“The fact that you caused your child’s death is as tragic as can be,” Judge Lynn Leibovitz told Tisheena Brown before her sentencing. “A child was vulnerable and didn’t deserve to die.”
Brown, 33, pleaded guilty to one count of voluntary manslaughter in May for the overdose death of her seven-week-old son Hakeem Brown in September 2013. She also pleaded guilty to insurance fraud. On Friday, Judge Leibovitz sentenced Brown to four years in prison.
The infant was found unconscious and not breathing early in the morning of September 1. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
“Brown made some choices, some very bad choices,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Wright argued Friday. “She was addicted to drugs and committed health care fraud.” Wright added that Brown’s son was dependent on drugs and when the the child was “fussy,” Brown intentionally gave him drugs to “calm him down,” and he died.
Brown’s defense attorney Matthew Davies argued that Brown is her own toughest critic and that she has great potential.
“No one could be more harder on Mrs. Brown than herself,” Davies said. “Brown showed promise in life.”
Brown, between sobs, addressed the court: “I’m sorry for my actions,” she said. “I miss my son and I just want him back.”
A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office is below:
District Woman Sentenced to Four Years in Prison
For Death of Her Infant Son
Defendant Admitted Drug Use, Also Pled Guilty to Insurance Fraud
WASHINGTON – Tisheena Louise Brown, 32, of Washington, D.C., was sentenced today to four years in prison on a charge of voluntary manslaughter in the death last year of her seven-week-old son, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.
In a related matter, Brown was sentenced to three months in prison on a charge of second-degree insurance fraud. That sentence will run concurrently with the manslaughter term.
Brown pled guilty to both charges in May 2014 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. She was sentenced by the Honorable Lynn Leibovitz. Upon completion of her prison term, Brown will be placed on five years of supervised release. Judge Leibovitz ordered that Brown receive mental health treatment and drug treatment while she is incarcerated and then while she is on supervised release.
According to a proffer of facts presented at the plea hearing, Brown has a history of prescription drug abuse, which began in 2007 or 2008. Her reported prescription drugs of choice were Percocet (Oxycodone) and Dilaudid (Hydromorphone), both of which are Schedule II controlled prescription drugs. She also used Promethazine (a non-controlled prescription drug).
Brown admitted frequenting local hospitals in an effort to unlawfully obtain drug prescriptions (including Oxycodone, Dilaudid, and Promethazine) while using fraudulent identifiers. She would also go to multiple hospitals, using her own name and obtaining prescriptions, which would then be filled and paid by Medicaid. While using her own name, Brown secured prescriptions for drugs without advising the doctor that she had obtained the same prescription on the same date for the same medicine from another doctor and hospital. When purchasing her drugs, she used Medicaid to pay for the drugs.
In a four-month period from September 2013 through December of 2013, Brown had over 1,700 pills prescribed to her from a variety of doctors.
On Sept. 17, 2013, Brown was at her home in the 2900 block of Akron Place SE. She reported that, around 10:30 p.m., her seven-week old son, Hakeem, was fussy and so she provided him Promethazine, a drug which had been prescribed for her. She provided the infant with this drug even though the label warned that it was not to be administered to children under the age of two. Sometime after 2 a.m., on Sept. 18, 2013, Brown looked over at her son and noticed that he was “blue and wasn’t breathing.” She then called 911. The District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department arrived at her home, where they found the infant unconscious and not breathing. Hakeem was taken by ambulance to a hospital, and pronounced dead at about 3:20 a.m. Brown initially told police the only thing she gave her son was an “over the counter” gas relief medication, which was not true.
On Sept. 19, 2013, the District of Columbia’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy. The cause of death was ruled a homicide and the manner of death was a lethal dose of Promethazine. In October 2013, the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s Forensic Toxicology Unit determined that the autopsy drug screen was positive for Promethazine. Promethazine, commonly referred to by the brand name Phenergan, is a non-controlled prescription medication which is prescribed for allergy, motion sickness, nausea, vomiting, nighttime sedation, pain relief following surgery, and to help certain narcotic pain relievers work better. It is prescribed with the warning that it should not be used in children younger than two years old because it may cause serious (possibly fatal) slow/shallow breathing.
Brown has been in custody since her arrest in January 2014.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen commended the work of the detectives, officers, and others who investigated the case from the Metropolitan Police Department, as well as an agent from the FBI who assisted with investigation of the insurance fraud. He also expressed appreciation to the District of Columbia Office of the Medical Examiner and the District of Columbia Department of Forensic Sciences for assistance in the investigation. Finally, he acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialists Kelly Blakeney and Mia Beamon, Victim/Witness Advocate Marcia Rinker, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia G. Wright, who prosecuted the case.