Waiting for justice for ‘Charming Charlie’
February 1, 2013
“Charming Charlie” had a way with words, and with women.
He introduced himself to a 60-year-old Johnson Lane woman as Dr. Charlie Brickman. He claimed to be a vascular surgeon and gynecologist who was on-call at Northern Nevada hospitals.
He was intelligent, funny, and attentive to small details like opening the door for his date, and holding hands.
Today, “Charming Charlie” – a disbarred attorney named Michael Charles Meisler – sits in Douglas County Jail awaiting sentencing for his third conviction of aggravated stalking, a felony.
The woman who was the target of his latest crime hopes by sharing her story that other women – or men – in abusive relationships will find the wherewithal to fight back. She knows it is not easy.
“If I have to go through something like this to keep somebody else from getting hurt, that’s what I’ll do,” she said.
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The woman, who asked that her name be withheld, met Meisler, 61, in March 2011 at the Carson City coffee shop where she worked.
He fed her a string of lies about his professional and personal life.
He said he was a Vietnam veteran who was dying of cancer because of his exposure to Agent Orange during the war; he’d been deployed to Afghanistan.
In reality, he had just been released from prison in Florida where he served time for stalking. He also has been prosecuted in New Mexico.
Her attraction was instantaneous from the moment they met.
“The closeness I felt for him was like nothing I have ever felt before in my entire life. Really, it was unbelievable,” she said.
Meisler was skilled at tapping into her vulnerability.
“I was very lonesome. He’s very funny. ‘Charming Charlie’ makes you laugh all the time,” she said. “Everything he told me had the possibility of being true.”
Meisler made it a point to let her know he was dating other women, but she didn’t mind. He wanted to move in, but she refused. They maybe spent a total of four nights together in their nine-month relationship, but saw each other for a couple of hours a day at least five days a week.
The woman said her son, who was 17 at the time, disliked Meisler from the beginning, so she didn’t see him when the teenager was at home.
After a few months, she began to see through the facade, but still was unaware of the criminal history.
“Charlie thought he was superior to everyone else. He had such a hard time discerning between fantasies and reality. He was a very bright man. Probably the saddest part of all that is that he couldn’t funnel his intelligence into good. He’s self-destructive,” she said.
At a hearing in June 2012, Meisler said he was bipolar and hypomanic, which he attributed to his “high intelligence level.”
As she pulled away from Meisler, his attempts to control and intimidate her intensified. He ridiculed her education, tried to monopolize her time.
She broke it off over the summer of 2011, but they briefly reconciled in the fall.
Finally he threatened her son, and she’d had enough. Right before Thanksgiving 2011, she texted him that it was over.
“Sometimes I think it’s really pitiful. I say to myself, ‘You really didn’t see that coming?’ He took little tiny bites from me,” she said. “But that’s kind of how I live my life. Somebody’s always good, they have something to contribute. I want to believe that things are good.”
As his anger intensified, so did the abuse.
He sent her texts and emails, calling her a slut, and continuing to threaten her son.
He entered her home without permission, left pornography under her bed pillow, threatening notes to her son and a male friend, then bragged about it to her in a phone text while she was at work. She contacted the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, and a deputy was waiting for her when she arrived home.
With the help of Douglas County domestic violence prevention coordinator Connie Richardson, the woman obtained a temporary restraining order which Meisler violated, resulting in his arrest Dec. 15, 2011.
The criminal complaint alleges that between Nov. 15 and Dec. 14, 2011, Meisler sent multiple letters, text messages, newspaper clippings and other writings, and left messages for the woman in her home and taped to the garage.
The messages said, “Kill me if you can,” “you deserve everything coming to you as a result of your callousness,” “yours was a fatal decision.”
She testified at a preliminary hearing and at trial that she was in fear for her life.
After she obtained the restraining order, the woman began to learn about Meisler’s past.
“When you do something bad, there are only so many ways you can hide it,” she said.
She kept track of every contact he made with her.
Meisler never raised the money for his $50,000 bail, and remained in jail for 13 months before representing himself at trial on Jan. 15. Four days later, Meisler was convicted by a jury of eight women and four men.
His bail was revoked, and he awaits sentencing. Had the jury found him innocent, or guilty of a lesser crime, Meisler would have been released because he has spent so much time in custody.
“I am relieved,” she said. “The stress was unbearable. I am sleeping and eating so much better.”
Before Meisler was convicted, she was sleeping with a gun under her pillow and the lights on.
“It was so overwhelming to go through 14 months of that. I have never been around something criminal before. I guess I am naive. People tell me something, I believe them,” she said.
She had nothing but praise for her experience in the prosecution and court proceedings, from the Douglas County sheriff’s officers, to the district attorney’s office, to Richardson.
“She (Richardson) empowered me. I had no idea I had so many rights. Once I educated myself, the fear was gone. That position she holds is so important for the community. She knows police procedure and the law. She is my hero. She is one tough woman,” she said.
During the trial, because Meisler was representing himself, he had his victim on the witness stand for about six hours, cross-examining her.
“It was horrible. As I sat there, I felt abused the entire time,” she said. “When (prosecutor) Tom Gregory was questioning me, I felt like it was OK for me to be teary-eyed, to show a little emotion.
“When he (Meisler) was questioning me, I was straight-faced, no emotion. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. If somebody threatens me, I stare them down. Tom (Gregory) told me to get up there, tell my story, and tell the truth and that’s what I did.”
Meisler is set for sentencing March 11. He faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.
“He needs to be put away for 15 years. He’s gonna do it again,” she said. “Even if he’s 75 when he gets out, he’ll find some poor old lady, and do it again. I think he hates women.”
The woman said she considered moving to get away from memories of her ordeal.
“I was going to leave here, change my name, get a new Social Security number, but I’m not going to do that. This is my home, my town. I belong here,” she said.
She does not consider herself a victim.
“I want to believe that things are good, and he (Meisler) can’t take that away from me. I feel blessed in every single way. I came through everything. My life is good. I don’t know if it gets any better in life. There’s nothing wrong with who I am.”
She offered hope and encouragement to those who find themselves in similar situations.
“There’s help,” she said. “Don’t allow somebody to do this to you. Don’t be afraid, just keep walking toward the light.”