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"It was about justice'
Brower trail continues
012407 BOWER TRIAL 2
Connie Czako Brower testifies in her own defense Wednesday. Brower was still on the stand when Bulloch County Superior Court Judge F. Gates Peed released the jury until Thursday morning.
Attorney Michael Hostilo Hostilo appeared to be calling the shots in a video showing a thwarted surrender where he and a couple accused of holding him hostage walked out of an office hand in hand.
      Jurors watched the brief video Wednesday during the trial of Robbie Eugene Brower, 44, and Connie Czako Brower, 45, each accused of kidnapping Hostilo and three of his secretaries Jan. 16, 2006.
    The trial is being held before Bulloch County Superior Court Judge F. Gates Peed.
    Jurors also heard testimony from both Robbie and Connie Brower, both of whom testified Hostilo took part in planning the surrender and helped them compose demand letters.
    Connie Brower's testimony will resume today.
    The video showed a portion of Courtland Street where the offices of Zettler, Hostilo and Register are located, and where the Browers held police at bay for over 24 hours, claiming to have explosives and to be holding Hostilo against his will.
    The video, taken by Georgia Bureau of Investigations agents, showed Hostilo sandwiched between Robbie and Connie Brower, holding hands with them, arms raised over their heads as they walked outside just before 6 a.m. Jan. 17.
    Law enforcement officers, unseen on the video but heard shouting orders, told the three to kneel on the street, cross their ankles and then lie face down on the ground.
    At the last order, Hostilo, still holding hands with the Browers, said he could not cross his ankles while kneeling, and then, "This is not part of the deal. I want to talk to the media."
    Robbie Brower tried a couple times to pull away from Hostilo, who yelled " Stay with me, Robbie!" However, Brower succeeded in pulling away, then grabbed Hostilo by the neck and yelled profanities, including a threat to "break his .... neck."
    Jurors also saw a video recording of the final surrender, which was around 9:30 a.m. later that day, and was successful. This video showed the three walking out of Hostilo's office, hands raised in the air, but not holding hands. They stood in the street and waited for crisis negotiator Lt. Andrew Carrier to approach them. As he described in testimony he gave Tuesday, Carrier shook hands with Robbie Brower before placing him in handcuffs.
    Hostilo kept his hands raised, waving them at times while the Browers were  taken into custody, then moved out of range of the camera.
    The videos were shown during Robbie Brower's testimony. After the video clips were shown, he explained parts of the surrender process.
    "Me and Michael Hostilo did not agree on" portions of the surrender deal. But he had no idea Hostilo would balk like he did and demand to speak to the media, he said.

"Nobody would listen to me."
    During the hostage standoff, Brower made it plain his actions were "about justice." During his testimony Wednesday, he reiterated reasons why he swept into Hostilo's office, frightening and briefly detaining three secretaries and holding the attorney for over 24 hours.
    It was not a plan for revenge, and "not intended to hurt anyone," he said. But after 10 years of failed attempts to have a 1995 conviction overturned (he was found guilty of beating a man in the head with a hammer), he had enough, he said.
    An appeal to have the conviction overturned was denied, and he felt Hostilo had not treated him fairly. Letters written to everyone from local law enforcement to the president were not successful in getting the attention he wanted,  and "It seemed like nobody seemed to care - a blind eye, a dead ear."
    Brower also claimed Hostilo's failure to get him acquitted ended in his losing custodial rights to his daughter, now 14. "To lose your little girl because of somebody's incompetence .." he trailed off. In later testimony, he said "I've been obsessed with ... losing my little girl."
    He felt he had no recourse, he told jurors.     "I felt I was at the end of my rope and thought I'd never see my little girl again."
    He said he didn't mean to frighten Hostilo's secretaries and even consoled them before releasing them, but told them to tell law enforcement he was serious in his mission and that he had explosives.
    He subdued Hostilo with duct tape "because he was in better shape than I am and I had something to discuss with him," he said. "He didn't think he had done anything wrong."
    When his court-appointed attorney Robert Persse asked him why he expressed earlier that he did not consider Hostilo a hostage, Brower did not answer, but instead said "At one point i time I felt war was declared on me (over the 1995 hammer attack conviction) and I felt (Hostilo) did a poor job."
    When Persse asked him why he accepted Hostilo's recommendation to take an Alford plea (not admitting guilt but recognizing evidence could convict him), Brower said "I'm gullible. I'm naive."
    He said he did not eat during the ordeal although he ordered food. He feared the food was drugged with "something that would make me sleep."
    Brower also told Persse he told Hostilo he was free to leave. "On several occasions I told him and Connie they could leave," but they did not because they feared he would commit suicide, he said.
    After viewing the surrender videos, Brower told the jury he grabbed Hostilo by the neck because law enforcement officers were everywhere, they had guns and were approaching aggressively. "I was scared ... part of the negotiations were that this would not happen."
    Hostilo's demand to talk to the media also frightened him into action, he said.
Bombs and knives
    When Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Keith  McIntyre questioned Brower, he asked about the homemade fake bombs.
    "I made it," Brower said.  "Connie didn't have nothing to do with it." He also admitted having two knives, which he later testified he  kept "to cut apples and oranges with."
    McIntyre asked him about his parental rights being terminated, showing evidence that Brower signed over his parental rights in 1999.  Brower later explained he had broken probation and signed the rights over hoping to fight the decision after he got out of incarceration for the probation violation.
    Steven Yekel, appointed attorney for Connie Brower, questioned Robbie Brower about the "IEDs" Brower referred to in a demand note. "What does IED mean to you?" he asked.
    "Improvised explanation of deception," Brower replied. He said he heard the term IED on CNN and knew most people recognized the term as meaning "improvised explosive device."
    He said he and Connie Brower wore camouflage clothing in order to be intimidating . "It just seemed like that would get  more attention than walking in there in a suit and a tie."
    Yekel asked him what his intention was when he entered Hostilo's office with several fake explosives, two knives, and a duffel bag filled with clothing, food, and other materials.
    "My intent was to hold court that day, as silly as it may sound," he said. "I wanted somebody to hear me. I wanted to let (the citizens of Savannah) decide whether )Hostilo) had wronged me. It didn't unfold the way I wanted it to."
    Brower told Yekel he didn't realize the scenario would end as it did. "Not to this magnitude. I wasn't real clear, very overwhelmed, unable to think. That's why Connie was there. She knew I was at my rope's end."
    When Yekel asked him why he chose that day, he did not answer the question, but once again told jurors how he missed his daughter.
    "I'm tired of missing my little girl," he said. "You hear (news stories about missing children) and it's my job to take care of my little girl ... and she's calling somebody else daddy."
Brower on medicines
    Brower showed up in court Monday with an injured left foot, which he testified he had trouble with previously from a bone disease and surgeries.  Bulloch County Jail employees said he was reported to have fallen Friday.
    McIntyre asked the court to make clear that Brower was not impaired by pain medications he was taking for the injury, as Brower claimed previously he had been impaired by medication when taking the Alford plea in the 1995 hammer attack case.
    Brower said he was taking ibuprofen and hydrocodone for pain but was not impaired. Persse told Peed "There is no indication he has any misunderstanding of what is going on."
    Several other witnesses took the stand Wednesday, including Lt. Mike Wilkins with the Savannah-Chatham County S.W.A.T team, who described the thwarted surrender attempt. When Yekel questioned him about two shots fired during the attempt, he explained that one officer fired a round at Hostilo, but missed, and a second shot was a bean bag that he believed may have struck Connie Brower.
    Raj Patel, owner of the Budget Inn, testified the Browers stayed at his hotel. GBI Special Agent John Berry told jurors he found a Roman candle type firework in the hotel room, as well as copper wire, hobby fuses and a receipt from Radio Shack for a nine volt battery.
    E. C. Painter, special agent with the Savannah division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, described how a robot was used to find and detonate the suspected explosives, which police did not know were not true explosives at the time.
    (Editor's note: Connie Brower gave a partial testimony Wednesday and will continue her testimony today. Information about her testimony will appear in Friday's Herald.)
    Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at 489-9414.
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