Prior domestic violence by Fresno fire chief?

FRESNO, Calif.

Chief Rob Brown faces felony domestic violence charges for an incident at the family home in June and Action News has discovered it's not the first domestic violence problem the family has had.

Prosecutors asked for a protective order Tuesday to keep the chief away from his family. The judge decided to let them continue to live together, but only after he had some tough talk and tough questions for Brown and his wife.

Rob Brown's wife and four sons have rallied around the fire chief since his June arrest. They've all had his back in public and been by his side in court.

"The family is here because they are supporting him," defense attorney Marshall Hodgkins said in court Tuesday morning.

But the family's cohesiveness has apparently faced serious challenges even before the Browns moved from Virginia to Fresno in 2012.

"In the sheriff's report, Mrs. Brown indicated there were four prior incidents of domestic violence in the state which they came from," said prosecutor Lisa Sondergaard. "I believe those were all unreported."

Judge David Gottlieb didn't ask Beth Brown for specifics on any prior incidents, but he pressed her about the root of the problems.

"Has alcohol played a role in other instances that were reported or unreported?" he asked.

Beth Brown paused before answering, "Not as… it was an aside to it, it was not a causative factor."

Chief Brown has attended Alcoholics Anonymous and anger management counseling ever since the day he bailed out of jail.

Brown says he only had three drinks that night and he wasn't drunk during the dispute, but he and his family poured out all the alcohol in their home.

His attorney insists the whole situation boiled down to a conflict between a teenager and his dad.

"Very frankly, it had to do with one of the sons and the fact that there has been a disagreement with father moving here to Fresno," Hodgkins said.

Prosecutors, though, point to the 911 call on which Beth Brown said her sons stepped in to protect her from their father. They also say kids don't intervene with pepper spray if it's the first time they're witnessing domestic violence.

Prosecutors offered to settle the case for a felony conviction with no prison time for the chief, and a reduction to a misdemeanor after he completes a batterer's program.

But Brown's attorney has told me he believes a felony conviction would end the chief's career at the fire department.

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