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Criminal Justice

Judge: DA’s Office Won’t Have To Recuse Itself in Napoleon Brown Case

Written by Jonah Owen LambPublished Jan. 09, 2023 • 10:11am
Napoleon Brown (right) speaks with his attorney Marc Zilversmit (left) on Dec. 5, 2022, at the Superior Court of San Francisco. | Jonah Lamb/The Standard

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A judge said the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office won’t have to recuse itself over conflicts-of-interest in a case involving Mayor London Breed’s brother.

Existing firewalls are enough to ensure a fair resentencing review for Mayor London Breed’s brother, Napoleon Brown, despite her appointing Brooke Jenkins as district attorney, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Brendan Conroy ruled Monday. 

“I do find that the District Attorney’s Office at this point can exercise its function and work through the issue,” Conroy said.

Brown is seeking to have his sentence reduced in relation to a murder conviction that was overturned due to ineffective counsel.

Ana Gonzalez, who’s prosecuting the case, declined to comment on Monday’s ruling. But the DA’s Office issued a statement saying it will consider the resentencing “impartially and fairly” and continue walling Jenkins off from the case.

“There will continue to be no communication with her at all about the proceedings,” DA spokesperson Randy Quezada said. “Additionally, she will not have access to the physical file and electronic files.”

Brown’s attorney, Marc Zilversmit, said he’s going to figure out how to proceed.

“I’m disappointed in the decision,” he said, “and am considering whether to challenge it or simply go forward for we have a strong case for resentencing.”

If issues around the firewall failing arise, Judge Conroy said he will revisit his ruling. 

Brown got a 44-year sentence after his 2005 conviction of murder, carjacking and robbery for a string of incidents five years earlier that ended with his girlfriend’s death in a car crash on the Golden Gate Bridge. 

In a retrial granted over concerns about ineffective counsel, Brown pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter. Last year, Brown asked the court to reconsider his sentencing.

When Brown was sentenced, state law allowed first-degree murder convictions if someone died during the commission of a felony, regardless of intent to kill. California later narrowed its definition of felony murder, which allowed for resentencing petitions.

Prosecutors aim to oppose Brown’s bid for a new sentence. 

“We think he was the actual killer,” Gonzalez said in an earlier hearing. “If a person throws someone in front of a train, they are the actual killer.”

Under the previous district attorney, Chesa Boudin, prosecutors indicated they would not oppose the resentencing. 

The California Attorney General’s Office declined to take the case when asked by Jenkin’s office, saying the DA’s firewalls were enough to protect the integrity of the case.

The court is set to return to the central matter of the case on Feb. 14.

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Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at [email protected]


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