San Luis Obispo Councilman Paul Brown must stay at least 50 yards away from his estranged wife Jayne for the next three years, a San Luis Obispo County commissioner ruled in extending a restraining order against him.
A two-day hearing that began on the couple's four-year wedding anniversary Oct. 18 focused in intricate detail on three specific allegations of physical abuse that dated back to their honeymoon. Two of the incidents--one in 2004 that saw Jayne taken to the emergency room for back pain and a head injury, and another in 2006 where she sustained a cut to her lip--attracted the most attention in court.
Throughout the proceeding, with his mother looking on while knitting a hat from the public seats, Paul Brown and his attorney Hank Mott worked to attribute Jayne's injuries in those incidences to her losing control during arguments.
Jayne's attorney Edward Somogyi, meanwhile, countered that the events showed she had been the victim of physical and emotional abuse during the marriage right up to the day she left the home on foot Sept. 1 with her laptop, overnight bag, and the couple's dog and was followed in a car by Paul Brown, who left after she called the police.
In his ruling, Commissioner Patrick Perry said he found Jayne Brown's version of events more likely to be true. He said, for example, that Paul Brown's actions on that final night demonstrated "controlling behavior ... he wanted her to get in the car." Paul Brown said he merely wanted to offer her a ride.
Paul Brown, in an interview after the rulings, said he was discouraged.
"I just figured I had to show up and tell the truth and everything was going to be fine," he said. "Obviously that wasn't the case."
Jayne Brown, meanwhile, said she was relieved to have the matter behind her. Paul Brown filed for divorce in the week after she left--about a week before the request for a temporary restraining order was filed--but Jayne Brown stressed in a statement that she wasn't aware of the divorce filing at the time she sought the initial order.
In the 2004 incident, Paul Brown said his wife's injuries happened when, after watching her knock over furniture and throw papers and a remote control, he came to her from behind and put his arms around her to comfort her. He said she then kicked her legs off of a piece of furniture and knocked both of them over.
In Jayne Brown's version, Paul Brown grabbed her and threw her down during the heat of the argument and later told her he'd learned the technique in his training as a military police officer.
In both versions, she crawled to their car and was taken by Brown to the emergency room for treatment, where she told doctors she sustained the injuries in an accidental slip. Paul Brown testified that he encouraged her to tell the truth, but she said she was worried that doing so would affect Brown's reputation as a council member. According to medical records subpoenaed in the hearing, she told her family doctor in a visit days after the incident that her injuries came at the hands of her husband.
Perry said those records lent credibility to her version of events. He said he believed Paul Brown was trying to restrain, not comfort, his wife.
"I think what happened was she was struggling and he threw her to the ground," Perry said in his ruling from the bench.
As for the 2006 incident, Perry also sided with Jayne Brown's version.
In that case, Jayne Brown was lying on the couch working on a laptop when an argument started. Paul Brown said he leaned over her and put his hands on her shoulders, asking her to take back comments he felt were belittling to his father. He said she immediately started flailing and kicking at him and he backed up. He testified he didn't know how she hurt her lip, and she ended up on the floor by trying to kick him.
In Jayne Brown's version, Brown straddled her and put his hands on her throat and later took her own hand and hit her with it, cutting her lip on her wedding ring. He then grabbed her legs and pulled her off the couch, she said.
Perry said he found Jayne's version more believable, noting that Paul Brown, in his own written response, wrote that he grabbed her wrist as she tried to hit him and then her ring hit her face. The commissioner said that response seemed to contradict his oral testimony.
A separate hearing has been set to discuss other issues related to the couple's divorce hearing, including lawyer's fees and spousal support.