AIKEN, S.C. – Soul singer James Brown (search) must face a jury trial in a criminal domestic violence (search) case involving his wife earlier this year, a judge ruled Tuesday, despite repeated objections from the Godfather of Soul's attorney.
Prosecutor Anthony Odom said he wanted a jury trial for the 70-year-old Brown, but he would not say why he made the rare request. Brown, who did not attend the hearing Tuesday, was arrested Jan. 28 after a fight with his wife at his Beech Island home.
Brown pushed his wife to the floor during an argument in a bedroom at the couple's home and threatened to kill her while holding a chair over her, an incident report said. Brown has denied the allegations.
Brown's wife, Tomi Rae Brown (search), had scratches and bruises to her right arm and hip and was taken to an Augusta, Ga., hospital, Aiken County deputies said.
Brown's attorney Jim Huff said Tuesday the singer and his wife are back together.
"They are living together. They are proceeding forward in their relationship and they both, I believe, want this thing to be resolved as fast as it can possibly be," Huff said. "He wants to have it resolved and move on with his life."
Judge James C. Williams' ruling Tuesday was not final, and he still could change his mind until a written order is signed most likely by Wednesday, his law clerk Brian Burke said.
In appealing a magistrate judge's ruling, prosecutors said Brown couldn't waive his right to a jury trial without the prosecutor's consent, and the judge agreed.
But Brown's attorney said "a jury trial right is an individual right" that is guaranteed to citizens, and not prosecutors who represent the state.
"The thing that I find very unusual in this case is that in all of my years, both as a prosecutor and defense attorney, I have never known of the state appearing in magistrate's court and demanding the case be tried by a jury," said Huff, who has been practicing law for 30 years.
Former prosecutor Dick Harpootlian said in his 12 years as a prosecutor in Richland and Kershaw counties he never asked for a jury trial when the defense wanted a bench trial.
But he said prosecutors may want a jury trial because of Brown's prior criminal record, which could hurt the singer's credibility.
Brown was pardoned for a 1988 drug and assault conviction, for which he spent 2 years in jail, and a second drug-related offense in 1998.
Harpootlian said evidence from the prior conviction would not be admissible because of the pardon, but it would be hard to find a jury that didn't know about the convictions and pardon.
"I think what's got to be motivating it is the huge amount of publicity that Brown has gotten over the years about his legal troubles," Harpootlian said.
If convicted, Brown faces a maximum penalty of a $500 fine or 30 days in jail.