Probation Study Calls for 3-Year Term for Brando : Courts: It says the actor’s son has low self-esteem and probably could not premeditate a murder. Prosecutors have asked for 16 years.
A Los Angeles County probation report has recommended that actor Marlon Brando’s son be sentenced to three years in state prison, plus extra time for having used a gun in the killing of his half-sister’s Tahitian lover last May.
Although the district attorney’s office wants Christian Brando jailed for 16 years--the maximum for voluntary manslaughter with the use of a gun--Deputy Probation Officer Christine Alexander recommends in a richly detailed report that Brando receive the minimum term because “prolonged incarceration is no answer in this matter.”
For the record:
12:00 AM, Feb. 27, 1991 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday February 27, 1991 Home Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Column 1 Metro Desk 2 inches; 68 words Type of Material: Correction
Christian Brando--A headline Monday made it appear that a Los Angeles County probation report recommends only a three-year prison sentence for Christian Brando, who has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. In addition to a three-year sentence for manslaughter, the probation report also recommends an additional jail term of unspecified length because Brando used a gun in his crime. According to state law, criminal use of a gun should add at least three years to the sentence.
She argues that the 32-year-old welder has no prior criminal record, immediately acknowledged wrongdoing and had fired his gun while drunk and “under unusual circumstances"--namely, having just been told by his pregnant sister that her lover, Dag Drollet, had beaten her.
The probation report, obtained by The Times, will be a key element in Brando’s sentencing hearing, which begins in Santa Monica Superior Court on Tuesday. Such reports, based on an investigation of the defendant’s background, are intended to serve as an impartial guide for the judge.
Both sides will present evidence this week in support of a light or a harsh sentence.
Both Marlon Brando and the victim’s father, Jacques Drollet, are expected to testify. Christian Brando says he will also address the court.
The probation officer--after interviewing Brando’s family, friends, psychiatrist and former employers, and examining the district attorney’s file--concluded that “this unassuming, low-profile, low-self-esteemed person is not viewed as an individual who could premeditate a murder. In essence, it is felt that a series of unfortunate actions led to the victim’s death.”
While acknowledging that the crime “demands satisfaction through punishment,” the report urges that the punishment fit the crime and finds that “the mitigating circumstances clearly outweigh the aggravating circumstance (great violence or bodily harm) in this matter. If defendant is sentenced to state prison the low-base term should be imposed.”
Brando is ineligible for immediate probation, unless Santa Monica Superior Court Judge Robert Thomas determines that his is an unusual case. A three-year sentence would make him eligible for parole in less than 18 months.
Now free on a property bond posted by his father, Brando served 90 days in County Jail after his arrest shortly after the May 17 shooting.
The district attorney’s office said last week that it will present evidence that Brando has a history of escalating violence, including the shooting of another man and wife beating. Prosecutors said they will show that the position of the victim’s body contradicts Brando’s claims that the shooting was an accident.
The probation report skirts those issues, noting that the allegations will be addressed in testimony at this week’s hearing. However, the probation officer says she “cannot reasonably believe that the victim offered no self-defense when he was confronted with an individual staring him in the face, accusing and pointing a gun.”
Brando has two previous arrests--one for possession of marijuana, the other for trespassing.
A neighbor and drinking buddy told the probation officer that he never saw Brando get out of hand or belligerent, never saw him blow up or get mad, never saw him physically harm anyone. Nor did Brando ever trade on his famous father’s fame, said the friend, who learned from others that he was the actor’s son.
Christian Brando’s traumatic life, as described in the report, is nothing like what might be expected for the son of a Hollywood legend. His early years were punctuated by custody battles between his mother, actress Anna Kashfi, and the elder Brando. He was kidnaped several times by one or the other parent, molested by a hired kidnaper and abused by his alcoholic, mentally ill mother.
Marlon Brando gained custody of the boy when he was 13, but turned his rearing over to a succession of maids.
The youth, who was described as an extremely bright and sensitive child, dropped out of school after the 10th grade. Since then, he has worked as a fisherman, tree-trimmer and welder, often for minimum wages.
The report quotes his psychiatrist, Dr. Saul Faerstein, as saying that his low-level functioning and volatile personality are the result of organic brain damage caused by chronic drug and alcohol abuse in his early teens.
The probation report says that Brando was in a drunken rage when he confronted the victim moments before the shooting:
“He remembers how it felt to be helpless and having no one to help when one fears,” the probation officer wrote. “No doubt the defendant heavily identified with his sister. With the defendant having a fondness and affection for his sister and having past memories of fear and helplessness, it appears that he acted emotionally to his sister’s indication of physical abuse.”
Despite the fact that Brando faces years behind bars, locked in a situation he describes as being “like a nightmare that I cannot wake up from,” the report points out that Brando has gotten his life together. He has been sober for nine months, is active in Alcoholics Anonymous, participates in weekly psychotherapy sessions, lives quietly with his girlfriend in a Hollywood-area apartment and works regularly as a welder.
In a letter to Thomas quoted in the report, Brando informs the judge that he is “ready and willing to pay my debt to society. My hope is that I will be punished for what I really did and for who I really am.”