Firefighter cited for heroism on Brown's list of Christmas pardons

Firefighter cited for heroism on Brown's list of Christmas pardons
Gov. Jerry Brown granted 127 pardons on Christmas Eve. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

SACRAMENTO — A California firefighter who was severely burned when her crew was trapped during a 2007 wildfire received a pardon from the governor Tuesday for crimes she committed in her youth.

Gov. Jerry Brown's order, citing Brooke Linman's bravery and heroism, was one of 127 grants of clemency that followed a tradition of Christmas Eve pardons he began in 2011.

Though most of those who were pardoned committed minor, nonviolent drug crimes decades ago, the list also includes robbers, spouse abusers, people who fired guns during their crimes, a chop-shop operator and a man who stole frozen food.

All have long since completed their sentences and have records of at least a decade without further criminal activity, according to a statement from the governor's office.


"Pardons are not granted unless they are earned," the statement said.

Brown has now granted 341 pardons in his third term, in sharp contrast to previous Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gray Davis and Pete Wilson, who granted 29 pardons among them in the 20 years before Brown's 2010 reelection.

Clemency restores the civil rights of those to whom it is given. It allows a felon to vote, serve on a jury or work in a prohibited job such as a parole or probation officer. Those not convicted of a crime involving a dangerous weapon regain the right to own a firearm.

According to Linman's official pardon, she was convicted in 1995 in San Diego County of grand theft, stolen property and hit-and-run charges, and in 1996 of transporting illegal drugs while carrying a firearm. She spent two years in state prison and a third on parole.

After that, Linman went to work for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. In October 2007, she was part of a crew responding to a wildfire near the Mexican border. The four-member crew attempted to help a resident and his 15-year-old son flee the area, but the firetruck stalled and became engulfed by flames.

Intense heat blew out the windows of the cab where the firefighters had sought refuge, and they crouched, injured, below the rig until a helicopter pilot dropping water on the fire found and rescued them. The resident, Thomas Varshock, died, and Linman, the three other firefighters and the boy were badly burned.

"You start on paths and you have goals. There are hiccups on these roads, speed bumps," Linman told a writer for the San Diego-based Burn Institute for an article in its 2010 in-house newsletter. "You have to find it within yourself to get past these speed bumps."

She could not be reached for this article.

Brown's pardon notes that by the time of the fire, Linman had already received an order from a San Diego judge declaring her eligible for a pardon. Her application was endorsed by the Board of Parole Hearings in January, as well as by a majority of the justices of the state Supreme Court.

Others granted clemency Tuesday include:

•Ronald Jerry Kilgo, who shot someone during a 1969 dispute in Los Angeles, shortly after returning from combat in Vietnam. Kilgo's pardon notes that he "has been active in his church, has received civic awards."

•Barry Kimball Chase, convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the 1981 accidental shooting of his friend when the two were playing with a firearm. Chase never served jail time.

•Avis Braswell, who was 18 when she was convicted of belonging to a ring that robbed a string of laundromats and grocery stores in Los Angeles in 1973.

•Mark Edward Powers, now a public defender, who spent three years on probation in Santa Barbara County after a 1997 conviction of narcotics possession.

•Shawn McRae Gerber, now a resident of Oregon, who evaded a police officer in San Diego County in 1992. He subsequently obtained an Army commendation for his service in Operation Desert Storm.

•Michael Duane Flores, who in 1994 stole a lawn mower and some frozen food from his neighbor while intoxicated.

Times staff writers Anthony York and Phil Willon contributed to this report.