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London Breed Uses Mayor Power to Request Brother’s Prison Release

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San Francisco Mayor London Breed wrote Gov. Jerry Brown a letter that has people questioning her use of power. The fact that she has a brother doing time in prison isn’t the problem, it’s only human to have a complicated a family story. It’s not wrong that she wants her brother to have a chance at life, most sisters would. But did she cross the ethical line when she, as mayor of one of the most lucrative cities in the country, asked the governor to set her brother free?

Breed’s brother, Napoleon Brown, eventually pleaded guilty (following a retrial) to manslaughter, robbery, carjacking and other crimes stemming from an incident in 2000 where he and another man, Sala Thorn, robbed a Johnny Rocket’s on Chestnut Street and then carjacked 25-year old Lenties White. White, mother of two, was pushed out of the car on the Golden Gate Bridge and fatally struck by a drunk driver.

Breed’s October letter to the outgoing governor states:
“I make no excuses for him. His decisions, his actions led him to the place he finds himself now.”

London Breed and brother Napoleon Brown. Photo courtesy of NBC Bay Area

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However, Breed asked that her brother’s 44-year sentence be commuted. Napoleon Brown has served 20 years and wouldn’t be eligible for parole for an additional 15. According to NBC Bay Area and their investigative unit that obtained the letter, Breed argued that her brother deserves a shot at life after prison. In a statement made Tuesday, the mayor attempted to explain her position.

“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,” Breed said. “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. I believe my brother deserves that opportunity.”

One person in particular who disagrees with the mayor is Sandra McNeil, the mother of Lenties White. As Breed outlined the support and opportunities her family would offer Napoleon if he were paroled, McNeil can’t help but question the mayor’s use of power to give her brother a chance her daughter will never have. Other people are raising serious concerns over Breed’s role in the original case, having tried to provide a false alibi for Napoleon on the evening White died – it’s a matter of ethical boundaries and legal implications that went largely unanswered then. The mayor may have just been acting as any sister would when she wrote her letter to the governor (after winning the election) but she has managed to reopen old questions and old wounds.

“I thought it was done and over,” McNeil said, “Justice was served and that was the end of it — I never knew there was going to be another beginning of it.”


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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.