Thu, 12 Mar 2009 15:19:54 +0000 – By Matt BelcherTrial Attorney
While it seems that Rihanna and Chris Brown have made steps to reconcile their relationship on the personal (and public relations) front, Brown's continued legal troubles are sure to put another rift in their relationship since he is still facing at least two felony charges stemming from his February 8 alleged altercation.
The night of the alleged incident Brown turned himself in to the LAPD. He was booked on suspicion of making criminal threats and for assault -- charges that each carry a maximum penalty of four years in prison. Brown was immediately released from jail after posting $50,000 bail (I guess he brought his checkbook) and was afforded a continuance at his arraignment last week. The next legal question surrounds how his indictment will proceed in this case.
Most often in similar cases where the victim decides not to press charges the case is dropped due to a lack of evidence and resources by the prosecuting attorneys. However due to the high-profile nature of this case, the State's attorney will most likely press ahead with the indictment of Chris Brown to send a zero tolerance message to the public.
There is clear legal precedent for such actions --in another high profile case, U.S. Congressman Mel Reynolds (D - IL) in 1995 was ultimately convicted of criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, obstruction of justice and child pornography, despite his victim's refusal to press charges. Reynolds was sentenced to five years in jail.
Since Brown will most likely face some form of an assault charge, Rihanna will be called and potentially compelled to testify against Brown. If Rihanna changes her tune, she could find herself on the wrong side of a perjury charge or simply held in contempt of court (and in jail) until she agrees to comply.
For Chris Brown and Rihanna to make it through this legal battle as smoothly as possible, their best joint approach would be to get serious individual counseling. While the American public yearns to forgive a truly remorseful and reformed 19-year-old such as Brown, our primary concern is, and should be, that Rihanna has all of the tools necessary to accuratelyjudge his professed change of attitude.
For Rihanna, it is important that any decision regarding her future be made after long consideration of her health and safety and with a long-term view of her life and the road ahead.
For Brown, his most likely approach to damage control will be to enter a not guilty plea to delay the start of a trial so that sufficient time has gone by for public interest to wane as well as for his new found "judgment" and "good deeds" to be placed before the court. This will support his contention that the horrible events of February 8, 2009 were a regrettable but momentary indiscretion.
Matt Belcher is a Chicago trial lawyer