Actor Marlon Brando's eldest son, Christian, awaiting trial in the slaying of his sister's Tahitian lover, stepped out of County Jail on Wednesday and into the din and glare of flashing cameras and shouting reporters.
"It's good to be out," Brando, freed on $2 million bail after three months in jail, told more than 75 photographers and reporters crowding a sidewalk outside the Men's Central Jail's inmate reception center.
The self-employed welder, 32, is accused of murder in the May 16 shooting death of Dag Drollet, 26, the son of a prominent Tahitian politician and boyfriend of Christian's half-sister, Cheyenne. He was freed after Marlon Brando offered his $4-million estate as security for the bond.
"I just want to go home and try to straighten this out," said Christian Brando, flanked by his father, a half-brother, Miko, and his defense attorney, Robert Shapiro.
The Brando clan, including Christian's sister, Rebecca, and girlfriend, Lorene Landon, arrived at the jail in a black Mercedes-Benz and a black Volkswagen Sirocco. The family dog, a black Rottweiler named Slubba, was also brought along for the reunion.
Moments after he emerged from jail, Christian Brando was served with a summons in a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of Drollet's 4-year-old daughter, a child from a previous relationship, who lives in Tahiti. The suit, filed late last month, demands unspecified damages.
Marlon Brando on Tuesday had announced that he and Christian were setting up a $1-million trust fund for the girl.
The legendary actor, dressed casually in blue slacks, a cream-colored sports jacket and white athletic shoes, entered the jail's reception center Wednesday at approximately 10:25 a.m. and came out five minutes later with his son.
"It's a very simple moment, a moment long looked forward to," the 66-year-old actor told the throng of reporters as a news helicopter whirled overhead. "I am proud to have my son out of jail. Right now we're just going to go home and relax and do whatever Christian wants to."
As the click of camera shutters crescendoed and reporters hurled questions at both Brandos, Shapiro made a plea for quiet so that Christian Brando could speak.
"I just wanted to thank all the people that supported me, writing the letters," the defendant said. "And, uh, it's good to be out."
When asked if he thought he could survive a long prison term, Brando said, "I don't plan on it (going to prison)."
Asked whether the murder case has changed his relationship with his famous father, Christian shrugged. The elder Brando stepped in, quipping: "I got fatter and he got thinner."
Then, Christian Brando, wiping a tear from his face, boarded the Sirocco and left for his father's home, stopping along the way for two hamburgers and a root beer.
Shapiro said Brando would return to work in his welding business while preparing for a pretrial hearing next month. The trial is set for Oct. 9.
Bail for Brando, after first being denied because prosecutors considered him a flight risk, then set at the unusually high level of $10 million, was reduced by Santa Monica Superior Court Judge David Perez to $2 million.
On Tuesday, Perez agreed to accept Marlon Brando's offer to put up his two-acre hilltop estate on Mulholland Drive as collateral for guaranteeing Christian would return to court. Under California law, property used to secure bail must be worth twice the amount of bail.
It was at the secluded estate that Christian Brando says he accidentally shot Drollet late on the night of May 16 during a struggle.
Prosecutors maintain, however, that Christian Brando premeditated the murder.
Cheyenne Brando was pregnant at the time with Drollet's child, and has since returned to Tahiti, where she gave birth to a boy.
The chaotic scene outside the jail Wednesday represented something of a culmination for many of the paparazzi and reporters who have been staking out the facility for weeks, since bail was first set for Brando. Some gathered before dawn Wednesday; others had spent the night.
"In my 13 years, I've never seen anything like it," said Sgt. Lynda Edmonds, one of about a dozen sheriff's deputies present to help coordinate media coverage. "I guess it goes with the territory."