Judge rules against bond request of chiropractor accused of poisoning wife
By Eric Fleischauer
For the Enquirer
A local chiropractor charged with poisoning his wife will remain in jail without the option of bond after a judge concluded at a hearing Monday that his failure to produce his passport makes him a flight risk.
Brian Mann, 34, a Hartselle resident and Decatur chiropractor, was arrested Sept. 2 and released on $500,000 bond Sept. 7 with conditions that included turning in his guns, which he did, wearing an ankle monitor and surrendering his passport. His bond was revoked Sept. 14 due to his failure to surrender the passport. In asking Morgan County Circuit Judge Charles Elliott to reinstate bond, Mann’s lawyer said his client could not find the passport.
Elliott ruled against him.
“So, he turned in his guns. But a gun is not going to allow him to travel outside of the country,” Elliott said. “The biggest thing that someone can use if they want to accomplish a flight away from an area would be a passport.
“The one thing that allows him to travel out of the country legally is the one thing that we don’t have.”
According to a pending divorce case filed by his wife, Mann poisoned her by “intentionally causing her to unwittingly ingest particles of lead,” leading to her hospitalization from Jan. 18 to March 3. Mann has denied the allegation, but a grand jury indicted him for attempted murder.
Christopher Weston of Huntsville, Mann’s lawyer, argued to the judge Monday that the missing passport was irrelevant because if bond is reinstated, one of the conditions would be that Mann wear an ankle monitor.
“With the ankle monitor, your honor, there’s no way he could be a flight risk,” Weston said.
Elliott responded, “He would not be the first person in my case load that’s tried to cut the ankle monitor and run.”
Weston said his law office had contacted the federal government — at one point he said the Department of Homeland Security and at another he said the State Department — to report that Mann’s passport had been lost or stolen.
Assistant District Attorney Joe Lewis argued that inconsistencies in Weston’s identification of the department that was notified and inconsistencies as to whether the passport went missing from Mann’s house or from a lockbox to which his wife had access undermined Mann’s credibility.
“Let’s not miss the elephant in the room, which is … we still do not have his passport,” Lewis said.
Mann, in leg and arm chains, and Weston were at the bench facing the judge and Weston began to interrupt.
“Let’s let Mr. Lewis continue to respond before we continue to laugh and carry on,” Elliott said. “Go ahead, Mr. Lewis.”
“The defendant is asking us to release him,” Lewis continued. “We do not have his passport and we have what appears to be some very funny business going on as to why we don’t have his passport and why he can’t produce his passport.”
Weston, in an apparent reference to Mann’s estranged wife who allegedly had access to the lockbox, said Mann “actually believes (the passport) was stolen, but that is a separate issue.” Weston said Mann’s search for the passport was extensive, even turning up the 33-year-old passport Mann was issued when he first entered the country.
The focus of much of the hearing Monday was on the week that Mann was out of jail on bond, from Sept. 7 to Sept. 14.
Elliott said his concern was not just that Mann had failed to surrender the passport, but that it was not until a week after his release from jail that he first claimed to have lost it.
Weston said his client, on or about the day he was initially released from jail Sept. 7, had notified authorities that he couldn’t find his passport. Elliott responded by swearing in two officials with Morgan County Community Corrections, which monitors defendants who are out on bond, and both denied that Mann had said anything about losing his passport before Sept. 14.
The prosecutor than called Hartselle police Lt. Alan McDearmond to testify. McDearmond said Mann had failed to mention anything about the passport when he surrendered his guns to an officer Sept. 7. McDearmond was not present at the time, but said he reviewed the officer’s body camera and confirmed Mann made no mention of his passport.
Weston responded that he found it “hard to believe” there was no mention of the passport when Mann turned in his guns.
“So you’re saying you have a hard time believing Lt. McDearmond?” Elliott asked, to which Weston quickly responded he was only questioning McDearmond’s recollection, not his credibility.
“What’s concerning me,” Elliott said, “is it took him a week to say, ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t find my passport and I’m supposed to turn it in within 24 hours.’ That’s what’s concerning me.”
If the State Department was notified of the lost or stolen passport, Elliott said, Weston should have presented evidence of that notification and of its effect on Mann’s ability to travel.
“Defense has provided nothing showing that either the State Department or Homeland Security has been notified. Defense had presented nothing showing this passport has been so-called ‘flagged.’ There’s been nothing provided by defense from the State Department or Homeland Security about any travel restrictions, what this means for Mr. Mann if his passport’s been lost or stolen,” Elliott said. “Those are concerns that I have as the judge in this case.”
Before Elliott ruled against him on the motion to reinstate bond, Mann’s lawyer also asked the judge to drop the bond amount from $500,000 to $250,000. “We weren’t going to ask this before,” Weston said, but Mann’s chiropractic business has been shut down for six weeks due to the bond revocation and he still has other obligations, including for child support.
The judge scheduled another hearing on the bond issue for Nov. 14, but said Mann will remain in the Morgan County Jail until at least that date.
Mann is a licensed chiropractor in good standing, according to state records. The executive director of the Alabama State Board of Chiropractic Examiners said the board has an “ongoing investigation” into Mann’s situation.
Under state law, the board can initiate license suspension procedures for various violations including immoral conduct, unprofessional conduct, patient abandonment or a felony conviction.