The singer Chris Brown was arrested over the weekend in Washington for felony assault. [UPDATE: Prosecutors lowered the charge to a misdemeanor.] Many people know who Chris Brown is and are following this news. Other people, though, may not know who he is or why anybody would care. For people in the latter category, we bring you this simple explainer.
Who is Chris Brown?
Chris Brown is a Grammy Award-winning rhythm-and-blues singer with a well-documented history that includes assault, public outbursts and varied other legal issues. If you don’t pay much attention to pop music, your only exposure to his music may stem from that viral wedding video that came out a few years back (featuring his song “Forever”).
Why do we care about him right now?
Because Brown’s arrest sparked a media furor in Washington, drawing throngs of cameras and reporters to D.C. Superior Court:
Is this Chris Brown’s first run-in with the law?
Can you outline this history?
I can try: Brown assaulted his then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009, pleading guilty to the assault in exchange for five years of probation and six months of community service. (A probation officer reported that year that there had been two unreported violent situations before the highly publicized attack, which occurred on the eve of the 2009 Grammy Awards.)
How did he behave after this?
He expressed remorse in 2009, but he bristled in 2011 when the subject came up during an appearance on “Good Morning America.” After being asked about the assault, he reacted by allegedly storming off and trashing his dressing room.
And have there been any incidents since that time?
Last year, a brawl between Brown and Drake (and their entourages) — which involved thrown bottles and an injury to NBA star Tony Parker, somehow — erupted at a club in SoHo. And last year, he lashed out at the comedian Jenny Johnson on Twitter after she mocked him (the entire thing involved language we can’t possibly reprint here, but the end result was that she received many threats from Brown’s fans and he briefly deleted his Twitter account).
This year, Brown and singer Frank Ocean (and, again, their entourages) reportedly had a run-in outside of a studio in Los Angeles; Brown was later sued by a cousin of Ocean’s. Also this year: He was briefly jailed after a hit-and-run in May.
Okay, and —
Does Chris Brown have a local connection, other than getting arrested in Washington over the weekend?
He does! He is from Virginia.
Is there any vaguely local connection to the community service he agreed to do as part of his guilty plea in 2009?
There is! He was supposed to complete this community service in Virginia, with his hours verified by police in Richmond. A prosecutor in Los Angeles questioned whether he actually completed these hours. (The Richmond police chief later resigned.) He was ordered this year to complete 1,000 hours of labor.
So after all that, have Brown’s fans abandoned him?
Not quite. His fans are very vocal online (under the banner of “Team Breezy”), and as these images showed they even turned up at his court hearing in Washington on Monday:
UPDATE I: My colleague Clinton Yates points out that at least some of the supporters with Chris Brown signs came out from WPGC’s The Pablo Show. (Perry Stein of the City Paper also noted this on Twitter earlier.) So it is unclear how many genuine supporters — if any — showed up on Monday.
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UPDATE II: The prosecutor in the current assault case is named Nick Cannon, reports Keith Alexander from the D.C. Superior Court. Now, just in case the name isn’t familiar to you, here’s a bonus question and answer:
Who is Nick Cannon?
Nick Cannon is an actor-comedian best known for hosting the show “America’s Got Talent” or being married to singer Mariah Carey, depending on who you ask. Nick Cannon the actor-comedian is not the prosecutor in this case, but the shared name is still noteworthy.
This post has been updated.