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Bridgeport — Bruce Browne, who posed as a Coast Guard officer, commandeered a pleasure boat and pulled over boaters off Point O’ Woods beach in Old Lyme last summer, has had an ongoing “double life,” according to a U.S. District judge who sentenced him Monday to a year and a day at a federal prison camp.
Browne, 47, of Wolcott, who also is known as Bruce Brown, Spencer Brown and several other aliases, had pleaded guilty in February to impersonating a federal officer and falsifying a military discharge certificate. He is required to turn himself in on July 9 to begin serving his sentence.
Browne is the half brother of Scott Brown, the former U.S. senator from Massachusetts.
When arrested following the Old Lyme incident in August 2013, Browne told police he was trying to impress a woman he referred to as his fiancee, even though he was, and remains, a married man. He had come to the shoreline town wearing tactical gear, carrying fake badges and a handgun and driving a Ford Crown Victoria outfitted to look like a police car.
The authorities would later learn that in March 2013, Browne, who had volunteered to help his fiancee’s best friend dissuade her teenage sons from using marijuana, impersonated a federal agent and went to the family home, wielding a gun and putting one boy in handcuffs during a so-called “scared straight” intervention.
Even Browne’s attorney, Richard S. Cramer, described Browne’s behavior as “bizarre,” but said at Monday’s sentencing that Browne, a devoted Little League coach and umpire, is a “very good person” with mental health issues.
“He seems to have a longstanding desire to be in a position of authority,” Cramer said.
Browne had a difficult upbringing that may have included sexual abuse, according to Cramer, who said Browne lived in the shadow of his successful older brother, the politician Scott Brown.
“He was always deemed far inferior to his older brother, Scott, the former U.S. senator from Massachusetts and the soon-to-be U.S. senator from New Hampshire,” Cramer wrote in a sentencing memorandum to the judge. “Even his children would watch TV and see their uncle and implicitly, at least in Bruce’s mind, compare Bruce to him.”
Cramer requested a short term of home confinement rather than a prison term, noting Browne has undergone counseling for years but has only recently been diagnosed as bipolar disorder and started taking the appropriate medication.
Browne stood up to apologize, saying everything he did was wrong and that he is has taken the last nine months to figure out “who I am.”
“Over time, I think I could show you that I don’t have to live up to a Scott Brown,” he said. “I’m just Bruce Browne.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ray Miller said there were real victims of Browne’s crimes and that Browne has a long history of deceptive and dangerous conduct.
“For him to go and board a vessel and commandeer it, on one hand I do agree is bizarre, but it’s scary on the other hand,” Miller said in court.
He said that during a road rage incident in 1990 in New Hampshire, Browne, who was in training to become a Bristol, N.H., police officer and was in uniform, drew a revolver, cocked it and pointed it within two inches of a man. After being fired from the Bennington, N.H., police department in 1996 because he has applied under false pretenses, the chief of police said Browne called him and made threats, Miller said.
Browne had also pleaded guilty to altering his 2002 discharge form from the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve when he applied for a Connecticut pistol permit in February 2013. He had been discharged “under other than honorable conditions,” but obliterated the words “under other than” when submitting the discharge form to state authorities.
Miller noted that when Browne was arrested in Old Lyme, he had in the trunk of his Crown Victoria handguns, handcuffs and 200 rounds of ammunition.
“Enough is enough,” Miller said at the sentencing.
Judge Stefan R. Underhill said Browne had invested a lot of time and money in his double life, which he said undercut the mental health justification.
“You were deeply into this alternative life, if you will, this alternative identity,” Underhill said. “That’s very concerning to me.”
The judge said he was particularly concerned about the so-called “Scared Straight” incident, which he deemed “quasi-violent” and noted the number of law enforcement badges, weapons and ammunition Browne had.
“You’re going to have to be punished for what you did and also for what you were seemingly prepared to do,” Underhill said.
He recommended that Browne be sent to a prison camp that has mental health treatment available. He imposed one year of supervised release following the prison stint and warned Browne that he is never to possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon.