature of Keith and his family in the community," the officer wrote in the report.

Brown told the officer he would call him back but never did. Two hours later Shapiro called the officer and said since the officer wouldn't disclose the issue over the phone he never set up a time to meet with police. Shapiro later spoke with the Utah County attorney's office.

Nearly eight months later, in February, Keith Brown pleaded guilty to one count of sodomy on a child, a first-degree felony, and two counts sexual abuse of a child, both second-degree felonies. He was sentenced to 10 years to life in prison. Sturgill said the charged crimes were representative of the abuse against each of the daughters, but not of the number of times of actual abuse.

Putting together a plea deal accomplished what the victims wanted, Sturgill said.

"[The daughters] wanted a certain result," he said. "They had a number of years they wanted to see him behind bars; this was the simplest way to see that."

Kindness said news reports of the abuse and conviction highlight a broader issue: a 2007 Rape in Utah phone survey by the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice put Utah's reported rape rate at 63.7 per 100,000 females compared to the U.S. rate of 57.4 per 100,000 females.

The phone survey found nearly one-third of Utah women surveyed had some type of sexual assault during their lifetimes and about 79 percent of those said the first time they were sexually assaulted was before they turned 18 years old.

The courage of the daughters in coming forward was a rare occurrence, Kindness said, noting only 1 in 10 women surveyed had reported to police. When a victim chooses to report is based entirely on the situation.

"It can take anywhere from an immediate report to a lifetime to report," Kindness said.

Kindness said surveys have shown in many cases where family members are the perpetrators, other family members of the victim will advise them not to tell authorities because they fear damage to family image or risk a family member being arrested. Often having supportive friends and family helps to have the courage to come forward.

"I think having the support of [the sisters] was helpful in coming forward," Kindness said.

The 5 Browns sisters in a statement issued to The Tribune last week declined comment. They are now focusing on "managing their lives, careers and the ongoing healing process," they said through a spokesman.

Keith Brown declined comment for this story. He will be up for his first parole hearing in April 2018.

cimaron@sltrib.comTwitter: @CimCity —

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