Former Pro Bowl player Brandon Browner is sent to prison for attempted murder

Nathan Fenno
Brandon Browner  (Scott Eklund / Associated Press)

During Brandon Browner’s five-year NFL career, the defensive back from Sylmar earned a spot in the Pro Bowl and won Super Bowls with the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots.

He is now California inmate No. BL7078.

Browner was admitted to Wasco State Prison near Bakersfield last week to serve the remainder of an eight-year sentence for attempted murder and two misdemeanor counts of child cruelty.

The trip to prison took longer than expected for the former Oregon State player and founding member of the famed “Legion of Boom” defensive backfield with the Seahawks.

Browner, 35, pleaded no contest to the charges in December 2018 but attempted to vacate the decision while remaining jailed. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge denied the motion last month.

Browner won’t be eligible for parole until November 2023, according to Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records. His attorney didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Prosecutors charged Browner with breaking into a former girlfriend’s apartment in La Verne in July 2018. An account of the incident in a report by an L.A. County probation officer described the woman escaping from the apartment, Browner dragging her back inside and shoving her face into the carpet as he “began to smother her.”

“He pushed her towards the couch and told her he would kick her teeth out if she did not sit down,” the report said. “He also told her if the cops showed up he would take care of her before he goes to jail.”

The woman’s two young children were present during the incident.

Browner took a circuitous path to NFL success. He was named the Mission League’s most valuable defensive player as a Sylmar High senior in 2001, then spent three seasons at Oregon State. He redshirted the first year in 2002 before earning Pac-10 freshman of the year and freshman All-American honors in 2003 after intercepting six passes.

Browner turned professional a year early, went undrafted and spent time in training camp with the Denver Broncos before landing in the Canadian Football League. He found his stride with the Calgary Stampeders and was named a CFL All-Star three times.

The Seahawks signed Browner in 2011 — intrigued by his 6-foot-4 frame — and he started all 16 regular-season games at cornerback in his first season, intercepted six passes, returned two of them for touchdowns and made the Pro Bowl. He joined fellow Seahawks defensive backs Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas to form the “Legion of Boom” that led the team’s suffocating defense.

Halfway through the 2013 season, the NFL suspended Browner indefinitely for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. That sidelined him as the Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl to end the season.

Browner rebounded to sign with the New England Patriots the next season, started nine games and, facing the Seahawks in the Super Bowl in February 2015, made a key block on a Seattle wide receiver to set up Malcom Butler’s game-ending interception for the Patriots.

He spent the next season as a team captain for the New Orleans Saints, starting every game, but the team released him after the season.

Browner didn’t play another regular-season NFL game.

His legal problems mounted after his playing days ended. Before being arrested for attempted murder, he had been charged in at least five additional criminal cases since October 2017. The charges included possession of a controlled substance, disobeying a court order and misdemeanor battery.

After a series of pleas, the five cases’ charges resulted in one day in jail, 48 hours of community service, probation, anger management classes and a 52-week domestic violence treatment program.

The former girlfriend had sought a restraining order against Browner in September 2017 — alleging he threatened to kill her — but the court didn’t issue a permanent order.

“Physically, he has given me several black eyes,” the former girlfriend wrote in the application for the order. “He has assaulted me and given me a broken tailbone, busted my eardrum. … I don’t feel safe leaving my children with him.”

During Browner’s sentencing hearing in December 2018 for the attempted murder charge, the mother of his former girlfriend read a brief statement.

“In spite of this horrible outcome, I am thankful to God you didn’t kill [the former girlfriend] and the officers didn’t hurt you,” the mother said, according to a transcript of the hearing. “Because it could be much worse for all of us in this courtroom. Our hope for you, Brandon, is that you use this time to get the help you desperately need.”