TMZ Responds to LAPD Internal Investigation on Battered Rihanna Photo

Published February 22, 2009

| FoxNews.com

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," February 20, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: She is out and about. TMZ posted the first picture of pop star Rihanna caught in public for the first time since allegedly being beaten in the face by her boyfriend, rapper Chris Brown. The just-posted picture was taken yesterday when the pop star was spotted on the way to the airport.

Now, this comes on the heels of last night's bombshell photo allegedly of Rihanna also obtained by TMZ.com. That pic is said to show Rihanna moments after being beaten by Brown. Is this an authentic picture of Rihanna? Is this her beaten face? Some doctored pictures were circulated on the Internet last week, so of course, now everyone wants to know if this picture is the real deal or not.

Moments ago, TMZ executive producer Harvey Levin went "On the Record."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Harvey, nice to see you. And you are so lucky. Do you know why?

HARVEY LEVIN, TMZ.COM: Why?

VAN SUSTEREN: Because you have the LAPD authenticating the picture you put on TMZ.com in their press release.

LEVIN: You noticed!

(LAUGHTER)

LEVIN: You're the first person -- you know, Greta, it just proves again how smart you are. You figured something out that went over pretty much everybody else's head.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Harvey, I -- what were they thinking? I mean, you've got this picture -- I mean -- I guess we should explain it for the viewers. What's the picture you have on TMZ.com?

LEVIN: Yes, it is a photograph Rihanna that was taken shortly after the alleged beating a couple of weeks ago. We, obviously, believed at the time convincingly that it was Rihanna and put it up on the site.

And I'm not -- believe me, I'm not saying anything bad at all about the LAPD. I mean, what they needed to do, they felt, was conduct an internal affairs investigation because they felt there was a leak. In so doing, as you say, they did authenticate the picture.

Now, I should be quick to say, Greta, that we got this picture legally. And we -- when we got the picture, we believed it was not an LAPD picture, and we still are still not convinced it is. The police department is sounding like they say it is, but they haven't said that unequivocally, either.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, wait a second. I don't even understand. Even if it is an LAPD police picture, you're a journalist, you got the picture, and it's their problem internally if it came -- if it got leaked somehow to the public or to the press. That's not your problem. That's their problem. And with all due respect to you defending them, the LAPD, on this, it's pretty stupid to issue a press release about an internal investigation and authenticate a picture, as they've done.

LEVIN: Well, they did what they did. And you know, you're right, in so doing, they -- you know, because there were a lot of people -- you know, once we put it up, we saw some of the comments on the site. They were saying, Oh, this has got to be Photoshopped. We can't believe this. I mean, we knew it wasn't. But nonetheless, you know, it is what it is this morning.is.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And the words from the press release from the LAPD, so we have that straight -- "The photograph has the appearance of one taken during an official domestic violence investigation." And I hope that they'll do my authenticating of my work in the future when we need help. But anyway, I say that sort of tongue in cheek. All right, Now, tell me about this...

LEVIN: I noticed!

(LAUGHTER)

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes. Right. All right, so where is Rihanna? And where is Chris Brown? And what's the story going back to this February 8 allegation of assault?

LEVIN: Well, you know, they are -- you know, she has gone out in public. We actually have a picture of her getting into a car last night. But for the most part, they have laid low.

You know, Greta, the bottom line is, is that I can tell you this much, and there are certain things I can publish. Chris Brown is not going to just say, I'm going to lay down on this one and not fight. I guarantee you that Chris Brown is going to mount a defense in this case. I know that. He will mount a defense in this case. So the picture is not the be-all and the end-all as far as he's concerned.

But what it does do is it puts a face on what both sides really have been kind of leaking out over the last couple of weeks, that there's one side, there's a second side. Well, the bottom line is, here's the photograph, here's the end result. And frankly, Greta, I think it's pretty horrifying.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the thing, though, Harvey, is that if you mount a defense of this, his defense has got to be either self-defense, meaning, You think she looks back, you should see how I look, and Chris Brown needs to come up with his own photo of himself, of that he didn't do it, that somebody else did. I mean, those are -- I mean, you're a lawyer. I mean, what other defenses? So unless -- unless he's going to leak a picture to TMZ.com...

LEVIN: I think there's a third...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... with a lot of bruises, that's a tough defense.

LEVIN: I think there's a third option, Greta. He clearly can't show bruises that are equivalent to hers, no doubt. He won't be able to do that. But you know -- and this is not a technical legal defense, but you know the way juries work. If he can show, essentially, mutual combat, for example, not that it's defensible legally, but if they can convince a jury that she went off and he went off and he ended up getting the better of it -- I'm not trying to justify it, but you know where I'm going here, that if he can get a jury that -- where that will resonate, you know, he might think he has a fighting chance. I'm not saying he does, I'm saying he might think that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Good choice of words, "fighting chance." All right.

LEVIN: Intentional, by the way.

VAN SUSTEREN: Intentional indeed. All right, where is Chris Brown, by the way? And what -- has he made any public statements?

LEVIN: No. I mean, he's made a statement saying he's sorry and he's consulting his pastor, but nothing of substance. And he frankly would be crazy to start going out there and defending this. It's just not going to look good if he does, and especially, you know, given what we're seeing here, Greta. I mean, I'm not sure what your reaction to it was, but my reaction was just -- I mean, honestly, to me, you know, this really does make you sit there and understand domestic violence, that it's not just theoretically listening to two people arguing. I mean, you really, really see it. And...

VAN SUSTEREN: Except for...

LEVIN: ... It's a different than most of the cases -- just one other quick thing. It's different than most of these cases where there are faceless people and we don't know their names. We've all been reporting that it's Rihanna for the last two weeks, so there's no privacy in that sense in this case because everybody's been saying Rihanna's the alleged victim. This merely puts that face on it. And my reaction to this photo was pretty strong.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is -- have they had a long-term relationship, Rihanna and Chris Brown?

LEVIN: Yes, I mean, they've -- I mean, they're kids still. I mean, she just turned 21 today. So you know, they've had a relationship. I mean, it's a real relationship. And you know, what -- we've heard various things, you know, since this all happened. We've heard she wants nothing to do with him. We heard she's going to sue him. We heard she's going to press charges. We've heard she's not. We've heard she's texting him. There are a lot of rumors going around, and I don't really put a lot of credence in any of them, which is why we haven't put any of that stuff up on the site because I don't think it's concrete enough. But I think the fact is, with those pictures, Greta, I got to tell you, I mean, I don't think the DA is going to be stymied if she doesn't cooperate.

VAN SUSTEREN: And when you refer to "site," you mean TMZ.com, where we all saw the pictures and we're following the story. Harvey, thank you very much.

LEVIN: Sure, Greta. See you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: For more on this, who better to talk to than lawyer Gloria Allred. She joins us live. Gloria, let's talk about these pictures. First of all, what's the impact of a domestic violence victim, if that's, indeed, what this is, you know, having the picture put on the Internet or it's leaked out of the police department?

GLORIA ALLRED, VICTIMS' RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, I think that many people are going to find that they feel instant sympathy, Greta, for Rihanna, who is obviously injured in this and who, I think, just appears very hurt and very somber by all of this. Of course, Chris Brown will try to put it in context, and my guess is that he is making known what his defense through his lawyers to the district attorney in hopes that no charges will be filed. And of course, no charges have yet been filed in this case. He's hoping to prevent that by probably saying in advance to them what his defense is going to be.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is the defense?

ALLRED: Well, we don't know because they haven't made that public. He said he was sorry, but exactly sorry about what? That's not clear. And I think that his "sorry" expression really was so vague that it didn't give the facts about what occurred. So we'll have to wait and see, if there's a trial, to find out what his defense would be. And I don't think the DA's going to file unless he thinks he can prove guilt without a reasonable doubt in this high-profile case.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, OK, let's take a couple of these. One thing is certain is that saying you're sorry is not a defense to beating someone, assuming that you did the beating, or to armed robbery or to petty larceny or anything. Saying you're sorry just simply is no a defense.

I think that the -- I think the best thing he has going for him is the fact that TMZ caught up with her at the airport, is that -- the truth is, in a lot of these cases, that the complainant, assuming that this is a legitimate claim, gets cold feet -- you know, madly in love with the person that beat her or doesn't want to get involved or doesn't want to hurt careers or is just an uncooperative witness for the prosecution. That's usually why these things don't go forward, if you got a picture and it is the person and the person's been beaten obviously.

ALLRED: Exactly. And we'll have to see...

VAN SUSTEREN: Agree?

ALLRED: Yes, I think that's part of it, but again, I think we have to see the context. And just because there's a picture doesn't mean that there's going to be a conviction, either. Case in point, O.J. Simpson. Remember the face of Nicole Brown Simpson and the injuries that she had? He entered a plea, actually, to no contest to spousal battery, but...

VAN SUSTEREN: But she wouldn't cooperate.

ALLRED: ... even though there was so much evidence...

VAN SUSTEREN: But the problem is -- what the problem with the prosecution had in the O.J. Simpson case was that Nicole Brown Simpson on the domestic violence simply wasn't cooperative, is that, you know -- you know, sometimes or often you know, women or men, who's ever the victim of the domestic violence, changes his or her mind and doesn't want to prosecute. And so the prosecution tries to cut a deal with -- you know, try to get, you know, something out of it, and that's why they got the plea out of O.J. on a minor offense for the beating.

Here, if Rihanna doesn't want to prosecute, the prosecutor is not likely to go forward, agree?

ALLRED: Well, I think that this district attorney -- and I do know this district attorney, Steve Cooley (ph), he feels very strongly about domestic violence, if he can prove it. And again, we don't know that that occurred in this case. And I think that they would be very supportive of the victim and work with the victim and help her to understand why it would be important for her to go forward. It is not her decision as to whether to, as you say, press charges.

VAN SUSTEREN: As a technical matter.

ALLRED: It's the decision of the district attorney. It's a decision of the district attorney. It's his decision, not hers.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, as a technical matter. But if she doesn't cooperate, it changes the nature of the case. But if she says, I've been beaten, I've been beaten by this person and here's the picture, that -- that certainly is a reason to go -- for a prosecutor to go forward very aggressively.

All right, Gloria, stand by. We have much more with you later.

ALLRED: OK.



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