San Francisco Mayor London Breed asks for brother's early prison release, believes in redemption

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San Francisco's mayor has joined other members of her family in requesting an early release from prison for an older brother who has served nearly two decades of a 44-year sentence on a manslaughter conviction.

Mayor London Breed sent a letter dated Oct. 23 to outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown in late October asking him to "consider leniency" and commute the sentence of Napoleon Brown, who struggled with drugs from a young age, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday.

The mayor told KTVU on Wednesday that this wasn't the first time she intervened on behalf of her brother and said she knew that given her position that details of her latest plea would become public.

She said she made the hard decision to ask again now that she's the mayor of San Francisco knowing it could carry the appearance of using her position on behalf of her brother. "I was concerned about that, because of the perception, of exactly what everyone is talking about," said Breed.

In a statement on Tuesday, Breed said people who break the law should face consequences, but also have a chance at redemption.

"Too many people, particularly young black men like my brother was when he was convicted, are not given an opportunity to become contributing members of society after they have served time in prison," she said.

Brown, who is now 46, pushed Lenties White from a getaway car on the Golden Gate Bridge after an armed robbery in June 2000. The 25-year-old woman was struck by an oncoming driver and died.

The newspaper reports that documents in Brown's commutation application indicate that his attorneys expected to negotiate for a 20-year sentence. But the San Francisco district attorney's office would only consider a "package deal," with both Brown and a co-defendant pleading guilty.

Court records say Brown was recently caught with heroin in prison and had two years added to his sentence, a detail not included in the mayor's letter to the governor.

Sandra McNeil, the mother of the victim, said Brown does not deserve early release.

"I don't think it would be justice," she said. "She's the mayor, so she's got a little power, so she thinks she can get her brother out."

A spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, Brian Ferguson, said Wednesday that the governor's office does not comment on individual cases.

Breed, 44, has frequently spoken about her rough upbringing in San Francisco public housing.

According to court records in the White case, in 2000 Breed provided an alibi for her brother, saying that he had been sleeping at her grandmother's house the time of the robbery and death.

Regarding reports that Brown was found to be in possession of heroin in prison last year, Breed said,

"It's sad but it's unfortunate, my brother has a drug problem. He's been in jail almost 20 years and he still has a drug problem so again we have what is a serious problem with our criminal justice system and people who suffer from substance abuse disorder and mental illness not getting into treatment.

"I'm not here to make excuses for some of the things my brother has done in his past and I think that it's important that anyone who commits crimes pays the appropriate price," she said.

KTVU's Christien Kafton and Bay City News contributed to this report.