A poised and defiant Monique Brown defended her husband in court Wednesday, telling jurors that she lied to detectives when she first complained that football star Jim Brown had beaten her and threatened to "snap" her neck.
In the odd position of an alleged victim frustrating the prosecution, the 25-year-old model and Santa Monica College student also suggested that police had doctored the tape recording of her 911 emergency call two months ago to make it sound as if her husband was endangering her life.
"It took them a week to get it back to us," she said of the police tapes. "I don't know what went on in that time."
Jim Brown, 63, is being tried on misdemeanor charges of making terrorist threats and smashing his wife's car with a shovel.
Police say that a panicked Monique Brown called them June 15 after her husband threatened to kill her during an argument in their Hollywood Hills home.
Again and again Wednesday, Monique Brown rebuffed harsh questions from the prosecutor, Deputy City Atty. Grace Kim Lee, about her husband's alleged violence.
Monique Brown told a Hollywood Municipal Court jury that she called 911 in the hope that police would help her fix her troubled marriage--a union that was marred by suspicions that her husband was planning a trip to Miami to see a mistress. In that call, she never said she was being beaten.
Instead of offering marriage counseling, though, police came to her home with shotguns, bulletproof vests and cold stares, she testified.
"I wanted them to stop him from going to Miami," she said.
Prosecutors have pointed to the 911 tape as a key element in their case against the NFL Hall of Fame running back. Among other things, Monique Brown told the 911 operator that her husband kept a gun at home and had "beaten [her] car with a shovel." On Wednesday, she said she believed the operator led her on by soliciting potentially incriminating details to build a criminal case against Jim Brown.
As her husband leaned his heavy frame back in the defendant's seat, his hands clasped on his lap, Monique Brown testified that she had been angry with her husband in June and wanted him to admit to cheating on her.
"I wasn't afraid at any point," she said. "I was trying to provoke some type of response."
A clearly reluctant witness, Monique Brown answered Lee's questions coolly and repeatedly asked the lawyer to clarify her inquiries. She insisted she had lied when she told police in June that her husband, in previous incidents during their marriage, had choked her, given her a black eye and once stood over her with a metal spear.
Only under questioning by defense lawyer William T. Graysen did Monique Brown became emotional.
As Graysen questioned her about her 911 call, her voice caught and she appeared to hold back tears. "I felt so bad about what I had done, it was just way way too much. . . . I realized I was in way over my head."
In addition to taking testimony from police and the football player's wife, the defense and the prosecution over the next few days plan to call witnesses who are experts in the common phenomenon of people who accuse their spouses of domestic abuse and then recant.
Jim Brown's lawyer suggested that the trial would come down to just one question:
"That question is whether the jury believes she was telling the truth on June 15 or whether she was telling the truth today," Graysen said.