Ryan Zietlow-Brown was sentenced Tuesday to 22 years and 4 months in prison after pleading no contest to felony charges of attempted murder and mayhem, with the special allegation of a hate crime. The charges related to an August 2011 incident, when Zietlow-Brown stabbed an African-American man several times in the forehead with scissors after a lunchtime altercation on State Street. Zietlow-Brown also acknowledged that he committed the offenses “for the benefit of, at the direction of, and in association with” Neo-Nazi Skinheads, a white supremacist gang.
As part of the plea deal, both felony charges will be treated as two separate strikes under California’s three-strikes law. If Zietlow-Brown, 28, is found guilty of another felony after his release, he will automatically be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. If a jury had found him guilty in this case, Zietlow-Brown could have faced life behind bars.
Steven Andrade, Zietlow-Brown’s lawyer, maintained that at the time of the incident, his client had been awake for five days high on methamphetamine and had also suffered from a “brain irregularity” that caused his impulsive behavior. Andrade stated that he believed the crime to be more of a consequence of Zietlow-Brown being “angry and out of control” rather than being racially motivated. He said he was confident that Zietlow-Brown will be “a productive young man when he is released.”
Prosecutor Kim Siegel contested the defense’s claims that Zietlow-Brown has given up his white supremacist affiliations, and cited multiple racially based altercations Zietlow-Brown instigated prior to his arrest, as well as a number of previous arrests as evidence that he “shows complete disregard for human safety and life.”
Addressing the court in a brief statement, the victim announced that he was ready to “end this chapter of his life.” Looking directly at Zietlow-Brown, he said, “I forgive you, bro,” at which point Zietlow-Brown tearfully turned away from the rest of the courtroom.
In his remarks, Zietlow-Brown apologized to the victim, and expressed gratitude for his forgiveness. However, Zietlow-Brown’s apology was not limited to just the victim. He also apologized to his mother, Shelya Rosenbaum — who is Jewish and of African-American descent — for his beliefs. Addressing the victim again, Zietlow-Brown said, “We have more in common than we don’t.”
After the sentencing, Rosenbaum said that she and her husband had done their best raising Zietlow-Brown, but that he had “always struggled.” She said that they had spent tens of thousands of dollars on boot camps and therapy, but “no amount of treatment or money can overcome addiction.” Rosenbaum personally apologized to the victim for her son’s actions, and she and the victim shared a hug as they walked out of the courtroom.