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Chris Brown’s assault charges reduced to misdemeanor; back in court next month

Chris Brown leaves the U.S. District Court in Washington (Yuri Gripas/REUTERS)
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Day Two of Chris Brown’s Washington saga started with crowds outside the D.C. Superior Courthouse holding signs reading “Free Chris Brown” and “Chris punched me, too.”

It ended with a misdemeanor charge of simple assault. At his hearing late Monday, Brown did not enter a plea; he was released from custody and must return to court Nov. 25.

“Chris Brown committed no crime,” said his attorney, Danny Onorato, a former federal prosecutor. “We understand his security acted to protect Mr. Brown and his property, which he was authorized to do.” Onorato said he is “confident Mr. Brown will be exonerated.”

The singer and his bodyguard were arrested early Sunday morning and charged with felony assault after a late-late-night altercation in front of the W Hotel. But District prosecutors reduced the felony charge to a misdemeanor – likely because of conflicting statements to police about what actually happened. Brown told officers he did not punch the alleged victim, according to court papers. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Thus ends, for the moment, the latest installment of the Chris Brown Follies wherein the pop star dodges yet another legal bullet.

After his arrest Sunday morning, Brown spent the night in lockup at the 2nd District police station. He was moved to the courthouse for the arraignment Monday afternoon, report our colleagues Keith Alexander and Ann Marimow, where he was listed as No. 71 on the docket.

As might be expected, Brown’s appearance created all sorts of chaos. Onlookers took pictures of the lockup list posted on the wall outside Courtroom C-10 showing Brown’s lockup number, the charge (assault with significant bodily injury), and his attorney’s name. The prosecutor’s name happened to be Nick Cannon (but not the “America’s Got Talent” host/spouse of Mariah Carey.)

The packed courtroom was standing room only, a crush that delayed the hearing and finally caused a judge to move spectators to an overflow room, reports NBC4. Brown’s mother, Joyce Hawkins, and singer/actor Trey Songz were allowed in, but U.S. marshals threatened to remove members of Brown’s entourage.

Crowds formed outside early Monday – supporters (“He’s too cute to be in D.C. jail,” said Jasmine Woods), detractors, paparazzi and relatives of those who had the unfortunate timing to be arrested on the same weekend as a bad-boy international celebrity.

“So, we have to wait out here because of Chris Brown?” shouted Veronica Person, who was waiting for her sister’s appearance in the courtroom.

“Damn, this like going to his concert,” said David Gross, whose brother was arrested this weekend. “You gotta have a ticket?”

Not this time, because the circus played out in public with somber faces, microphones on the courthouse plaza, and conflicting opinions of what actually happened.

Missing from the fray: The alleged victim. According to the police report, the man tried to photo bomb a picture with Brown and two female fans in front of the W Hotel at 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning; Brown and his bodyguard, Christopher Hollosy, allegedly punched the man in the face. Brown’s camp insists that the man tried to board Brown’s tour bus, which began the altercation.

Hollosy’s charges were reduced to a misdemeanor, too. The alleged victim, who claimed to have a broken nose, has reportedly lawyered up and hasn’t talked to the press. “Let’s see how this all unfolds,” said his attorney, Vince Napoleon.

How this impacts Brown’s probation in his 2009 assault on then-girlfriend Rihanna remains to be seen: TMZ reports the L.A. County Probation Department has launched an investigation into Brown’s arrest here and will submit a report to the judge in the case. Brown was previously scheduled to appear in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Nov. 20 for a probation status hearing.

Brown was released Monday without bail and ordered to stay 100 yards away from the victim.

Read earlier: Reliable Source: More details on Chris Brown’s arrest

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