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Christian Brando (May 11, 1958 – January 26, 2008) was the eldest child of actor Marlon Brando. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of the boyfriend of his half-sister Cheyenne. On May 16, 1990, Christian Brando shot Dag Drollet to death at Marlon Brando's residence on Mulholland Drive in Los Angelesmarker. He was released from prison in 1996. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to spousal abuse of his wife, Deborah Presley, and was given probation.

Early life

Christian Brando was named after French film director Christian Marquand who later directed Marlon in the film Candy. Christian was born in Los Angeles, Californiamarker on May 11, 1958, the product of an affair between Marlon Brando and Anna Kashfi, an actress. Marlon and Kashfi met in 1955, and Kashfi became pregnant in 1957. They married in 1958. Marlon later claimed that he had married Kashfi only because of the pregnancy and that he had other romantic relationships during the marriage. Kashfi was an abuser of barbiturates and alcohol. The couple divorced a year after Christian's birth.

Christian was shuttled between his mother and father. His parents became increasingly hostile and abusive towards one another. The author Nellie Bly claimed that “When the Brandos quarreled, Anna displayed a ‘frightening’ rage,” and that “Anna left baby Christian alone in her car parked on Wilshire Boulevard while she confronted (Marlon) Brando in his office, ‘beating at him with her fists, in a frenzy of rage.

Kashfi and Marlon engaged in a protracted custody battle. Marlon eventually won custody of Christian, who was then 13 years old, after Kashfi took their son out of school to travel to Mexico.

Marlon was a distant father and spent little time with young Christian, who was raised by nannies and servants. Christian moved between Hollywood and his father's private island near Tahitimarker. Marlon continued to have relationships with multiple women by whom he fathered numerous children. Years later, while commenting on his childhood, Christian said that: “The family kept changing shape, I'd sit down at the breakfast table and say, "Who are you?"”.

In 1972, while his father was abroad filming Last Tango in Paris, Christian was kidnapped by a gang of Anna Kashfi's hippie friends, to whom she had apparently promised to pay $10,000. When she refused to pay they took the boy to Mexico, where a posse of private detectives hired by Brando (an agency named "The Investigators", led by famous private investigator Jay J. Armes) rescued him late one night and returned him to Los Angeles. Back in court his father was awarded sole custody..

Brando attended Cal Preparatory High School with Michael Jackson and Danny Bonaduce.

As a child, Christian had two small roles in movies: in The Secret Life of an American Wife and I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!, both released in 1968. He appeared in four other films and four made-for-TV productions, sometimes using the alias Gary Brown between 1980 and 1990. He played a killer in the Sacra Corona Unita (the Quarter Italian Mafia) in the film La Posta in gioco ("The Prize at Stake"), filmed in Southern Italy in 1987.

Manslaughter

Christian pleaded guilty to manslaughter for killing Dag Drollet in 1990. Drollet was in a four-year relationship with Christian's younger half-sister Cheyenne, who was pregnant by Drollet at the time. The child, a son named Tuki, is now known as Tuki Brando and is a model for Versace menswear.

A few days before the incident, Dag Drollet had flown in from Tahiti to Los Angeles to visit Cheyenne, who was eight months pregnant. Cheyenne was visiting her father along with her mother and both were staying at Marlon Brando's residence on Mulholland Drive. Marlon Brando had known the Drollet family for years. Christian Brando, however, had only met Dag Drollet for the first time just several hours before he shot him to death.

On the evening of the killing, Christian and Cheyenne had dinner at Musso & Frank Grillmarker where Cheyenne told Christian that Drollet had been physically abusive toward her, which may have been untrue. Christian Brando said to a reporter from the Los Angeles Times: "She went off on this bizarre tangent."

Later, around 11 p.m. that night, Christian, who admits to being drunk at the time, confronted Drollet at the Brando home and shot him. Christian claimed that he did not intend to kill Drollet. "I just wanted to scare him," he said. The killing occurred in the den where Drollet was staying. Cheyenne was staying in a separate room.

Christian Brando claimed that he and Drollet were fighting over the gun when it accidentally went off.

Robert Shapiro was one of Christian Brando's lawyers. Brando was initially charged with murder. However, prosecutors were unable to proceed with a murder charge because of the absence of Cheyenne, who was a crucial witness to their case. Marlon Brando had Cheyenne admitted into a psychiatric hospital in Tahiti. After several attempts to get her to return to California, a judge eventually squashed all efforts by the prosecution.

After heavily publicized pre-trial proceedings, Christian pleaded guilty to manslaughter and spent five years in prison after which he worked as a tree cutter and welder.

His sister Cheyenne committed suicide in 1995 at the age of 25.

Bonnie Lee Bakley

Robert Blake and his defense attorneys claimed that Christian Brando was involved in the 2001 murder of Blake's 44-year-old wife Bonnie Lee Bakley. Robert Blake was ultimately charged with his wife's murder and although acquitted in the criminal trial, he was found liable for her death in the civil case.

Testimony introduced during the criminal pre-trial hearings and the subsequent civil trial attempted to implicate Christian in the murder, suggesting that he had the same motive as Blake to have Bonny Lee Bakley killed. Bonnie Lee Bakley was dating Robert Blake and Christian Brando at the same time. Letters to Robert Blake from Bakley outlined financial motives for the relationships with Blake and Brando. Bakley became pregnant and claimed to both Brando and Blake that they were the father. Bakley named Christian Brando as the father in the official birth certificate and named the baby Christian Shannon Brando. However, a DNA test determined that Robert Blake, not Christian Brando, was the biological father.

According to trial testimony, just days before her death, Bakley sent a letter and photos of the baby to Christian Brando whom she continued to claim was the father. Dianne Mattson testified in court that Brando became enraged, and at one point stated "somebody should put a bullet in that bitch's head". In a tape-recorded conversation between Brando and Bakley, Brando stated, "You’re lucky. You know, I mean, not on my behalf, but you’re lucky someone ain’t out there to put a bullet in your head.”

According to pre-trial testimony and corroboration, Christian Brando was in Washington state on the night of Bakley's death. Other pre-trial testimony alleged that associates of Brando were involved in the murder. One of those allegedly involved was the prosecution star witness: Duffy Hambleton, a stunt man. Hambleton claimed that Blake tried to hire him to kill Bakley. Hambleton claimed he refused the offer. Blake, however, testified that he hired Hambleton for personal security to protect himself and Bakley from a stalker. Criminal pre-trial and civil trial testimony claimed that Hambleton was an associate of Christian Brando and that he arranged the murder of Bakley to curry favor with Brando. The judge in the criminal case prevented the defense from presenting that view during trial.

Brando was called as a witness in actor Robert Blake’s civil trial but refused to testify, invoking his Fifth Amendment constitutional rights. Brando's behavior in court got him a contempt of court charge and conviction.

According to legal analyst Andrew Cohen, Blake's acquittal was a result of defense lawyer M. Gerald Schwartzbach's successful impeachment of the prosecution's "stuntmen" witnesses and suggestions that others could have been involved in the murder. Another civil trial witness, Brian Allan Fiebelkorn, testified that he alerted authorities to information that could confirm that Hambleton was lying in his assertions against Blake. Fiebelkorn (as well as other trial witnesses) asserted that Hambleton had an "association" of some kind with Christian Brando, but Fiebelkorn was rebuked by law enforcement.. Fiebelkorn and Blake's defense attorney, Schwartzbach subsequently filed a formal complaint against the LAPD and the lead LAPD detective, Ron Y. Ito

The civil trial verdict concluded that Robert Blake was liable for the death of Bonnie Lee Bakley. An appeal was filed on February 28, 2007 and was argued on January 15, 2008. On April 26, 2008, an appeals court upheld the 2007 civil case verdict, but cut Blake's penalty assessment in half. (Blake's attorneys had protested that jurors improperly discussed the Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson verdicts during deliberations of his case, but the appeals judge ruled that such discussions were not improper.)[15]

Marriage and spousal abuse

Brando married artist Deborah Presley on October 16, 2004 in Las Vegasmarker. Presley, two years Brando's senior, claims to be Elvis Presley's illegitimate daughter. On January 10, 2005, Brando was charged with two counts of spousal abuse. He plead guilty and was sentenced to three years probation and two months of drug and alcohol treatment. He was also ordered to complete a spousal abuse prevention program. The couple divorced in June 2005. (Brando's first marriage to Mary Brando ended without acrimony in 1987 after six years; they first met when both were ten years old).

In December 2005, Presley sued Brando in Los Angeles County Superior Court seeking financial damages for multiple counts of violence and threats of violence and murder against her and her 13-year-old daughter. Presley claimed that Brando repeatedly forced her into sex by threatening to smother her with a pillow or to cut her daughter "into a million pieces". Both parties reached a settlement in February, 2007.

Death

Brando died of pneumonia on January 26, 2008 at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angelesmarker. He was 49 years old. He was admitted into Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center on January 11, 2008. Although Brando's attorney, Benjamin Brin, announced he was hospitalized with pneumonia, the prognosis was said to be a complete recovery. However, an unnamed friend confirmed that Brando was in grave condition..

Brando was buried on February 17, 2008 at the Kalama Oddfellows Cemetery in Kalama, Washingtonmarker,. Christian, who had lived in Kalama for about 14 years was well-liked by locals who remembered him as "a regular guy". Chaplain Timothy Berg, who performed the service, said, "I guess as a society, we've made it really hard for people who are famous," Berg said. "God, he had a hard life, he really did, and I guess that's really true of a lot of people who are born into fame."

According to former girlfriend Donna Goen (as quoted in the Feb 11, 2008 edition of People magazine), at the time of his death Brando had been attempting to turn his life around. "He was trying so hard to finally have a life," she said.

References

  1. The Daily Telegraph, 29 January 2008
  2. [1] (Source: Carlo Infante, Italian journalist and photoreporter - http://xoomer.alice.it/carloinfante/)
  3. Christian Brando dies of pneumonia - USATODAY.com
  4. courttv.com (2004) Lawyer: Christian Brando involved in murder of Robert Blake's wife
  5. courttv archived pre-trial motion implicating Christian by the defense team
  6. COURT TV ONLINE - California vs. Robert Blake - Hot Document
  7. CourtTVnews web site article (February 3, 2004) Brando claims resurface in actor Robert Blake's murder case
  8. courttv (2004) Lawyer: Christian Brando involved in murder of Robert Blake's wife
  9. BBC News (2004) Brando Jr 'murder link' dismissed
  10. courtv (2005) Robert Blake: Mystery man staked out my house weeks before my wife was slain
  11. courttv (2004)
  12. courtv (2005) Brando's son testifies in Blake trial, but says little
  13. courtv (2006) Christian Brando faces contempt charges after Robert Blake civil trial
  14. Blake's Hollywood Ending, Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen Breaks Down Acquittals - CBS News
  15. courtv (2005) Detective: Brando, 'Cherry' and lonely hearts investigated in Blake case
  16. Signon San Diego (2005)
  17. Shanks, Jon. Christian Brando Dead at 49, Report. The National Ledger. January 26, 2008.


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