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San Francisco Mayor Asks California Governor To Commute Manslaughter Sentence For Her Brother
In her letter, Mayor London Breed says her brother's 44-year sentence was "unfair" and asks Gov. Jerry Brown to opt instead for "rehabilitation."
San Francisco's Mayor London Breed has asked California Gov. Jerry Brown for leniency on behalf of her brother, who has been imprisoned for nearly two decades for involuntary manslaughter and armed robbery.
Breed, who once served as an alibi witness for her brother during his trial, made the request in a letter sent to the governor in October, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.
She called the 44-year sentence her brother Napoleon Brown received "unfair" and requested the outgoing governor "consider leniency" and commute the sentence he received for the 2000 crime.
Authorities said Brown pushed Lenties White, 25, from a getaway car and onto the Golden Gate Bridge while the car was being pursued by police after a robbery at a Johnny Rockets restaurant, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
White was struck by another driver and later died from her injuries.
In her plea to the governor, Breed said she was not making excuses for her brother's behavior.
“His decisions, his actions, led him to the place he finds himself now. Still, I ask that you consider mercy, and rehabilitation,” she wrote.
After the news of her letter was reported by the media, Breed issued a statement Tuesday saying she hoped her brother would be given an opportunity to become a contributing member of society.
“I do believe that people need to face consequences when they have broken the law, but I also believe that we should allow for the rehabilitation and re-entry of people into society after they have served an amount of time that reflects the crimes committed,” she said, according to KNTV.
Brown also sent his own letter to the governor in which he apologized and said he had been trying to improve himself in prison.
"I am very sorry for all the people I hurt with my crimes 18 years ago," he said, blaming his actions at the time on a drug addiction while also telling the governor he took "full and complete responsibility" for what happened.
Brown was initially convicted of murder for White's death in a 2005 trial and sentenced to 44 years in prison, but that verdict was later overturned.
He agreed to plead no contest to involuntary manslaughter in the case in 2011 and received a 42-year sentence. An additional two years were added back onto the sentence after he was found with heroin last year while in prison, the local news channel reports.
While Brown's family would like to see him released from prison, the victim's mother, Sandra McNeil, is opposed to an early release.
"I don't think it would be justice," she told KNTV. "She's the mayor, so she's got a little power, so she thinks she can get her brother out."
McNeil also pointed out that during the 2005 trial Breed had served as her brother's alibi, testifying at the time that she had seen her brother asleep on the couch at her grandma's house around midnight the night of the robbery.
According to investigators, the Johnny Rockets restaurant was robbed between midnight and 12:30 a.m. and the employees were forced to lie facedown while the robbers stole more than $7,000 from a safe.
A police officer saw two men, one of whom was carrying a red bank deposit bag, near the area of the robbery "walking briskly" and getting into a car, where White was waiting behind the wheel, The Chronicle reports.
The officer pursued the car and saw White getting pushed out onto the roadway, before one of the men in the vehicle walked around to the driver's side and sped off in the car.
White was struck by an oncoming vehicle while she lay in the roadway. She'd later tell officers before she died that "S.B." had pushed her from the car, a nickname Brown was known by at the time.
The mayor's letter asking for leniency has received mixed reactions from the legal community.
Defense attorney Chuck Smith, who also worked as a prosecutor, told KNTV there were significant ethical considerations with the letter and called it's timing troublesome.
"She could have written this letter six months ago, when she wasn't mayor —and she didn't. The governor is obviously leaving office soon," he said.
But other ethics experts told The Chronicle that the letter didn't create any ethical concerns.
“I don’t believe there is any violation of any of the jurisdictional ordinances of the (San Francisco) Ethics Commission,” Quentin Kopp, a former judge and state senator who serves as the commission’s vice chair said. “She’s entitled as a human being to advocate a release from confinement."
Gov. Brown's office declined to comment about the letter.
[Photo: Getty Images]