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

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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee