Brockman was indicted in October 2020 on 39 counts, including tax evasion, wire fraud, money laundering and evidence tampering. He has pleaded not guilty and stepped down from his roles as Reynolds’ chairman and CEO in November 2020.
“Perhaps the most telling evidence of Brockman’s current exaggeration of his cognitive disability is the inconsistency between Brockman’s performance during past cognitive evaluations and Brockman’s contemporaneous, demonstrated superior business acumen and cognitive abilities outside of clinical settings,” Hanks wrote. “This inconsistency, which grew more striking over time, continued right up until it became clear that the Government had gathered considerable evidence to support Brockman’s prosecution and he resigned from his corporate responsibilities.”
The judge based his opinion on testimony during the hearing from medical experts retained by both prosecutors and defense lawyers, close contacts of Brockman and current and former Reynolds executives, as well as on experts’ reports, medical records, brain scan images and other court filings.
Hanks wrote that he took Brockman’s age and health issues, including Parkinson’s disease and some cognitive impairment, into consideration.
But he also wrote that he found Brockman to be an intelligent person able to stay involved in complex company matters.
Hanks cited examples of emails Brockman sent in 2019 and 2020 as Reynolds’ CEO — on topics including a dispute among company executives and the profit margins of a newsletter business. That showed Brockman “had a firm grasp of the intricacies of his company and the industry in which it operated,” Hanks wrote.
The judge also pointed to the antitrust depositions for which Brockman sat in 2019, including one in January of that year, in which Hanks wrote that no mention was made of cognitive impairment.
By March of 2019, “six weeks after giving hours of astute testimony in a billion-dollar antitrust case, Brockman, when asked during an assessment by a Baylor neuropsychologist to read the word ‘two’ aloud, responded that he did not think that ‘two’ was a word,” Hanks wrote.
He noted that Brockman told his defense lawyers in the criminal case about his dementia diagnosis in July 2019 but that one of his attorneys testified during the competency hearing that Brockman “did not authorize” the diagnosis to be shared with his civil lawyers. That, Hanks said, “was especially curious under the circumstances, as Brockman sat for another high-stakes deposition in September of 2019 — six months after he was diagnosed with mild-to-moderate dementia, scored in the low-average range on an IQ test, and said that ‘two’ was not a word.”
Lawrence Feld, a New York-based defense lawyer and adjunct professor at New York Law School who is not involved in Brockman’s case, told Automotive News that a finding that a defendant is competent to stand trial can be part of an appeal “after a trial if he’s convicted and sentenced.”
It’s possible that defense lawyers could request another competency evaluation should Brockman’s health change, though the judge is not required to grant one, said Feld, also a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York’s criminal division.
Brockman’s lawyers in recent weeks have disclosed additional details in court filings about Brockman’s health challenges since the competency hearing, including a COVID-19 diagnosis and two hospitalizations this year.