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Will Chris Brown Serve Jail Time and Does It Matter That Rihanna Forgave Him?

Chris_rihanna At this point in time, no charges have been filed against Chris Brown, and the question remains, if charges are filed, will they be a misdemeanor or a felony?  And does the fact that Rihanna and Chris Brown are back together influence the decision?

Bottom line is, the decision rests with the police and the prosecutors.  Victims no longer "press charges," the police do.  In the jurisdiction I practice, we do victimless prosecutors all the time, with victims refusing to testify against their assailants frequently.  It is quite common.  In fact, Maryland recently changed their law so that you can only assert spousal privilege against your assailant once in your lifetime.  And since Rihanna and Chris aren't married, if she were subpoenaed, she could be compelled to testify.

The police will look at the severity of the injuries in deciding how to charge.  "After examining police photos, medical records or reviewing victim statements, the injuries usually speak for themselves," says L.A. criminal defense attorney Jeffery Rubenstein, who is not involved in the Brown case. "Either they rise to a felony level or they don't."

This is a hard case for me to write about, and in all honesty, I was not so disappointed it happened when I was on vacation.  I try not to write about my "real life job" too much here, but I work in family violence, and this case is too close to my everyday.  But also, I have my own personal history with dating violence.  And watching this unfold in the public eye brings up a few too many painful memories.

Truth be told, Chris probably won't serve jail time.  Very few batterers do.  If he is found guilty, and I don't want to discount that he has not been found guilty of anything, he hasn't even been charged with anything, he will probably do anger management and counseling and go on his merry way.  And I hope beyond hope he never lays a finger on another woman again.  But studies show he probably will.  Especially since he grew up in an abusive household.

The distinction between a misdemeanor charge and felony is an important one. A misdemeanor is a crime punishable by up to a year in county jail, but domestic violence cases usually result in probation and counseling. Felonies are punishable by more than a year in state prison.

Rihanna and Chris are said to be staying at Sean "Diddy" Combs's house on Miami Beach's Star Island, are staying indoors as they attempt to work things out.  Her family has publicly said they support whatever she chooses to do. Her father, Ronald Fenty, has stated, "whatever road she chooses, I'm behind her," and "we are a family who stick together even though we are apart.  "She's a smart girl." When asked what he would tell  Brown as a father, he demurred, "I have no comment on Chris Brown."  I hope her family is privately telling her to leave him. 

"They are definitely together and care a great deal about each other," says a Miami source. "They feel like staying in and working through their issues. So far they have not wanted to go out."  A report that Chris was seen partying this weekend with Khloe Kardashian turned out to be false.  Although Chris was photographed jet skiing, he has not been partying, as was reported.  "Chris continues to be reflective, spending time with Rihanna, staying close to home and working on his music," says a source.

I hope they understand the cycle of violence.  That is is common for a period of violence to be followed by a period of peace of asking for forgiveness and presents and begging and niceness before there is more violence. 

If anything comes of this, I do hope that the very serious issue of dating violence gets the attention it deserves.  Especially in the hip hop community.  Intimate partner violence is the leading cause of death for African-American women ages 15 to 45 and the seventh leading cause of premature death for U.S. women overall.  1 in 4 women will be the victim of some kind of abuse in their lifetime.  Your sister, your mother, your cousin, your best friend.  I was.  Even pop stars and movie stars.  1 in 4.   

This video is an interview with a writer who wrote an article about domestic violence in the hip hop community.  It's worth a watch.  This is an issue about much more that Chris and Rihanna. 

I wish them the best.  And I hope we all learn from this. 

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cindy w

I cannot imagine being Rihanna's parents right now. How do you sit by while your child goes back to their abuser? Unfathomable.

Great post, Jodi. I can only imagine how close to home this whole thing is for you.


Admittedly my heart sank reading this...for Rihanna, her family, her friends, for all the women who think "this time it will be different".

I do truly hope he proves to be the exception to the rule - but I also truly hope that women don't use this as the example of how to handle it....you have a choice and you can get out!

I can't imagine how hard this is to see on a daily basis but thank-you for helping those in the situations - I can only guess that you're more of a comfort to speak to at times than family and friends as sometimes they're the hardest people to talk to about it.


When I heard on the news last night that Rihanna and Chris Brown were back together, I had to do a double-take, rewind and replay. This makes me so very sad. What kind of message does this send out to the "normal" people who are abused? I know Rihanna never chose to be put in this position, never chose to potentially be a voice for victims of abuse...but if a young, seemingly-powerful celebrity goes back to her abuser, what hope is there for people without the voice and the backing? So very, very sad.

Jodi, your openness about your own experiences is courageous and makes you better at your work, a better writer, and I am so glad that you use YOUR voice and YOUR platform to do good and show that there is a way outside of abuse. Thank you.


We have friends with a 19-20 yr old daughter who is pregnant with the guy who roughed her up (I don't know the details) last year. She moved back home, found out she is pregnant and now they are living together. And my heart breaks for my friends, because they feel helpless about her choices. And she is young enough (and naive) to believe his claims to change, just as I imagine Rihanna feels. That she will "fix" him and "be there for him".


this makes me sick to my stomach. and what's up w/diddy? he sticks his nose in everything.... being in "love" does not make this behavior ok nor does it make it disappear.


Mostly this just makes me very sad and worried- worried for the example that is set of course, but also for Rhianna herself. I have a very, very hard time accepting that a person who punches someone they "love" in the face is capable of reform. And it makes me think far less of Diddy. I had kind of hoped Diddy would help kick his ass and make a fool of him publicly. If only our culture really, truly abhorred violence against women. If only.


I agree with everything being said here. Great post Jodi. The person above me who commented about Diddy sticking his nose in reminded me that on my Yahoo home page on Friday was the headline "Kanye says to give Chris Brown a break." A break? Please. I think that deserved another 'why Kanye is a douch' post.


What Chris Brown did was incredibly horrible, not loving, not compassionate, and showed a total lack of restraint, and compassion on his part.

But what about forgiveness?
We don't know all the details, but even if we did - nothing she could have done would have warranted what he did. (unless of course she went all Basic Instinct on him first - which apparently she didn't.)

I agree with what her family said. In the end the decision is hers. If she chooses to forgive him. If he has and continues to do things to earn that forgiveness for the rest of his life. Who are we to judge?

If no one got a 2nd chance in this life - the world.. would be.. imagine that.

I'm hoping my honest prefacing that what he did was horrible and unacceptable will stave off some of the backlash to even proposing that forgiveness should be possible in so many situations.

And no.. forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting. Not forgetting doesn't mean there can't be a possibility that they can't make it.

In this case, and the severity of what she looked like etc... probably not. But should we discount the possibility or hope of positive change?


I highly doubt that this was the 1st time - just the first time he got caught. I could be wrong and hope he's the exception to the rule for her part...but I think anyone with these issues does not need to be in their current relationship while they seek counseling and get their shit together. So even if you forgive...how about showing some steps that you will/have changed first?


FM - I completely get what you're saying. If he's truly repentant, that's one thing. However, I think everyone is reacting to the statistical proof: abusers rarely change and their victims continue to get hurt. I grew up with it and I can attest to believing the statistics.

That being said, there are a few who truly do stop the cycle and their apology is more than just a tactic to save face. I'm sure we'd all love to see that happen here - especially as the people in question are role models. The sad fact is that the statistics are not with them.

Abigail Road

He won't get charged. He's more famous that he ever was...and in Hollywood, that keeps you out of prison. Shit, I'd never even heard of the douch bag until this happened.


Veronica - shortly after this "incident" happened, there was mention that the police were investigating possible other "incidents." She wore an eyepatch to an awards show awhile back - the question is...had he given her a black eye? And she's apparently been seen with bruises and scratches before this happened - but always brushed them off as little accidents/clumsiness.

Dave B

Will he do jail time before his 21st birthday?...



It wouldn't surprise me if Rihanna and Chris Brown were married, and have been for months already

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