District prosecutors on Monday lowered an assault charge against Grammy award winning R&B singer Chris Brown, who is accused of striking a man during a fight outside a posh Washington hotel, from a felony to a misdemeanor, according to court records. Brown told police he did not punch the man, according to court papers.
The 24-year-old entertainer appeared in D.C. Superior Court along with his friend and bodyguard, Christopher Hollosy, 35, who also was charged with misdemeanor assault in what police described as an altercation outside the W Hotel in the 500 block of 15th Street NW.
Brown and Hollosy were charged by D.C. police with hitting a man at about 4:30 a.m. under disputed circumstances following a party at the Park at 14th, one of several nightclub events drawing crowds during Howard University’s homecoming weekend. The parties were not affiliated with the school.
Danny Onorato, a former federal prosecutor and Brown’s attorney said after the court hearing that he is “confident Mr. Brown will be exonerated.”
“Chris Brown committed no crime,” Onorato said. “We understand his security acted to protect Mr. Brown and his property, which he was authorized to do.”
Both Brown and Hollosy were released from custody on Monday evening. The maximum penalty on the reduced charge is 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Brown is set to return to court Nov. 25.
Accounts of how the altercation started have varied. A D.C. police report says it involved dispute over photographs being taken outside the club. Others have stated the victim tried to board Brown’s tour bus. Court documents filed Monday evening suggest it was a little of both.
According to those documents, Brown had agreed to pose for pictures with two women outside the W Hotel. They stood on either side of Brown so his bodyguard could snap pictures with the womens’ cell phones. The documents say that one of the women told police that the alleged victim then “moved in and attempted to take a picture of himself” with Brown. The woman said Brown replied, “I’m not with that gay s---.”
Court papers say the man, who admitted to police he tried to get into the picture and take his own, later told authorities that he responded to Brown, “Then why you ho-ing?” and “What you say,?” Brown replied, according to the papers. The victim then repeated, “Why you ho-ing?”
The man and one of the women who was posing for the picture told police that Brown said, “I feel like boxing” before unloading a punch, according to court papers. The document says the woman then told police she saw Brown’s bodyguard also hit the man, and that Brown then boarded the bus.
Brown denied to police that he confronted or hit the man, saying, “I was on the bus when I guess someone tried to get on and my bodyguard handled it,” court papers say.
Another witness told police that she saw Brown chase the man — who police said suffered a broken nose — and take a swing at him, but couldn’t see if he connected, according to court papers. An acquaintance of Brown told police that a D.C. police officer told him that the man had said Brown never hit him, the court documents say. But that officer denied being told that.
The man could not be reached for comment Monday.
In the midst of #chrisbrown in Superior Court, head of Homeland Security, on JuryDuty— Keith L. Alexander (@keithlalexander) October 28, 2013
Chris Brown fans outside courthouse waiting to catch a glimpse! pic.twitter.com/mO7y8SJeoS— bruce johnson (@brucejohnson9) October 28, 2013
Brown spent the night in the D.C. police lockup in the 2nd District station, and was then moved to the Superior Courthouse, where he was listed as No. 71 on the lockup list, another defendant on Monday’s normally crowded criminal docket.
Crowds of media and onlookers gathered for the hearing. Arraignment hearings typically start at 1 p.m. and can run for hours. Visitors began lining up in front of Courtroom C-10 before 12:30 p.m. Onlookers took pictures of the lockup list posted on the wall outside the courtroom, showing his lockup number, the charge and his attorney’s name.
Brown’s mother and brother were stuck in line at one point; they were then escorted into a room.
Jasmine Woods, 22, of Northeast Washington and two of her female friends arrived at courthouse holding up posters that say “Free Chris Brown” in large red letters. “He was just protecting himself. He’s too cute to be in DC Jail.”
By 12:50 p.m., the 150-or-so-seat courtroom was filled to capacity, and security was telling visitors to wait outside in the hallway. People who were there to support their local friends and family who were also locked up were outraged. “So, we have to wait out here because of Chris Brown?” shouted Veronica Person, who said her sister was arrested on an assault charge over the weekend.
“Damn, this like going to his concert. You gotta have a ticket?” asked David Gross, 34, of Prince George’s County. He said he was trying to get into the courtroom for his brother, who was also arrested over the weekend. Gross was one of about 75 people waiting in line. “I ain’t thinking about Chris Brown. He ain’t bringing no money to any of our houses.”
Brown and Hollosy were escorted into the courtroom in the evening, about five hours after the docket had begun. Both were shackled by their ankles and wrists. Brown’s ashen blond hair and wearing a white shirt and black jeans. The two men were among about 100 other defendants, charged with various crimes from murder, to drug possession to solicitation, who were escorted before D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Karen Howze on Monday.
At around 6 p.m., the case was called. A courtroom employee asked Brown to say his name. “Christopher Brown.”
When Howze ordered both men released, two women in the crowded courtroom broke out into a thunderous applause. Courtroom security quickly escorted them out of the courtroom. Howze also required Brown to report to his probation officer in person in California within 48 hours.
Sitting in the last row of the courtroom was Brown’s family including his mother, along with Brown’s friend, fellow R&B singer, Trey Songz. Songz was in Washington this weekend to perform at a Howard Homecoming concert Saturday evening.
After the hearing, Brown, his family and Brown’s attorney and Hollosy with his attorney Bernie Grimm, were escorted out of the courthouse by security, marshals and D.C. police in a waiting dark-tinted SUV.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the courthouse screaming “We love you Chris.”
Brown is on probation after pleading guilty in 2009 to attacking his then-girlfriend Rihanna the night before the Grammy Awards. He was sentenced to community service and five years of probation. Since then he has had several run-ins with law-enforcement officials.
As part of his conditions for release set on Monday in the District, Brown must report to a probation officer in California within 48 hours.
In June 2012, New York police investigated a bottle-throwing bar brawl involving the entourages of Brown and hip-hop star Drake.
In February, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department closed its investigation of an alleged parking space dispute between Brown and R&B star Frank Ocean.
There is also controversy over Brown’s court-ordered community service in the 2009 conviction involving Rihanna. Los Angeles prosecutors have said in court filings reported by the Associated Press that they could find no evidence that Brown completed his hours.