Robert Brockman holds 10 patents. He created one of the world’s top software systems for car dealers and amassed billions in overseas trusts. In recent years, he seemed to some just as sharp. In a 2019 antitrust case, at age 77, he said, “I am into the details, big time.” A year later, he promised to teach a top executive complex tasks.
Yet in 2018, when federal agents raided the Bermuda home of his trust manager, leading ultimately to Brockman’s indictment on charges of evading taxes on $2 billion, prosecutors say he began assembling evidence that his mind was failing. If true, he could be excused from standing trial in the largest such case in U.S. history.
He made appointments for mental health evaluation and received a diagnosis of dementia from four separate doctors — all associated with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, to which he’d donated more than $25 million over several years.
Now 80, Brockman faces a competency hearing in federal court in Houston starting on Monday. It will determine whether, as his lawyers assert, he’s unable to help them due to declining acuity or, as prosecutors contend, it’s a charade in keeping with a fake paper trail they say he’s built to hide his control of offshore entities. Brockman has pleaded not guilty.
“There is a mountain of evidence on the docket, in this case, to support the contention that he’s a malingerer,” prosecutor Christopher Magnani said at a July hearing. “A lot of this stuff is very, very objective evidence.”
By contrast, a report filed Thursday by Brockman’s lawyers said recent neuroimaging shows he has dementia caused by either Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or both. This type of testing has near-perfect correlation to autopsy findings of Alzheimer’s, they said.
“Mr. Brockman has dementia, a condition that is permanent, progressive and incurable,’’ the lawyers wrote. “He is incapable of understanding the charges and assisting properly with his defense, and never will be competent to do so.’’
The dilemma for Judge George C. Hanks Jr. is acute in this case in which Brockman is charged with tax evasion, money laundering, wire fraud and other crimes. The case is also larger than Brockman.
The Justice Department has spent five years on it and dismissal could raise doubts about its ability to prosecute tax defendants just when the Biden administration is seeking to bolster enforcement by the Internal Revenue Service.
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