Chris Brown Cops Plea, Avoids Showdown With Rihanna

He pleads guilty to felony assault and is sentenced to five years' probation, community service and an anti-domestic violence program

By Josh Grossberg, Ken Baker Jun 23, 2009 1:12 AMTags

The Chris Brown-Rihanna reunion show turned out to be a bust. But that didn't mean there weren't any fireworks.

Brown scuttled the long-awaited court showdown between the former flames as he copped a plea today and managed to avoid jail time for their now infamous Feb. 8 altercation.

The 20-year-old singer pleaded guilty to felony assault and was put on five years' probation and ordered to enroll in an anti-domestic violence program. He must perform 180 days of community service and must have all his travel vetted by a probation officer.

He is due to be formally sentenced Aug. 5, at which time a charge of making criminal threats is expected to be dismissed.

The announcement came as Rihanna waited in a private area of the criminal courts building. The 21-year-old "Disturbia" singer was ready to lay out her version of what went down following a Grammy Awards pre-party, if she were called to the stand.

But her testimony ultimately wasn't required. Instead of a preliminary hearing to determine whether Brown would go to trial on felony counts of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury and making criminal threats, Brown's lawyer, Mark Geragos, dropped the bombshell that the case had been plea-bargained.

"He did not enter a no contest plea," Geragos emphasized at a press conference after court this afternoon. "As long as I've known him in connection with this case, he's wanted to take responsibility. I advised him to wait and let me work through the legal process, which he did."

Geragos described Brown as "a kid who had never been in trouble before," who "wants to move past this and obviously wants to make sure that the message gets out—that these kinds of things, domestic violence, are not acceptable. And [he] has accepted responsibility and will continue to do so and embraces this as an opportunity for him to get his life back on track, to get his career back on track."

Brown will likely serve time on graffiti-removal and trash-pickup duty—a fate far better than the four-plus years he would have faced in a state prison if convicted at trial (or if he violates the terms of his probation).

"I think it's commendable you took responsibility for your conduct," Judge Patricia Schnegg told him.

"I want Mr. Brown to be treated as any other person...I want him to be treated the same," said Schnegg, ruling that Brown can complete his probation in his home state of Virginia, but must return to California every three months to check in with authorities.

As part of his punishment, Schnegg also ordered that Brown receive a "complete stay away" order, prohibiting him from coming within 50 yards of Rihanna, except at industry gatherings, when the distance is shortened to 10 yards.

Then, after Brown exited the courtroom, the judge brought in Rihanna and explained that she was also subject to the order and could be in violation should she contact Brown.

"Rihanna was advised of the agreement and had no objection to it," her attorney, Donald Etra, told reporters outside the courthouse.

"She was fully prepared to testify and she would have told the truth about what happened that evening."

(Originally published June 22, 2009, at 1:58 p.m. PT)


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