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Browers found guilty

Couple shows little emotion as verdict is read

   Robbie Eugene Brower faces serving 85 years in prison for kidnapping an attorney and his three secretaries over a year ago, sparking a 24-hour hostage standoff that closed downtown Statesboro and involved seven law enforcement agencies.
    His wife, Connie Czako Brower, faces serving 65 years in prison, but will be eligible for parole. Robbie Brower, sentenced as a recidivist because of seven prior felony convictions, will likely serve the entire sentence, said Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Richard Mallard.
    The pair took attorney Michael Hostilo and three secretaries hostage Jan. 16, 2006. The secretaries were released after about 10 minutes, but Hostilo was bound with duct tape, threatened with violence and kept against his will until the next morning.
    They were armed with what police thought were explosives. After their surrender, investigators discovered the devices the Browers used to threaten Hostilo and others were only hoax devices - handmade by Robbie Brower.
    A jury found the couple guilty Friday after three hours and 20 minutes deliberation. They found both Robbie Brower, 44, and Connie Brower, 45, guilty of four counts of kidnapping, two counts of possession of a hoax device, two counts each of terroristic threats and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
    They found Robbie Brower not guilty of aggravated assault with intent to kill.
    Jurors began deliberation Thursday evening, but asked to go home after about an hour. Deliberation resumed Friday shortly after 9 a.m. and lasted until 11:22.
    At 10:20 a.m., jurors asked to review the video where Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents filmed a failed surrender around 5:55 a.m. Jan. 17, 2006. They reviewed the video twice before returning to the jury room.
    After reaching a verdict, the jury returned to the courtroom and Clerk of Courts Sherry Akins read the verdict.
    Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Daphne Jarriel asked that Robbie Brower be sentenced as a recidivist, meaning he has had multiple prior felony convictions, which include aggravated assault and burglary.
    She asked that the Browers be sentenced to 20 years for each kidnapping charge, with three of the sentenced concurrent; and asked for five years each on the remaining charges, as well as  having the Browers banished from the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit upon possible release.
    She also asked that neither of them contact any of the victims in any way.
    Peed followed the recommendations regarding the kidnapping charges, except for stating that sentences for two kidnapping charges be consecutive and two be concurrent for Robbie Brower.
    He sentenced both Robbie and Connie Brower to one year for each charge of possession of a hoax device (two charges) , and five years each for the terroristic threats charges (two charges), to run concurrently with the other sentences.
    He sentenced both to five years for the charge of possession of a knife during the commission of a felony, to run consecutively.
    The sentences added up to 97 years each, with Robbie Brower to serve 85 years and Connie Brower to serve 65 years.
    Robbie Brower should serve the entire 85 years, Mallard said. "The statute says he is to serve every day of it," but whether or not he is ever allowed parole is "up to the Department of Corrections Pardons and Parole."
    Connie Brower "will be eligible for parole at some point," he said.
    Before Peed handed down the sentences, both Robbie and Connie Brower took the stand.
    "I would like to apologize," Connie Brower said. "I know now that the way we went about it was wrong. I didn't realize how far it was going to go ... to be of this magnitude. I've never been in trouble before. I've never done anything like this... but I always stuck by my husband no matter what."
    Robbie Brower asked Peed to be merciful in sentencing his wife.
    "This was my fight, and I involved her," he said.
    He reiterated how his main goal was to have a 1995 hammer attack conviction overturned, explaining again that Hostilo misrepresented him and gave him poor advice, resulting in his pleading guilty of the offense when he was not guilty.
    He also spoke of his daughter Britney, now 14, of whom he said he lost custody because of problems stemming from the conviction. He said the entire reason behind his 11-year campaign to have the 1995 conviction overturned and for the 2006 hostage situation was to reunite with his daughter.
    "I'm really sorry it happened here," he said. "It wasn't an attack on Bulloch County."
    But the state prosecutors disagree.
    "The Browers held Statesboro under siege, essentially," Jarriel said.
    "He held the city hostage," Mallard said. "You can't overlook people doing that.
    "We're pleased with the verdict," he said. "It (the Brower's actions) was serious. It jeopardized some people, and(at the time of the attack) nobody knew what was going on."
    Even after the sentencing, Brower refused to admit he was wrong in kidnapping Hostilo.
    "He never, ever thought what he did was wrong," Mallard said. "And she didn't either."
    Brower apologized for kidnapping the  three secretaries but did not comment on kidnapping Hostilo.
    "He still doesn't get it," Jarriel said.

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