The Los Angeles Police Department launched an internal investigation Thursday into the release of a domestic violence photograph that appears to be pop-singer Rihanna after she was allegedly attacked by Chris Brown earlier this month.
TMZ.com posted the photo of a battered woman's face late Thursday, saying the photo was indeed Rihanna, who turned 21 Friday.
Rumors have been swirling for more than a week that her boyfriend, 19-year-old singer Chris Brown, struck her during an argument that took place following a party on Feb. 7. The release of the photo comes just days after Brown said much of what has been reported of the incident is untrue.
In a statement, the LAPD said it takes "seriously its duty to maintain the confidentiality of victims of domestic violence.
"The department launched an immediate internal investigation and subsequently filed a personnel complaint. A violation of this type is considered serious misconduct, with penalties up to and including termination."
Jim Moret of "Inside Edition" told FOX News' Greta van Susteren that there's no way of telling whether the photo is legitimate, other than taking TMZ's word.
"A photo was released a few days ago and it was later revealed it was Photoshopped," Moret said.
TMZ told FOXNews.com Friday that is was against company policy to disclose how the photo was obtained.
According to divorce attorney Dylan Mitchell of the Blank Rome law firm in New York, while the release of the photo does little to affect any possible case against Brown, it undoubtedly affects public opinion of the successful singer – who has already lost several endorsements.
“With the release of a photo like this, Brown essentially becomes guilty until proven innocent,” he told FOXNews.com Friday. “But the prosecution would still have to build a case in court that the photos do indeed portray her condition at the time accurately.”
The LAPD has not officially confirmed that the photo is indeed Rihanna, nor has the Los Angeles district attorney’s office brought charges against Brown.
“The evidence could create a prejudice in the minds of the jury, but good evidence always does. … It doesn’t mean however that the photo is indeed Rihanna or that Brown inflicted the alleged injuries. He has not been charged, and he still has rights,” Mitchell said.
Brown surrendered to Los Angeles police on Feb. 8 and was released on $50,000 bail after being booked for charges of making a criminal threat, a felony. The district attorney’s office is still investigating the case.
His arrest reportedly stemmed from an argument with Rihanna, shortly after they left a pre-Grammy Awards party. Both were nominated for Grammys and were scheduled to appear at the Feb. 8 awards show but canceled at the last minute. Brown surrendered to authorities just as the show was getting under way.
According to police, Brown and an unidentified woman began arguing as they were traveling in a car shortly after the Feb. 7 party. The fight escalated after they got out of the car, and Brown left by the time officers arrived.
"Words cannot begin to express how sorry and saddened I am over what transpired. I am seeking the counseling of my pastor, my mother and other loved ones and I am committed, with God's help, to emerging a better person," Brown said in a statement issued through publicist Michael Sitrick.
According to a report from RadarOnline.com, a spokeswoman for Rihanna reportedly said Friday:
"At the request of the authorities, Rihanna is not commenting about the incident involving Chris Brown. She wants to assure her fans that she remains strong, is doing well, and deeply appreciates the outpouring of support she has received during this difficult time."
FOXNews.com's Allison McGevna contributed to this report.