"Absolutely unbelievable," he thought, having no idea at the time from where the charges came. He soon learned Faanes told police he attacked her three times in recent weeks -- and evidence photos clearly showed the bruises she claimed he left behind on her face, thigh, and neck. But there were problems with Faanes' story: Brooks had solid alibis for two of the attacks, and he claimed he had not even seen Faanes for more than two months.
He told Orange County investigators as much, but "they didn't care. They relied on her word 100 percent," he said. The sheriff's office attitude, he said: "You beat this girl, she has the marks, she has no witnesses, but you're guilty."
The sheriff's office says it had no choice but to arrest Brooks, since Faanes identified him and had the injuries to back it up.
But there was evidence Faanes was a troubled young woman.
Sheriff's office records show she attempted suicide in January 2004 over a break-up with another boyfriend. And, investigative records state, she admitted lying to Brooks about having aborted his baby in an attempt to gain his love -- in fact, she was never pregnant.
But Det. Brian Cross, the lead sheriff's detective, said those incidents did not destroy her credibility. At the time, based on the evidence at hand, he said the most likely apparent danger would be to not arrest Brooks and risk having Faanes later turn up dead. So Brooks, a 28-year-old golf instructor and aspiring real estate salesman, went to jail with no bond
"It was the most humiliating thing ever," he said. "First of all, I've never been in a jail, not even a tour of a jail." When he saw the words "MAX 1" stamped on his jail paperwork, "I think in my mind that means I'm only going to be in jail max one day."
Actually, it means he's housed among the worst of the worst prisoners in the Orange County jail.
"One guy had murdered his ex-girlfriend the night before and turned himself in and I'm thinking where in the world am I?" Brooks recalled. "A week goes by, three weeks go by, a month, two months and then I'm thinking, you got to be kidding me. Am I ever getting out of this jail?"
Then he heard of "the best attorney in town," Harrison "Butch" Slaughter, who led a team of lawyers and investigators to uncover the truth. Slaughter persuaded a judge to set bail, but by then Brooks had spent 93 days in jail and the first of what's now a $30,000 legal bill. He said if his family did not have access to a competent, highly paid law firm, he might still be in jail or prison, because the sheriff's office accepted Faanes' allegations at face value.
"Detectives did nothing. They took her word and believed it and rolled with it," said Brooks, adding, "If it was up to them, I would still be sitting in the Orange County jail." Sitting there, it turns out, with good friend Chris Brussow, who supplied one of Brooks' earlier alibis.
"My friend didn't do it and I went before a judge to make a statement," said the 28-year-old Brussow, noting he was with Brooks on a night when Faanes pinned an attack on Brooks.
Faanes watched that alibi testimony in an August 18 court hearing.
In October, with Brooks stuck in jail, she came forward with a new allegation: that Brussow came to her apartment and attacked her, punching her face and cutting her side.
There were new bruises and a cut, so this time it was Brussow being carted off to jail. "No matter what I said to anybody, they laughed at me," he recalled. "'Sure you're innocent.' 'Sure you didn't do it.'"
After four days, Brussow got a bond, but freedom was fleeting. On Christmas Day, Faanes told police Brussow again attacked her, this time with a knife, almost slitting her neck.
Orlando police stormed Brussow's condo within hours with a warrant for attempted murder.
"Guns drawn, 'get face down, face down,' probably seven officers at least one dog. We're all on the ground in handcuffs. It's very disheartening to look up see my mom in handcuffs," he said. "All I could think about is this girl who's done this to me. I'm obviously terrified because now I'm going back to jail again."
By then, though, Faanes' tales would begin to wear thin. While out on bond on house arrest, Brussow was attached to an ankle bracelet that tracked his every move. And it proved he was home on Christmas when Faanes claimed he attacked her miles away.
And Brooks' lawyers produced a dozen alibi witnesses and dental records proving he was in Jackson County when Fannes claimed he last attacked her in Orange County, 300 miles away. Finally, a prosecutor asked Orlando police to seek the truth Brooks and Brussow had been claiming all along.
Orlando police presented Faanes with the men's ironclad alibis during an interrogation on December 28, and she cracked in a tearful confession, admitting she inflicted all the injuries on herself, according to court records. "Everything is fabricated," said Brooks. "Everything's a lie."
Little consolation now, said Brussow. "In my opinion they should've maybe looked into it before they came into my house with guns drawn. I guess that's not the way they do things."
Asked why that is, Brussow replied, "I think it's very unfair. Here are two people's lives and families ruined by a girl (who) lied, all because maybe she was a pretty face."
Talking to police, Faanes blamed her actions on alcohol and anxiety drugs, but Trason Brooks suspects another cause: "She wanted me in prison the rest of my life ... In her mind we're getting married, we're having kids, we're going to be happily ever after. I made it clear to her that's not what my intentions were."
As she was booked January 21 on charges of perjury and filing false reports, we asked Faanes, "Anything you want to say to Trason about this? Are you sorry?" but she wouldn't comment. Days earlier she told us she really was attacked, but was coerced by police to confess when they threatened her father. Police say that's another lie.
"She needs some kind of mental counseling or some kind of help," said Brussow. "She'll cause bodily harm to herself, she'll injure herself and in the process of doing that attempt to ruin other people's lives." Faanes has received some mental health care, at Lakeside Alternatives, after that suicide attempt in January 2004 and again after she confessed in December to injuring herself, according to police records.
After graduating UCF, Faanes became a licensed clinical social worker and worked at the very same Lakeside Alternatives as a therapist until she resigned January 28, one week after her arrest. As for Brooks and Brussow, they say the ordeal has cost them their good names, their jobs, and much of their life, plus tens of thousands in legal fees.
Both are consulting lawyers about possibly suing Faanes and law enforcement agencies for not diligently checking out her claims before arresting them. But for now they're just glad they're not in jail or prison.
Tony Pipitone can be reached at (407) 521-1291 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.