HOUSTON — A neuroradiologist who testified as an expert witness for Bob Brockman’s defense team said brain scans suggest that the former Reynolds and Reynolds Co. CEO likely has an “aggressive, progressive” degenerative illness that points to both Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Christopher Whitlow, a neuroradiologist and professor at Wake Forest School of Medicine, testified Tuesday on the seventh day of testimony in a competency hearing to determine whether Brockman, 80, can stand trial on charges of tax evasion and wire fraud.
Whitlow testified that he reviewed several types of images of Brockman’s brain, including MRI and PET scans, as part of his work on the case. Taken together, the images indicate a pattern that Whitlow testified he would expect to see in an Alzheimer’s patient, and also raise concerns about dementia.
And while brain scans can’t determine a person’s cognitive abilities, he testified, images that indicate a patient has lost some brain volume, as Brockman has, would raise concern about his cognitive functioning.
“When you lose brain, you’re losing function,” Whitlow testified.
U.S. District Judge George Hanks Jr. has heard testimony since Nov. 15 on whether Brockman can assist in his defense against 39 federal counts, including tax evasion, wire fraud, money laundering and evidence tampering. Brockman has pleaded not guilty. His lawyers maintain that he has progressive and incurable dementia that affects his ability to process and recall information, including that which his attorneys share with him.
Prosecutors contend that he is faking symptoms to avoid prosecution and that he has both the motivation and the capacity to do so. They say Brockman continued to lead Dayton, Ohio-based Reynolds and Reynolds until after he was indicted in October 2020 and was able to recall past events and speak about complex topics in two separate civil depositions in 2019.
On cross-examination, prosecutors questioned Whitlow’s process in drafting his report, including the use of a peer-review editing process and whether the language he used in his report was his, and said they intended to probe whether Whitlow had potential bias.
Prosecutors asked Whitlow if his opinion would change if he learned that Brockman was faking his impairment on cognitive testing and when visiting with doctors.
Whitlow testified that it could, but only to “here is a patient with dementia who is malingering.”
“If we’re talking about my opinion of the objective imaging data itself, I would still be concerned about that patient, that they would fall into a category of dementia that’s more than early or mild,” he testified.
Defense’s medical expert testifies
A medical expert witness for Brockman's defense testified Monday that he believes Brockman has dementia that "negatively affects his ability to assist his lawyers in his own defense."
Dr. Thomas Guilmette, a psychologist and professor at Providence College in Rhode Island, testified on the sixth day of testimony in Brockman's competency.
"Due to the nature of his cognitive impairments, I believe he would have significant difficulty being able to recall past events accurately, review documents and provide context to his attorneys," Guilmette testified in a Houston courtroom during questioning from Brockman lawyer James Loonam. "I think he would have difficulty understanding the complexities of the case, the strategies of the case."
Guilmette's findings contrast with those last week from medical experts retained by the government, two of whom said that they concluded Brockman was competent to stand trial. All three of the government's medical experts testified that they believed Brockman exaggerated the extent of his symptoms.
Guilmette testified Monday that he evaluated Brockman in July and October this year and believed he is impaired in such areas as attention, mental processing speed, memory, problem-solving and judgment. Brockman's symptoms are "most consistent with Parkinson's disease dementia," he testified, adding that "it certainly is quite possible" that he also has Alzheimer's disease.