Rihanna set to give US its latest courtroom fix
As her boyfriend, Chris Brown, goes on trial, America shows there's nothing it enjoys more than a celebrity in the dock, finds Guy Adams in LA
Sunday 21 June 2009
Roll up, roll up! With OJ behind bars and Phil Spector serving life for murder, the US legal system is about to raise the curtain on what promises to be its next great celebrity media circus: the prosecution of Chris Brown on charges of beating up his ex-girlfriend and fellow pop star, Rihanna.
The R&B singer will appear at Los Angeles Superior Court tomorrow morning for a preliminary hearing to determine whether he should face trial for an altercation that occurred in a rented Lamborghini car in the early hours of the morning of February's Grammy Awards.
Mr Brown stands accused of punching and threatening to kill Rihanna, whose real name is Robyn Fenty, before leaving her to be discovered by police, bloodied and bruised, by the side of a road in the city's Hancock Park district. If found guilty, he faces up to five years in prison.
Compellingly, in a case that has prompted unremitting media coverage, tomorrow's hearing will see Ms Fenty, 21, talk judge Patricia Schnegg through her recollection of the incident, which apparently occurred after she discovered a text message from one of Mr Brown's ex-girlfriends on his mobile phone.
The couple, who were on their way home from a showbusiness party, have both so far refused publicly to share their version of events. An affidavit from a policeman who interviewed Ms Fenty claims Mr Brown struck her several times, bit her, and tried to choke her, adding that the frenzied attack caused her mouth to fill with blood.
Television cameras have been banned from the courtroom. However, hundreds of journalists and members of the public are expected to turn up to see Ms Fenty, 21, explain how she sustained her injuries. A police photo taken after the incident, which was leaked to a tabloid website, showed her face bruised, swollen and covered in cuts.
Both stars have huge followings, and the charges, to which Mr Brown has pleaded not guilty, have prompted soul-searching about domestic violence and misogyny in hip-hop culture. Shortly after the incident, Oprah Winfrey devoted an entire show to spousal abuse, which she dedicated "to all the Rihannas of the world".
Womens' rights groups have been concerned by polling data which indicates that many young adults believe that Rihanna was to blame for the alleged assault. A recent survey by the Boston Health Commission revealed that 46 per cent of teenagers believed she was responsible.
Tomorrow's hearing allows Judge Schnegg to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for Mr Brown to stand trial in front of a jury. Ms Fenty has been subpoenaed to appear, and is likely to face questions from both prosecution and defence lawyers.
Legal experts expect the outcome to be a formality, saying they can see few circumstances in which a judge would not consider there to be "probable cause" for a trial to proceed. However, they expect the occasion to be used for PR purposes by Mr Brown's attorney, Mark Geragos.
"Geragos represented Winona Ryder during her shoplifting trial, and played to the media at a preliminary hearing, with vicious cross-examinations that tried to give a message to the world that his client was being railroaded," said Royal Oakes, a legal analyst for several US television news organisations.
"In a case like this, he could also use the hearing to serve a similar PR purpose for Chris Brown. The downside, of course, is that it can tip his hat and let the prosecution and witnesses know where he's going to come from during a trial."
Mr Geragos had already tried, unsuccessfully, to delay tomorrow's hearing until he had been granted access to police files about the officers who arrested Mr Brown. His camp has suggested that their client was a victim of LAPD officers hoping to exaggerate the incident so they could profit by leaking details to the media.
In the event that the case goes to trial, Mr Brown is likely to be offered a plea bargain, in which he'd face a reduced sentence of between two and three years in return for pleading guilty.
"This case screams out for a deal," Mr Oakes said. "Chris Brown's career will not benefit from the four to five years in prison he would face if convicted, and the pictures are so graphic that a full trial could be highly damaging to his reputation, whatever the eventual verdict."
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Power of Nepal earthquake was equivalent to 20 huge atomic bombs
Nepal earthquake video: Terrifying footage shows moment avalanche hit Everest Base Camp
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...
£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...
£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...