The ruling does not yet change the 44-year prison sentence of Mayor London Breed’s brother, but he has won the right to a re-sentencing hearing next year that could let him out of jail.
One of the most compelling parts of Mayor London Breed’s biography is that her brother is incarcerated, which has won her national coverage in Newsweek as an underdog success story who was “raised by her impoverished grandmother in low-quality public housing” and whose “sister died of an overdose in 2006 and a brother is now in jail.” A less flattering angle emerged from this story last December when news broke that she lobbied then-governor Jerry Brown for her brother’s pardon (the request was denied), and may or may not have given less-than-honest testimony in his 2005 trial. The brother in question is Napoleon Brown, who was convicted of murder 14 years ago, but then had his charge reduced to manslaughter, and is currently serving a 44-year sentence — it was originally 42 years, but two years was added when Brown was caught doing heroin in prison.
SF judge ruled this morning that Napoleon Brown, the older brother of mayor London Breed, can argue for a reduced sentence under recent changes to the felony murder rule. Story coming soon.— Dominic Fracassa (@DominicFracassa) November 8, 2019
To be clear, Napoleon Brown did not win the shorter sentence. His attorney won the right to have Brown’s sentence reconsidered, in a request that will be heard January 24, 2020. Ominously, the Chronicle quotes Superior Court Judge Brendan Conroy as saying "it seems to me Mr. Brown has a pretty uphill battle here" with regard to the re-sentencing.
The far more newsworthy angle here is contained in a follow-up to the above tweet from the Chronicle’s Dominic Fracassa, who notes that there “could be important implications here that go beyond Mr Brown’s case.” That is, the case could set a precedent that expands recent murder charge re-sentencing rights to cover manslaughter charges as well. But the fact that this case involves the sitting mayor’s brother, well, certainly suggests the appearance of strings possibly being pulled.
The case goes back to the year 2000, when Brown was an accomplice in a robbery at Johnny Rockets (remember those?) on Chestnut Street, and then pushed his 25-year-old girlfriend Lenties White out of the getaway car on the Golden Gate Bridge. White was then struck and killed by a drunk driver in a different vehicle.
The Chronicle additionally reports that “Breed also approached then-District Attorney George Gascón in 2014 to ask if he could review her brother’s case file” when she was the District 5 supervisor, and “she hoped Gascón could find a way to reduce Brown’s sentence.” Gascón reportedly declined.
The strange irony here is that if the case goes back before the San Francisco district attorney, a position still not yet decided after Tuesday’s election, Breed-installed candidate Suzy Loftus has a much tougher platform on reducing criminal sentences. Her opponent Chesa Boudin is vocally on the reducing incarceration end of the spectrum. But since this case involves the mayor’s brother, and Mayor Breed has meddled pretty decisively in favor of Loftus, the elected district attorney may consider this case through the lens of favor-returning with the mayor — or getting payback against her.
Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr