Just a warning before we begin. This episode covers the aftermath and trauma associated with a violent sexual assault. Please listen with care.
Previously on The James Brown Mystery: Jacque Hollander's music career blossoms in Georgia, and her success paves the way for a close relationship with Adrienne Brown and her husband, the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown.
All of a sudden he screams, Who wrote this song? And I screamed at him. I did! And what's wrong with it? And he looked at me and said, Nothing's wrong with it, it's great. Don't ever let them change a word of it. Let's get busy.
But it eventually leads to a fateful night in the woods in 1988 that nearly destroys her life.
I remember looking out at the cement and I was thinking about jumping, but he was going too fast and I knew if I jumped out that I would be dead. And I remember thinking, God, I wish the police were here. Where are the police when you need them?
It's 11:03 on a Wednesday night. I'm in bed with the lights off when I hear a buzzing sound from my nightstand. I reach through the dark and grab my phone. The screen says No caller I.D., so I don't answer. There's no voice mail. A minute later, it buzzes again. No caller ID, no voicemail. A few seconds later, the unknown caller buzzes a third time. This mystery caller keeps buzzing five times between 11:03 and 11:26. I'm starting to think this must have something to do with my investigation. On the third ring, the caller leaves a voicemail.
Hi, Tom. This is Van Saint john, a friend of Buddy Dallas. Uh, I think I have some information for you.
When I hear the voicemail, I feel this little rush of excitement because I know who this is. Jacque has told me about him. Right now he's calling himself Van Saint John, but he has a habit of using fake names. Jacque has been talking with him for ten years, but has never actually seen his face. She calls him Ghost, and if Ghost is bothering to call me five times after 11 p.m., it must mean I'm getting somewhere in my investigation of James Brown's death. The next day I call him back. I don't record our conversation, but Ghost tells me some things I know to be untrue. It seems he's trying to confuse me. He calls Jacque a liar and says she's been discredited. Jacque says Ghost first called her a decade ago, pretending to be a journalist interested in telling her story. But she learned he was something else a fixer, someone who operates in the world of James Brown and tries to prevent the truth from coming out. Jacque says Ghost is part of a group of shadowy operatives surrounding James Brown. Brown's third wife, Adrienne, had a name for this organization.
She told me that this was a huge machine and that nothing will ever break it down.
I've spent years learning all I can about this so-called machine, this powerful apparatus that surrounded James Brown. The Godfather of Soul hurt a lot of people, most of them women. And someone had to handle the wreckage he left behind. Many have said Brown's associates paid out hush money to some people and conducted surveillance on others. Jacque says Adrienne Brown told her the machine had government connections and took part in a wide range of criminal activity. We'll explore Adrienne's allegations later in this episode. But if this machine once protected the Godfather of Soul, if he had some control over how it was used, he eventually lost his grip. The machine turned on James Brown and kept humming along after his death. By the time I met Jacque, James Brown had been dead for ten years.
This is the empire he ran. when he was alive. He's dead. He's gone. They won't let it go. They run it the same way: the Mob, control, fear, intimidation, lies. What's the difference? He's still alive as far as I'm concerned.
From CNN, this is The James Brown Mystery. I'm your host, Thomas Lake. This is Episode Three: The Machine.
And at one point I just thought it was better he shoot me because I would be scarred for the rest of my life like I am.
Jacque is talking about the night everything changed when James Brown drove her into the woods of South Carolina in 1988. She says he forced her into the back of his van and raped her at gunpoint.
I have had therapy every week for 32 years. It still can't take it out of my brain. It never goes away.
After the assault, Brown drove her back to his office. Jacque got out and limped to her own vehicle. She was supposed to be at her in-laws' house for dinner with her husband, Dean. She arrived several hours late.
When I got to my sister's-in-law, I just pulled in and stood out in the yard and I was screaming hysterically.
Jacque was badly injured from the rape, so the next day she went to the hospital.
I remember going into the room and I was crying and you could look at me and the lady said we are calling the police.
Jacque was terrified. She says James Brown told her in the van that if she reported the rape to the authorities, she and her family would be killed. Brown didn't say who would do this, but Jacque believed him. This threat scared Jacque into silence.
And when they tried to bring all the police in, I ran out of the hospital because I was horrified.
Jacque says she went to a different doctor who treated her injuries and agreed not to involve the authorities. Over time, Jacque's physical wounds began to heal. But the assault in the woods had many repercussions. Her marriage with Dean began to fall apart. She got fewer invitations to parties and events, fewer songwriting and recording gigs. Jacque suspected that James Brown was using his influence to damage her music career. And she wasn't the first woman in the industry who believed Brown had sabotaged her. Long before Jacque met James Brown, there was another woman, Marva Whitney. She joined James Brown's band in 1967 and appeared with Brown on the Mike Douglas Show in 1969.
But this next young lady is a discovery, a protege of Mr. James Brown, and has a hit record now on the charts, doesn't she?
Yes, entirely. "It's My Thing.".
Well, here is Marva Whitney, the young lady we're talking about.
Marva Whitney, singing
It's my thing...
Whitney and Brown performed together for years. But later on, she wrote in her memoir that Brown was a tyrant, that he punched her, kicked her, and held a gun to her head when she tried to leave his band. That he had a team of henchmen and spies who conducted surveillance and enforced his commands. One day, Brown told Whitney, I have the power to make or break you. After Whitney left James Brown, she released a song on her own, "This Is My Quest." This song was not a hit. Whitney thought Brown had sabotaged her and suspected he'd done the same thing to others. She wrote, he could ruin an artist's career with just one word. With all the violence, coercion and surveillance, Whitney said her time with James Brown was like being in prison. Jacque knew nothing about Marva Whitney, but what she experienced two decades later sounded remarkably similar to Whitney's story. Jacque felt as if Brown and his associates had her trapped. Days after the rape, James Brown found out where Jacque was and appeared at the jewelry store where she was working on an ad jingle. Jacque was on edge.
He showed up in Atlanta and he had a gun with him, a pistol. And he ordered me into the car and we drove to CNN.
Marva Whitney, singing
Brown was on his way to CNN Center to do a live interview. It would become his most infamous TV appearance. A couple of days before this interview, his wife, Adrien, told authorities that he threw her clothes into the yard and fired a rifle at her while high on drugs. Following this incident, Adrienne called the cops yet again to say Brown had beaten her with a metal pipe. At CNN, James Brown was interviewed by the host, Dr. Sonya Friedman, about the incident.
Dr. Sonya Friedman
...Brown denies. He was released yesterday on $15,000 bond. He joins us from Atlanta to discuss the charges. And we welcome you, James Brown. How did all of this trouble begin?
Living in America. There's nothing wrong.
Watching the clip of this interview now, there's something about Brown that just seems off. He's 54 years old, wearing a nice gray suit and a stylish blue dress shirt. But he's also wearing these huge yellow glasses and he's grinning throughout the interview, even though he's facing serious accusations of domestic violence.
Dr. Sonya Friedman
And what are you going to say to your fans when they ask you some questions about it?
I'm going to say I feel good. Papa's got a brand new bag. It's a man's world.
It was clear he was high as a kite still on PCP.
Dr. Sonya Friedman
James, I have to ask you one serious question here. I understand you already have started divorce proceedings. Does that mean that you're now eligible?
Oh, no. Yes, I'm eligible. I'm single, I want to mingle.
Dr. Sonya Friedman
You want to mingle? Yeah. Now the women love you when you get out there. Why do you think that is?
Because I think good. I look good. I feel good.
Dr. Sonya Friedman
And you sing good.
Dr. Sonya Friedman
That was hard to hear because I was sick to my stomach. That was very hard to hear.
After Brown finished the interview, he shook some hands and walked out of the building.
And I followed them out and he got in the car and he was driving insane and he just dropped me back off where he had picked me up. And that was it. Didn't say two words to me.
I'm not sure how to explain this strange outing or why Brown felt compelled to have Jacque with him at that interview just days after the assault. Jacque doesn't know either. In the days that followed, she tried to get on with her life, but she wasn't the same.
I don't believe that the person that went into the woods came out of the woods. I tried to act like everything was okay, but I was different. There's some pictures that I have and you can look at my eyes and my face before the rape, and then you can look at me after the rape and there's nothing there anymore.
After that strange interview on CNN, Jacque and James Brown kept up a long and horrible charade. They never talked about that day in the woods. Brown pretended nothing had happened. Jacque pretended nothing had happened. They kept working together. I have to admit, I had some trouble with this at first. I thought, why wouldn't you just stay away from him? But Jacque says she felt safer just pretending it was all okay. She was afraid of Brown and his associates. Jacque blended in, did as she was told, kept working with Brown on charity events. Later that year, she took on a new project, the end goal to keep James Brown out of prison.
He was facing some pretty serious time.
Adrienne had declined to press charges for the night she said she was beaten with the pipe. But in May 1988, James Brown was arrested again after a police chase and was charged with possession of PCP, unlawful possession of a gun and resisting arrest. After he was released on bail,
Mr. Brown got the judge on the phone with me on there. Mr. Brown said, Well, Ms. Daughtry here is, she going to host a concert. And I'm sitting there going, What the hell is this man talking about?
James Brown was offering to put on a concert to raise money for the police in order to avoid prison time. It sounds crazy, but the judge accepted this plan. Brown's two year prison sentence would be suspended if he did this concert that would benefit children and law enforcement. And even though Jacque thought Brown deserved to be in prison for what he'd done to her, Jacque agreed to make the arrangements for the concert. Why? She was too scared not to.
But as long as you walk the way they want you to walk and talk the way they want you to talk, they're not going to get rid of you. I became a robot. A professional robot. Stockholm syndrome at its highest level.
How did you get out of bed every morning?
I don't know how I did it. I was dealing with the promotions. I was dealing with radio companies. I was dealing with newspapers. I was dealing with all the musicians. It was all on top of me.
For the benefit concert. Jacque called in favors from the music industry and the world of sports. James Brown would perform. So would quite a few of Jacque's friends from the scene in Atlanta. Pro wrestlers, a wild bunch of rock and rollers. They called it Wrestle Rock '88.
Attention all rock and roll fans everywhere. Today a mere $10 buys you more rock and roll excitement than you ever dreamed possible when Jacque Daughtry and the NFL alumni present Wrestle Rock '88!
But even with these giants of Southern Rock on the bill, including some members of Leonard Skynyrd and the Atlanta rhythm section, the radio ads did little to drive ticket sales. By this point in James Brown's career, word was getting around about the drugs, the violence and the erratic behavior, especially in his hometown of Augusta, Georgia, where the show was happening. And even though it was supposed to benefit the police union, the police organized a boycott.
They felt like James Brown was getting a slap on the wrist. And I'm here today to tell you it was.
And that was a problem for Jacque. The Augusta Civic Center held 7500 people. But the Associated Press reported a few days before the show that only 41 tickets had been sold. Proceeds from the show would go to cancer research and victims of child abuse. But Jacque could see it wouldn't raise much money. So Jacque thought of another way to help sick children. The night before Wrestle Rock '88, she asked the entertainers to visit kids at a local hospital. And this led to something wonderful, a glimmer of light in Jacque's life.
That is the night that I met Katina Bryant.
Katina Bryant was a patient at the hospital. She was 15 and terminally ill with cancer. Here's why I'm telling you about her. In the 34 years since the rape, Jacque's life has been strange and terrifying. Exhausting and depressing. What keeps her going? These brief escapes from the fear and the sadness. Katina Bryant gave her one of those moments. Here's Katina on a TV news report describing how she met Jacque.
She came into my room and she was asking me about coming to the concert they was having the next day. And I couldn't come because I was really sick.
And I said, Katina, if you could do anything in your whole world, what would you like to do?
That's a younger Jacque on the same TV news report.
She said, I'd like to be a singer. And that little kid sat up in that bed with all these wires attached to her and fixed her little wig. And all of a sudden, this light came into her eyes, and that kid started singing like Whitney Houston.
Jacque invited Katina and the other six children to the show for free. They made up almost half the audience in this mostly empty arena where the few assembled saw one of the more unusual spectacles in benefit concert history: pro-wrestling, a rock and roll supergroup, the Godfather of Soul, and a surprising performer who was not on the program: Katina Bryant.
And they brought her out on the stage. I looked at her and I kissed her and I thanked her and I held her and I put her on the stool and I said, Would you sing to me a very special song?
Jacque was 33 years old. Her marriage was disintegrating. Her career was going nowhere. She was wounded, disoriented, afraid. She needed something to lift her spirit.
She looked at me and she said, What is that special song Jacque? I said, Would you sing to me Amazing Grace? And she said, Yes. She sang Amazing Grace. And I swear to you, God was all around that building.
For Jacque, this was the high point of Wrestle Rock '88. She had done her part. But later that month, Brown still went to prison for his role in a high speed police chase. With the Godfather of Soul behind bars, Jacque hoped her life would return to normal. It didn't. Jacque was about to learn something that would define her life for the next three decades. The James Brown machine keeps on churning even when James Brown is gone. Here's how Jacque found out about the machine. This large and dangerous organization that she says she's still contending with today, so many years after James Brown's death, it all began with an awkward phone call in 1988 after the incident with Brown in the van in the woods. The call was from Jacque's friend, Adrienne Brown.
She called me and said she wanted to talk to me because she found my my hair in the van and she was crying and she want me to come meet her.
So Jacque met up with Adrienne at a steakhouse in Augusta. Adrienne ushered Jacque into a back room. She said she'd found blond hair in her husband's van and suspected it was Jacque's. A discovery like this could end a friendship. But Adrienne didn't blame Jacque.
And she said, I know he hurt you, and I know he hurt you bad. And I was crying. And she said, you didn't cause this. You didn't do this. It's him. And I told her everything that happened, everything. I went into detail with her. That's when we decided that we were going to protect each other.
As Jacque and Adrienne confided in each other. They couldn't help noticing two men who seemed to be watching them.
And they sat like right behind her. They had a, you know, a lightweight jacket on, like a windbreaker and like khaki pants and, you know, a nice Izod shirt, that kind of look. She wrote on a note, sent the note over to me and said, This is law enforcement behind me. They're listening to us.
Jacque wasn't sure how Adrienne knew that, but she went along with it. The women lowered their voices. Adrienne told Jacque what they were up against. She called it a machine. People in James Brown's circle involved in widespread criminal activity, illegal drugs, constant surveillance, and not just from the two men in the next booth.
She started informing me that the house was wired and that their cars were wired and that possibly that van was wired. Everything was wired.
Was she saying that James Brown was at the center of a large criminal organization?
Yes, she did 100%. She told me that there was a lot of drugs and that it was very dangerous and it was actually frightening and that he had government ties and that the government was watching.
And now Adrienne told Jacque both of them were targets of this machine, Jacque, because she could damage Brown if she reported the assault. And Adrienne, because of the domestic abuse and the secrets she knew about her husband's organization. If Jacque and Adrienne stood together and confirmed each other's stories about the crimes of James Brown and his associates, these two women could bring down the machine, which meant they were in serious danger.
She said, One of us is going to die or both of us.
And what did you think about that, how did that hit you?
I believed her. I believed her.
Jacque and Adrienne left the steakhouse, driving away in separate cars. And Jacque says they were followed by a white car. In that car were the men who'd been eavesdropping from the next booth in the restaurant, the men wearing khakis and Izod shirts who Adrienne thought were with law enforcement.
There was a white car coming behind us, and they were, like, trying to run us off the road and run her off the road.
Jacque has told me this story many times. The first time she told me in 2017, I didn't understand what it meant. I was skeptical of her claims about the U.S. government. Why would the government get involved with James Brown and criminal activity? I thought they were mostly just trying to collect his delinquent taxes. The story only started making sense years later, after I went down a long, deep rabbit hole, reading dozens of books on the U.S. intelligence community, sifting through congressional transcripts and declassified State Department cables, using the Freedom of Information Act to get records from the archives of seven American presidents and learning about the CIA's history of international covert operations, at least two of which involved famous black American musicians. I'll share the rest of Jacque's story about what happened after she and Adrienne left the steak house that night. But you need to know some other stuff first. Let's go back to 1968. This was the height of James Brown's fame and popularity.
Councilman Tom Atkins
Giving another round of applause for James Brown.
James Brown was in Boston for a concert on April 5th, 1968, the night after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. As violent protests unfolded and cities burned across the nation, city leaders in Boston considered canceling Brown's concert. But a black city councilman named Tom Atkins had an idea: broadcast the concert on local TV in the hope that people will stay home and watch the show instead of taking to the streets. To watch the footage now is to see a great performer at the top of his game. He's so light on his feet that he's almost walking on air. He seems charged with some invisible force, as if the music has come alive and inhabited his bones. Near the end of the show, Brown's improvizational talents are put to the test. Fans begin rushing the stage. Uniformed cops are shoving them back, sometimes roughly. It's getting tense. So Brown takes control. He waves off the officers.
I'm all right. I'm all right.
So there he is, unprotected in front of the rowdy crowd amid one of the greatest moments of American unrest since the Civil War. Then the house lights come up. Brown has a request.
Let me finish the show for everybody else, alright?
The admirers keep rushing the stage. Brown is gentle at first. Then he gets stern.
This is no way. We are Black. We are Black. Now I asked the politce to step back because I have to get some respect from my own people. Now are we together, or we ain't?
Brown calms the crowd and finishes the show. The city councilman's plan works. People stay home and watch the concert on TV instead of rioting in the streets. When you see Brown's command, his charisma, it's no wonder a national magazine put him on the cover in 1969. Along with this question, Is he the most important Black man in America? The night he kept order in Boston opened a new chapter in Brown's life, as he later wrote in an autobiography, "From that moment, I knew I was put under national security surveillance." As a powerful Black man, Brown was a threat to the status quo. He said this display of power in Boston drew the attention of the FBI and the CIA because if he could stop a riot, he could start one. And after he stopped that riot in Boston, he was sure the government was watching him.
Mr. Brown often said even in the early years, that once he did that and they felt that he was a highly influential Black man, he could cause problems.
This is Roosevelt Johnson. He started working as James Brown's assistant in the early seventies and stayed with him until Brown's death in 2006.
He thought that his phones were tapped in his office, in his home, and he just always felt that that happened, that he was being targeted and watched.
The more I looked into it, the more plausible I found James Brown's suspicion that he was being watched. In the late sixties, the FBI and the CIA were working together to sabotage anything to do with Black power. As one FBI document put it, they wanted to prevent the rise of a "messiah" who could unify and electrify the movement. In my research, I found there was indeed a lot of government interest in the Godfather of Soul. The State Department monitored his travels in Africa in the 1970s. The commissioner of the IRS admitted to Congress that Brown's name was on a list of people who were unfairly targeted for their political views. And many of the men who were close to Jammes Brown also had government connections. There was James F Palmer, a mysterious U.S. marshal who inexplicably traveled with Brown's entourage. There was also the Reverend Al Sharpton, a protege of James Brown, who cooperated with the FBI as it investigated the mob in the eighties. And one of Brown's lawyers, Reginald Simmons, had been an Army intelligence officer. Brown cultivated some of these government relationships. He exchanged letters with half a dozen U.S. presidents, sometimes making policy suggestions and frequently asking for help in his long running battle with the IRS over unpaid taxes. In 1978, he was so desperate to get President Jimmy Carter's attention on a tax matter that he visited the president of Zambia and asked him to intervene with Carter on his behalf. It didn't work. But here's another fascinating thing about these letters. Brown doesn't sound at all like a threat to the government. He sounds like a flag waving patriot who wants to serve his country. Here's Roosevelt Johnson again.
He thought he should have been an American hero. He really did. He wanted a flag draped casket.
James Brown didn't just meet presidents for photo ops. I found a document from the Richard Nixon Library showing that on August 12th, 1970, Brown was invited to a special briefing on foreign policy to be conducted by President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, Nixon's assistant on national security affairs. I don't know why he was invited, but Brown appeared to be the only entertainer on the invitation list. Two years later, James Brown endorsed Nixon for president. Listen to what Brown wrote to President Ronald Reagan in 1988, near the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. "I have served you diligently as my president and someone I believe and love. I went behind communist countries and sung Living in America proudly." What did Brown mean when he said he served the president? I don't know. But as I continued down this rabbit hole, I learned the U.S. government has a long history of using entertainers for its own ends.
One of America's most popular emissaries gets a warm reception as he arrives in the troubled Congo on a State Department sponsored goodwill mission. Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong, whose golden trumpet has preached the gospel of New Orleans Jazz on every continent, arrives in truly royal style.
It sounded nice. The great Black American musician visited Africa in 1960 to play some jazz and spread American goodwill. But something else was happening below the surface. U.S. officials were afraid the Congo might fall under Russian control if Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba stayed in power. So the CIA made a plan to have Lumumba killed. A chemist prepared an assassination kit featuring deadly poison hidden in a tube of toothpaste. That attempt failed. Later, Lumumba was, in fact, assassinated. The U.S. has never admitted involvement in Lumumba's murder, and the CIA declined to comment when I asked if they were involved. But we know our government was using Louis Armstrong to promote American culture in the Congo, even as U.S. government agents were plotting to murder the Congolese prime minister. Later, another iconic American musician crossed paths with the CIA.
Start spreading the news. I'm leaving today...
When Frank Sinatra wasn't cruising the Vegas Strip with the Rat Pack. He apparently had a government job. According to a memoir by his daughter Tina, she could call the White House switchboard any time and an operator would connect her to her father. Years later, Frank Sinatra told Tina he'd served as a courier for the CIA and the State Department. It helped that he had a private plane and a credible reason to travel the world. So Frank Sinatra worked with the CIA. I want to tell you about one more musician before we get back to James Brown. Bob Marley became a worldwide reggae star in the 1970s while Michael Manley was prime minister of Jamaica. Prime Minister Manley was a Democratic Socialist with close ties to Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro, who, of course, was close with the Soviets. This alliance created tension between Jamaica and the U.S. And from the sound of his lyrics, Bob Marley was no friend of the CIA.
Rasta don't work for no CIA. Rat race. Rat race.
On December 3rd, 1976, gunmen burst into Marley's home and opened fire. Marley was shot along with his wife and manager. Somehow, no one was killed. But Marley's manager later wrote that, according to Prime Minister Manley, this attempted assassination was linked to the CIA. In 2021, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the CIA to get all records related to Bob Marley. The CIA wrote back to say it could neither confirm nor deny having any such documents. I made the same request to the CIA for records on James Brown. After a long running dispute over my request, an official responded that even saying whether such records exist could cause serious harm to national security. All this left me with a lot of questions. Was James Brown working for the CIA, as Frank Sinatra apparently was? Was he being used unwittingly by the U.S. government in a nefarious plot, as Louis Armstrong was? Could he have been targeted by the CIA as Bob Marley allegedly was? The CIA declined to answer a list of questions I sent them while we were making this podcast, but I was able to get a phone interview with a retired admiral who knows a lot about the agency's operations.
Bobby R Inman. Retired admiral, U.S. Navy.
Admiral Bobby Ray Inman had several high ranking intelligence jobs in the seventies and eighties. Inman told me he wasn't aware of any connection between James Brown and the CIA, but that didn't necessarily mean there was no connection.
We're constantly going to be on the outlook for anyone who might be able to provide useful information.
And what about a guy who has access to foreign leaders all around the world? Can travel to Europe, Africa, behind the Iron Curtain. Does this look like somebody who might...
By, by the description alone, it's somebody of interest.
There were times when James Brown spoke fondly of the government. They want to make sure that I'm well protected, he told the documentary filmmaker Camille Solari shortly before he died. Brown told others the CIA was watching over him because he was a national treasure. But other times, in his memoir, in conversation with Jacque, Brown complained about the government spying on him. He told his agent he was a prisoner of the government. When I consider these differing accounts, I picture James Brown as a king. Bound to his throne with invisible strings, protected, but also trapped. When Adrienne Brown met up with Jacque at the steakhouse after finding strands of Jacque's hair in the back of her husband's van, Adrienne took it a step further. She said the U.S. government wasn't just watching or protecting the Godfather of Soul. She said it was involved in criminal activity with him. I haven't been able to confirm this, but if it was true and Jacque and Adrienne knew about it, it makes sense that they would have been in danger, especially if two government agents were sitting in the next booth eavesdropping on them as they talked about the James Brown machine. What happened next. Jacque says one of these men tried to kill them. After dinner that night in 1988, Jacque and Adrienne left the steak house. It was dark. The road was nearly empty, lined with businesses that were closed for the night. Adrienne led the way in her Lincoln and Jacque followed in her pink Cadillac. Now, the men who'd been spying on them were chasing them down the road.
There was a white car coming behind us, and they were like trying to run us off the road and run her off the road.
And then it got even scarier.
And all of a sudden, there's shots being fired.
Where where would the shots go?
Thomas I was driving. I'm not I'm looking and I'm trying to see I could see that there were shots. I could hear them.
And what are you thinking as you're hearing this gun go off?
I'm thinking we're going to die. That's what I was thinking. This is the moment that Adrienne told me about, that's coming true.
This is quite a wild tale. I know. But as I've said, I've investigated the circus singer again and again over the last five years, and her stories keep checking out. Jacque says someone in the white car was shooting at her and Adrienne. She heard the pop of two or three gunshots as the white car pulled even with Adrienne's Lincoln. But the shots missed and the white car drove off. Jacque and Adrienne pulled their cars into a gas station parking lot. Terrified, Jacque got out and found a payphone. She says she called James Brown's lawyer, Buddy Dallas.
He answered and I said, We're here, me and Adrienne. And somebody tried to shoot us and kill us.
Jacque thinks Buddy Dallas called the police. Or maybe she did. Or maybe both. When you're shot at, it's all a bit of a blur. Buddy Dallas declined to be interviewed for this podcast, and he didn't answer the questions I sent him about this incident with Jacque and Adrienne.
All of a sudden, Homicide shows up. They weren't in regular police cars either. These were unmarked homicide cars. And they swirled around us right there at the payphone.
Despite the high speed chase, Jacque had managed to make out the white car's license plate number. She says she wrote it down with lipstick or eyebrow pencil on a scrap of paper and gave it to the detective. Jacque told the detective she wanted whoever shot at them to be prosecuted for trying to kill her and Adrienne. But the detective seemed reluctant to dig any further.
And he goes, Do you realize what you're involved in? And I said, No. And he goes, These people will kill you. You're not playing with just small time people.
Jacque wasn't getting anywhere with the homicide detective, so she called another friend who worked in law enforcement and asked him to look up the white car's license plate number.
I gave them this car tag, and one of the officers says, you know, I could lose my job for this. But he called me back and he said we had a bingo.
So there was a match to a real car and a real person. Jacque called the homicide detective in Augusta again.
I called him on the phone. I said, I have a law enforcement officer that ran this tag and it matches the car and the description and everything. And I have the address.
Jacque told the homicide detective that if he didn't do anything to investigate the shooting, she would go to the press.
And he said, All right, come down here and I'll meet you and we'll go up to the house. And I got in his police car and I went with him.
And by the way, this is extremely unusual. Normally, detectives do not take the complainant with them to go do detective work.
Well, he did. And I remember the house was on the right side of the road at the end of a cul de sac, a small little ranch house. And I said, there's the car right there.
Being the car that that was driving where the shots appeared to have come from.
Yes. I said, there's the car right there.
It was like the pieces were coming together. The puzzle was starting to be solved.
Thomas, he knew who it was because he looked at me and he said, I want you to stay in the car. I'm going to the door to confront him.
So the detective left Jacque in his car and walked up to the house.
He knocked on the door and the guy came to the door and stepped outside.
I wanted to confirm Jacque's story, so I called the homicide detective myself. He's retired now. When I asked him about all this, he remembered meeting Jacque and Adrienne. But all the rest, the shooting, the license plate, the trail that led to the house on the cul de sac, e told me he didn't remember any of that, which is what someone might say if the story wasn't true. And also what someone would say if they were covering up the truth. Anyway, Jacque remembers that day clearly.
So I could see everything from the car.
Did you recognize this man who came out?
Yes. Everything was exactly as I explained it to him.
What was familiar about him? Where had you seen this man before?
At the steak house.
You could tell for sure that he was the man who was...
...eavesdropping on your conversation with Adrienne in the steak house?
The conversation with the owner of the white car lasted 15 or 20 minutes. Then the detective came back to the car where Jacque was waiting.
And he says, well, he admitted he was at the steak house, but he denies shooting at y'all. And he said, we need to stop this right now, because he said he's with the United States government. He's with the military.
Yeah. It's pretty stunning. And the first time I heard it before I did all that research, I found it pretty hard to believe. So let's do a quick recap. Jacque meets with Adrienne at the steak house following the assault. Adrienne says her husband, James Brown, is part of a secret criminal organization that involves the U.S. government. Adrienne also says they're under surveillance. And that night she points out two guys in khakis and Izod shirts eavesdropping at a nearby table. She tells Jacque they're up against a machine and that both of them are in danger because now they know things that pose a threat to the machine. She says one or both of them will be killed. Minutes later, one or both of them are almost killed, and the trail leads back to a shooter who's connected with the U.S. government.
Tell me again what the detective said about what would now happen to his investigation.
He just said that this was going to go nowhere. This involved the United States government and we needed to back off. I'm telling you, the best thing to do is forget about it. That's what he said.
After the homicide detective told Jacque to let it go, she did. But strange men kept showing up in her life. Men who seem to know a lot about James Brown. Men who said they were with the U.S. government. Jacque was in the room with one of them when she found out Adrienne Brown was dead.
On the next episode of The James Brown Mystery:
He killed her. I can't prove it. And I probably shouldn't say it, but I will take that to my grave. He either did it or he had someone do it.
Voice on Answering Machine
Jacque it's a real pleasure to have your voice on your home answering machine. It's Steve, just calling to say hello.
And he said, Yeah, Jacque, have you ever met the Angel of Death?
The James BrownMmystery is hosted and recorded by me, Thomas Lake. Our executive producer is Abby Fentress Swanson. Our senior producer is Felicia Patinkin, and our producers are Rachel Cohn, Anne Lagamayo, Lori Galarreta and Jennifer Lai. Our associate producers are Emmanuel Johnson, Nathan Miller and Sonia Htoon, and our production assistant is Eden Getachew. Our story editor is David Weinberg and our production manager is Tameeka Ballance-Kolasny. Liz Roberts and Kyra Posey lead audience strategy for our show and Jamus Andrest and Nichole Pesaru designed our artwork. Erica Huang is our mix engineer and sound designer. Celina Urabe is our assistant sound engineer and Dan Dzula is CNN Audio's senior manager of production operations. Theme and original music composed by David Steinberg and Nathan Miller. Special thanks to Mia Taylor, Courtney Coupe, Katie Hinman, Lindsay Abrams, Robert Mathers, Delila Paul, Andrea White, Anissa Gray, Johnita Due, Ram Ramgopal, Lisa Namerow and Jon Dianora.