Spiritual Leader Convicted
Edward Brown was the charismatic leader of a martial arts and spiritualistic commune in Alachua County. Now he can expect to serve the rest of his life behind bars.
Brown was convicted on five related charges of sex crimes with underage girls. It took a courageous victim to break her silence that made the case.
The state attorney's office says there were many victims over a number of years living at the commune, sometimes with their parents! But the adults didn't know what was happening behind closed doors.
The entrance to Brown's commune was locked Friday in Northwest Alachua County. Though the sign on the gate promised martial arts, wellness and happiness, there was a lot more going on inside. The prosecutor says parents were lured by his spiritual way of life that advocated celibacy. But what they didn't know was that in special one - on - one sessions with young girls, he was engaged in other sexual acts.
"This man was in many ways one of the most dangerous people that I've come into contact with," says Assistant State Attorney Lua Mellman. "Primarily because he was so charismatic, because he did suck people in and people blindly followed."
Brown was convicted of a sexual related offense in Duval County more than a decade ago--before the sexual offender database was started. The 75 year sentence is five less than the maximum possible. Mellman says she's very pleased by Judge Martha Lott's decision, especially since Brown refused to take any responsibility even after the jury's verdict.
"I just want to go on the record and say i'm not guilty of these charges," said Brown at his sentencing. "I'm very sorry that this has turned out the way it has."
Mellman says the victim in this case was eleven when the sexual abuse began four years ago. More than a year after moving off the property, she broke down and told her teacher in January 2006.
"We spent a lot of time talking that no matter what happened, she had taken her life back and she was safe from him," says Mellman. "I think that's what carried her through was just the knowledge she was standing up for herself and try to protect other girls."
Both the phone number and the web address advertised at Brown's property have been disconnected. He faces charges for another underage sex crime. Mellman says considering the length of sentence he received today, it's likely that one will be dropped.
Brown is eligible for parole in about 63 years when he will be 123 years old.
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV20 News
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