San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s brother won a chance to shorten the 44-year manslaughter sentence that's kept him behind bars for the past two decades.
Napoleon Brown has already served about half of his sentence for a 2000 crime spree that led to a crash on the Golden Gate Bridge that killed his girlfriend. On Monday, a judge granted his petition for the court to reconsider whether to shorten that penalty.
“We are very pleased with the decision,” Marc Zilversmit, Brown’s lawyer, told The Standard. “The judge gave a very detailed and thoughtful reason about why the law requires the manslaughter charge to be set aside now. We are looking forward to arguing for a reduced sentence based on the new sentencing laws.”
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Brendan Conroy found no evidence that Brown threw his girlfriend Lenties White from the car. Even if he did, Zilversmit added, there was no evidence Brown knew a car was approaching.
Additionally, the judge agreed that the actual killer was the drunk driver who veered into the safety lane and struck White.
Brown will now be resentenced on his robbery and carjacking convictions instead of manslaughter, said Zilversmit. While the maximum penalty for those two crimes remains the same as when he got the 44-year term, the state has since changed the law by giving judge’s more leeway over sentencing.
Ana Gonzalez, the prosecutor arguing against Napoleon’s resentencing, said the facts were clear: By shoving the victim in front of an approaching car, Napoleon was responsible for her death.
“We think he was the actual killer,” she said at an October hearing in the resentencing. “If a person throws someone in front of a train, they are the actual killer.”
The District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on Monday’s decision.
For much of the last nine months, the case has been mired in issues of conflict of interest because Breed appointed Jenkins as the city’s top prosecutor. But Judge Conroy ruled that a firewall preventing Jenkins from touching the case is enough to ensure it’s handled fairly.
After a retrial over his 2005 conviction of murder, carjacking and robbery, Brown pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter.
In 2021, Brown asked the court to reconsider in light of a recent law that narrowed California's definition of felony murder and opened the door for resentencing petitions.
Brown’s next court date is April 3.
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org