SAN FRANCISCO (November 27, 2018) – On November 13, 2018 the Chongqing Number One Intermediate Court rendered its judgment in the appeal of American citizen Wendell Brown against his June 28 conviction by the Chongqing Yubei District Court for the crime of assault with intent. The Chongqing Court reduced Mr. Brown’s sentence from four years to three years in prison, the lowest sentence for the crime of intentional assault under Chinese law.
Dui Hua estimates that fewer than 15 percent of appeals in criminal cases result in a reduction of the prison sentence.
Mr. Brown is scheduled for release on September 24, 2019. After his release he will be deported back to the United States. Mr. Brown is an African-American resident of Detroit, Michigan. He is an outstanding scholar athlete who went on to play professional football in Canada and Europe after graduating from Ball State University. He had no prior criminal conviction. He was in Chongqing teaching English and coaching football. He is a loving son to his mother and the father of an 11-year-old son.
Mr. Brown’s conviction arose from an altercation in a Chongqing bar on September 25, 2016. The Chongqing Court, for the first time, confirmed that Mr. Yu Peitian, initiated the altercation by jostling Mr. Brown while Mr. Brown was standing on a flight of stairs. Mr. Yu escalated the situation by throwing a bottle at Mr. Brown. A friend of Mr. Yu wrestled with Mr. Brown, after which Mr. Brown charged Mr. Yu. While finding that Mr. Yu was in part responsible for the fight, the court concluded that Mr. Yu’s actions did not rise to the level of criminal activity.
Mr. Brown was the only person punished for what happened in the bar. The court rejected his claim of self-defense and concluded he didn’t do enough to de-escalate the situation. The court gave as its reason for reducing the sentence the fact that Mr. Brown had apologized to Mr. Yu, that Mr. Yu had forgiven Mr. Brown, and that Mr. Brown had paid compensation of RMB 200,000 to Mr. Yu.
Mr. Brown’s family, his legal team, and his friends had hoped that the Chongqing Court would order Wendell Brown’s immediate deportation, a remedy provided for under Chinese law. It chose not to do so.
Mr. Brown will now be transferred from the Chongqing Jiangbei District Detention Center, where he has been held for more than two years, to a prison. Once in prison he can apply for early release.
In a gesture much appreciated by Mr. Brown and his family, Mr. Brown was allowed to make a15-minute video call to his mother in Detroit. He was in characteristic good spirits and appeared healthy.
Dui Hua played a role in bringing about the reduction of the prison sentence, lobbying both governments and calling attention to the case in American media. It served as an advisor to Mr. Brown’s family and team of supporters.
Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm commented that “While this is not the result we hoped for it is nevertheless the best that could be achieved. I salute the team of legal advisors and friends who have worked tirelessly to bring Wendell home. Dui Hua acknowledges the sympathetic handling of the case by the appellate judges in Chongqing.”
City and state officials had lobbied the Chinese government on Mr. Brown’s behalf. (Chongqing and Detroit are sister cities.) The US consulate in Chengdu visited Mr. Brown every month in the detention center and an officer attended both the trial of the first instance and the trial of the second instance. Its work was backed by the American embassy in Beijing and the State Department in Washington D.C. Hundreds of people, including football fans and residents of Detroit, most of whom did not know Mr. Brown, donated to a GoFundMe account to assist Mr. Brown and his family in their ordeal.
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