Chris Brown appeared in a Los Angeles court yesterday to enter a plea of "not guilty" to two felony counts of aggravated assault and criminal threats, stemming from his arrest in early February after an altercation with singer Rihanna.
Accompanied by his mother and lawyer Mark Geragos, Brown, 19, spoke softly and displayed no expression throughout the brief proceedings. (Via Associated Press).
Rihanna, 21, was not present in court (currently in Barbados, she was not required to appear), but her attorney Donald Etra was on hand and after the hearing told reporters that Brown's plea was "totally expected" and that "[Rihanna] would be pleased if this was over quickly." When asked if his client thought Brown was guilty, Etra said, "Her position on the case is to leave the matters of guilt or innocence to the judge and or defense counsel" [Via MTV.com].
Brown's legal team is also anxious to settle things quickly, and were reportedly working hard to reach a plea deal over the weekend. TMZ reported that Geragos and the D.A. have been engaged in "serious" plea bargain negotiations and, according to one source, a "deal is close."
But if the case should go to trial, it is almost certain that Rihanna would be called to testify. If convicted, Brown could be sentenced to nearly five years in prison. The singer is due back in court for a status hearing on April 29, at which time a date for the preliminary hearing would be set.
Upon hearing Brown's plea, Rihanna's father Ronald Fenty told Us Weekly that he was less-than impressed. "So what happened? Somebody else did this to Rihanna then? I just would like to see justice go in the right direction," he said. "I don't want his career to be damaged -- it's damaged already. I think he's a talented guy, but everybody should have to pay. When you do the crime, you do the time. I don't want to see him locked up for a long time -- I just want him to acknowledge and get some help."
Fenty added that he believed Brown's plea would work against him in the end. "Who did it? That's the question now. If he's not guilty, who did it? He should say 'guilty' and let the court be leaning into him and try himself to the mercy of the court, see if he gets a fine... Now he's going to go beyond that and it could go longer, it can be even worse. It can be worse for him in the long run."
Rihanna's father is certainly not alone in his opinions, as evidenced from the fact that new tune "My Flow So Tight" is currently getting quite a bit of airplay on the radio, despite the fact the hip-hop outfit behind the song -- the Smoke Jumpers -- were virtually unknown last week.
With lyrics like "Chris Brown should get his ass kicked," the song is referred to by the band on their website as "the official Chris Brown dis record."
"I was really upset with the way a lot of celebrities and people were handling the situation," said group member C. W. Griz -- who declined to give his real name citing concerns for his safety [via Associated Press]. "Not enough people were speaking out against Chris Brown. What he did was a thousand percent wrong."
The group has pledged to donate a portion of the proceeds from the song to "organizations benefiting battered women" but hasn't offered specifics on the names of charities or the amount that will be donated.
"We're not trying to take advantage of a horrible situation," Griz promised. "We want to take a positive stance."
Meanwhile, Brown and Rihanna are said to be taking "a mutually decided-on break" [Via People.com]. Since the two were last spotted together in Los Angeles nearly three weeks ago, Rihanna has been seen practically everywhere Chris Brown is not: partying in clubs in L.A., relaxing in Honolulu, dining in New York, and now visiting family in Barbados.
Brown has taken the opposite tack -- laying low and "seeking counseling, reconnecting with family and focusing on writing and producing," said People.com's source. Last week Brown surprised students at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA, when he dropped by to play a few games of pick-up basketball in the gym.
The "unexpected" visit was timed to White Ribbon Week, a campaign about men educating other men about domestic violence; a male campaigner passed out ribbons and buttons to other students as they watched Brown on the court.