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Jim Brown Leaves Jail After Serving Reduced Sentence

Ventura County: The former NFL star and actor, convicted of smashing his wife's car window, was a model prisoner, officials say.

July 04, 2002|JESSICA BLANCHARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Football legend and former action film star Jim Brown was released from the Ventura County Jail on Wednesday after serving less than four months of his six-month sentence for smashing the windows of his wife's car in 1999.

Brown, 66, was convicted on a misdemeanor vandalism charge and chose to serve the jail time rather than complete a domestic violence counseling program, pay a fine and donate to a battered women's shelter.

Brown, who began his jail term with a two-week fast for "spiritual cleansing," was a model prisoner, said Eric Nishimoto, a spokesman for the Ventura County Sheriff's Department. "He was very cooperative, very accommodating," he said, adding that was probably the reason two months were shaved off Brown's sentence.

Brown was sentenced by a Los Angeles judge but housed in Ventura County to minimize possible conflicts among gang members he had counseled in the Los Angeles jails. Brown has worked extensively to establish peace among rival Los Angeles gangs.

He also has been charged, though not convicted, in five domestic abuse cases since the 1960s. Among other things, he was accused of throwing a girlfriend off a balcony.

Two years ago, he was convicted of misdemeanor vandalism for smashing windows in his wife's car as she phoned 911 from a neighbor's home. She later recanted and on Wednesday afternoon was relaxing with her husband and their infant son at home.

While Brown characterized his prison sentence as "outrageous," he said he was treated cordially and professionally by Ventura County deputies and that his experience in jail was positive.

Incarceration increased his opportunity to help troubled young men, he said.

It also gave him an intensely personal look at a justice system he says doesn't work.

During his months in jail, reporters dropped by to interview him for the national media and supporters rallied around him.

Now his goal is to keep the momentum going.

One of his first stops after being released and driven to Los Angeles was Crenshaw Boulevard, where he walked along the street, poking his head into businesses and introducing himself.

He met with several neighborhood leaders who are attempting to quash gang violence and phoned boxing promoter Don King to request his involvement.

Later, a serene Brown sat under a blue umbrella on the deck at his home in the Hollywood Hills, holding court over a group of attentive young men as he spoke of his experience in jail and his thoughts on the justice system.

His conclusion: "Incarceration doesn't work."

"It doesn't make our communities any safer," he said, adding that many inmates pose no threat to the public.

What people think of him after his stint in jail doesn't concern him.

"God is the only judge," he said.

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