In the ICE-denying sanctuary city whose cops are no longer permitted to ask suspects to sit, San Francisco’s mayor has appealed to outgoing California Governor Jerry Brown (D), asking him to commute her brother’s 42-year sentence after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter during an armed robbery which culminated in a fatality. Democrat San Fran Mayor London Breed, 44, is seeking clemency for her brother Napoleon (yes, those are their legal names), and made it known via a written letter on San Francisco Mayor letterhead. This transparency thing is intriguing nowadays.
Explaining she feels people deserve a second chance and redemption, Mayor Breed beckoned Governor Brown’s pardon on her brother’s behalf by writing him directly, composing her plea under the stationery’s block letters “Mayor London Breed.” In the event Governor Brown somehow missed those bold letters atop the paper, Mayor Breed referenced her status as the mayor of San Francisco in the body of her petition as well (lest he not take notice). Adding insult to injury (or just more plain insult), Mayor Breed confirmed media inquiries that she has in fact spoken directly to Gov. Brown. About what? Per Wikipedia, “Using a mayor position, Breed requested the California governor to help her brother Napoleon Brown, who was convicted of manslaughter, get out of prison.” Breed has acknowledged asking him with whom she should speak about getting her brother Napoleon’s release from prison. In her own words, Breed inquired “about the process, who to contact, things like that.”
Google had that answer! So did every bail-bonds agent in California.
London Breed, the former president of the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco (among other political posts), also had that answer. No one rises to be the mayor of a constantly pulsing, famously diverse, and hugely popular metropolis without knowing both the prevalent and obscure conduits to local, state and federal governments, Department of Corrections (DOC) among them. Naturally, she meant (wink-wink) for the governor to pave the way or impress upon him some sense of obligation based on the usual elitist suspects: Entitlements.
According to her political profile and bio on Wikipedia, this is not the first instance where Breed asked the governor to help get her brother sprung: “Breed has repeatedly asked for clemency from the governor’s office.” Therefore, Governor Brown didn’t listen to her the first few times or she didn’t listen the first few times or…she wants him to just hand over the keys to the prison cell. She knows full well what she is orchestrating (or trying to), and it is about as veiled as toilet paper is to Superman’s X-ray vision.
This is a women whose formative years were reportedly rough, growing up in a poverty-stricken family in a socioeconomically depressed area of San Fran which heavily relied upon local government for sustenance. Many of us can relate to such hardships; there are only so many golden spoons to go around. But Breed pushed through, made strides in educational pursuits, set her sights, and ran for elected office. Chosen as the District 5 representative in January 2013, her oath was administered by then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Yes, that Kamala.
In my opinion, the credit generally due Ms. Breed for being forthcoming and “transparent” about liberating her brother was canceled by playing the pretense game and ostensibly using her power position as leverage to spring the lock.
Speaking of credit, I must exude some bias here while also granting kudos to Mayor Breed for adding 400 new San Francisco police officers to the ranks and procuring funds for body-worn cameras for cops. Too bad some of their footage will not necessarily portray the traditional police officer customarily exercising officer safety principles via securing suspects by having them “sit down” for the good of public safety. Claiming it is “demeaning,” San Fran police Chief William Scott issued orders for his police force to refrain from having suspects sit down on the curb or any grounds. As mentioned at the introduction of this piece, that is a thing now in San Francisco, and the police union is fighting back at its absurdity. “Demeaning” for folks to be sitting versus a San Fran cop getting kicked by a standing subject? More power to the union, not that they’ll need it to overcome such nonsense. It’s gonna be fun to watch though.
One other thing for which Breed is now known in law enforcement circles: after an officer-involved shooting in 2015, she thought it best to invite the Department of Justice in to, you know, scrutinize the SFPD’s use of force policies ala Eric Holder and Barack Obama-style. Then the biggie informed us about her deep-seated emotions (her brother’s incarceration) perhaps getting in the way of objective, unbiased governance: she nixed a proposed $380 million package to construct a new San Fran jail, saying, “I’ve seen way too many people from my community, friends, even family members, end up on the wrong side of these iron bars,” and categorizing the proposed new jail project “a return to an era of mass incarceration, an era San Francisco is trying to leave behind [emphasis added].” I could spend days picking that one apart; in short, she is telegraphing that San Fran does not need jails any longer. Nice planet they must have there. Does that also mean they’ll no longer have space to harbor illegal immigrant fugitives? Has a jail-closing date been set so as to transfer custody to ICE agents?
Back to Breed and looking for a DOC inroad. Every penal institution has a warden over whom sits a commissioner presiding in matters requiring state or federal authority. The penal institution, as Mayor Breed knows full well, has a parole board which convenes relatively regularly so as to consider petitions for inmate parole. Mrs. Breed knows that also; it may have come up in her public administration grad studies. Like any other family member, that is where she needs to start making contact, rendering requests to the penal authorities, not the outgoing gubernatorial character who has his own problems to attend. Then again, Gov. Brown is known for granting pardons like a priest metes out Hail Marys and Our Fathers in the confessional box. Absolutions of different sorts.
In his entire gubernatorial reign, Governor Brown has tallied close to 1,200 commutations so far, 20 of whom were murderers serving life. Governors are notorious for pardoning actions just before departing gubernatorial office, so Breed is likely interpreting her chances with Governor Brown (whose last day is January 7, 2019) versus the incoming governor who may not be as inclined at the get-go, if at all. In her eyes, timing is of the essence.
The allusion to entitlements is crystal-clear. As the San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Board published today: “Mayor London Breed can hardly be blamed for wanting her brother’s release from prison, notwithstanding the gravity of a 2000 armed robbery that resulted in a woman’s death… Where she crossed the line was invoking her position as mayor of San Francisco in appealing to Gov. Jerry Brown to commute the sentence of her brother, Napoleon Brown, who has served less than half of the 42 years he received for his [crimes, one resulting in a death].”
What exactly happened back in 2000? Napoleon Brown and an accomplice allegedly committed an armed robbery. After his arrest and subsequent trial, Napoleon “was initially convicted of murder in the killing of the 25-year-old woman, Lenties White. Authorities said Brown pushed White from a getaway car that was fleeing north across the Golden Gate Bridge after a robbery. [White] was struck by an oncoming drunken driver and later died,” reported Governing.com. Pushing White from a speeding automobile was an intended action leading to her death, thus the murder charge was wholly applicable.
But, as often is the case, some strategizing and legal chess-playing ensued. Napoleon Brown’s conviction was overturned on appeal; he successfully argued his prior defense attorney was “inadequate,” culminating in a proverbial plea deal. The San Francisco district attorney’s office offered him a reduced charge, and Napoleon replied “no contest” to an involuntary manslaughter offense. Overall, he was sentenced to a 42-year prison stint.
Mayor Breed called her brother’s 42-year sentence “unfair.” I wonder what the dead girl’s loved ones think about that definition and opining. I also wonder why Peter Keane, former chairperson of the State Ethics Commission, went to bat for Breed in such a way as to boggle the mind (mine, at least). Mr. Keane sees “nothing illegal, immoral or unethical about what she did.
“This is her brother, for God’s sake,” said Keane. “He’s been in jail and she’s trying to help him out. You or I or anyone can ask the government to give clemency to our brother, who is in prison. Had she not written a letter asking for leniency for her brother, you’d say there’s something wrong with this person.” My, my…his opinion on the matter is strong. But it is not the letter-writing option at issue here; it is the official mayoral letterhead upon which the San Fran figurehead wrote her plea. The allusion of special favors is glaringly real. Had she written her plea on a napkin and sent it to the governor, we’d likely be none the wiser—unless writing on napkins is outlawed in California. That surely would nevertheless make the Moonbeam News circuit.
Mr. Keane may find “nothing illegal” about writing family requests on official government letterhead, but that sure does smell of immoral and unethical behavior to me. Who would not construe such a choice as anything other than exercising advantage and privilege over others who are not so exalted? Equal justice?
I’ll close with a summary statement made by the folks at the Chronicle: “The bottom line is that the governor should assess the clemency request with the same standards he has applied to others that have reached his desk. The fact that Napoleon Brown has a sister in one of the state’s higher-profile offices should neither advantage nor disadvantage his [clemency] application.” That is about the size of it. What are your thoughts on how this looks?