Judge Gives a Sentence of 10 Years to Brando : Crime: Marlon Brando, speaking tearfully for the defense, testifies that he and his ex-wife failed their son.
Marlon Brando’s son Christian was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of his half-sister’s Tahitian lover.
“It’s a tragic situation for both families, for Christian Brando,” Superior Court Judge Robert W. Thomas said in handing down the sentence.
In tearful, rambling testimony before sentencing, the legendary actor described Christian as a “basket case” drug and alcohol abuser whose parents failed him.
Christian Brando drew a six-year sentence on the manslaughter charge and four more years for using a gun.
He pleaded guilty last month to voluntary manslaughter in the shooting last May of Dag Drollet, the lover of Christian’s sister, Cheyenne.
Prosecutors, alleging the killing was premeditated, sought the maximum 16-year prison sentence.
Christian Brando maintained Drollet was killed accidentally in a struggle. He said he was angry with Drollet for beating his half-sister.
A probation officer recommended the minimum sentence of three years, saying Brando had chemical-induced brain damage and no self-esteem.
The sentence appeared to stun the 80 people who filled the courtroom. There was silence for a moment and everyone stayed in place. Christian, wearing a business suit, kept his head bowed as the sentence was passed and showed no reaction.
The younger Brando, who had been out on bail, was immediately ordered into custody and led away by sheriff’s deputies.
“He’s getting away with murder, definitely,” said Jacques Drollet, the victim’s father. He and the victim’s mother said the sentence was not severe enough.
Defense Attorney Robert Shapiro said he would not characterize the sentence as a loss, although the probation board had recommended only three years.
Shapiro said he did not plan to appeal.
State guidelines give a judge three choices in imposing a lesser sentence for manslaughter: three years, six years or 11 years. A law passed in January, 1990, provides for additional time if a gun is used in the crime.
Marlon Brando said his son’s mother was one of the most “unhappy and cruel” people he had ever met, but admitted that he, too, may have failed as a parent.
“Most people have some good and bad aspects,” he said. “His mother came as close to being a negative person, and as cruel and unhappy a person as I’ve ever met.”
But Brando added: “You always tend to blame the other parent, but I know I could have done better. . . . But I did the best I could.”
Brando was married for a year to Anna Kashfi, his first wife. The couple’s divorce touched off a 16-year custody battle for Christian, who was 5 months old at the time of the separation.
Breaking into sobs, Brando testified that he asked police to unzip the body bag after the shooting so he could kiss Drollet goodby.
“As much as it may not be believed, I loved Dag. He was the father of my grandchild,” Brando said.
With the classic Brando mumble at times descending to a whisper, the actor described the events on the night of the killing.
“He (Christian) came into the room looking weird and said, ‘I killed Dag. He’s dead, Pop. I didn’t mean to do it. He went for the gun and it went off.’ ”
Abruptly, Brando turned to the Drollet family and began speaking to them in French.
“You are the grandfather and grandmother of the baby, and I am also the grandfather of the baby,” he told them.
Before testifying, the actor refused to take the normal courtroom oath before God to tell the truth and instead said he would swear only on his children and his grandchildren.
Brando said he knew that Christian, even as a child, was drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. He told of the bitter custody fight and the trauma it caused his son.
“When I got Christian, he was just a basket case of emotional disorders,” Brando said.
Prosecutors called Drollet’s death at Marlon Brando’s hilltop estate a murder but accepted a plea to voluntary manslaughter last month because Cheyenne, a key witness in the case, was unavailable to testify.
The pregnant Cheyenne Brando, who was present the night of the slaying, left the country shortly after the shooting. She was said to have attempted suicide after giving birth in Tahiti to Drollet’s son, Tookie.
Cheyenne Brando was flown to Paris last month for treatment of mental disorders.