Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

Domestic Violence Starring Chris Brown And Rihanna Takes Center Stage

Boston waits, along with the rest of the world, for the next episode of the latest show biz soap opera. In case you have not heard…it involves Chris Brown and Rihanna, two well-known stars in the music world. The next episode is expected to air in April, when Mr. Brown is scheduled to be arraigned on charges of assault likely to cause great bodily injury and making criminal threats. The complainant? His girlfriend and fellow star, Rihanna,

The plot twist?

Rihanna seems to be on the side of her battling beau.

On a previous episode, the judge was ready to order Brown to stay away from Rihanna, as is customary in Domestic Violence cases. But the objection came from Rihanna, who asked the judge not to prohibit such contact while he faces these felony charges.

The judge granted her request, but ordered that Brown not abuse or intimidate her in the meantime. According to her attorney, that was “more than sufficient”.

Whatever that means…!

A sworn statement of an officer in the case indicates that the incident arose after Rihanna discovered texts on Brown’s cell phone “from a woman who Brown had a previous sexual relationship with.” The argument then escalated as detailed literally in horrifying blow-by-blow detail which can be found on the CNN site as indicated. The horrific account notably includes claims of punches, biting, head locks, choking, a thrown cell phone, and eye gouges.

In news that may have been a surprise to some, later reports have pointed at a possible reconciliation between the two. In the meantime, Rihanna has come under fire from fans regarding her willingness to forgive Brown’s attack.

Despite previous plans to perform together, Rihanna is said to be “too ashamed” to appear in public with Brown, fearing a backlash from fans over her decision to stay with him after he allegedly assaulted her.

A friend of Rihanna’s told Britain’s Star magazine: “Rihanna is worried about the response she’ll receive when people see her out and about holding hands with Chris.

“She still loves Chris very much and, although she’s forgiven him privately, she’s not prepared for the backlash from her fans.”

Rihanna apparently plans to not comment on the situation in hopes of shifting focus from the incident back to her music career. We may have to wait to see what she does next at the upcoming formal arraignment.

Fans’ outrage aside, the prosecution finds itself in a difficult, yet not-uncommon position surrounding domestic violence victims who end up getting back together with the alleged perpetrators. There are many explanations for this, but the most common is the Battered Spouse Syndrome where abuse victims will call the police or leave the relationship, only to, after the fear, anger or resentment begins to subside, feel guilt, shame, anxiety, and return.

Such cases are indeed tragic.

However, they are often found with a repeated abuse history. There are no such reports in this case.

Samuel’s take:

What is different about this story is the celebrity status of the participants, including the input of the fans. Unfortunately, these types of crimes happen all the time to regular people.

All eyes are on the cliffhanger question: will Rihanna cooperate with the prosecution?

The fact is that it may not matter if she wants to or not…she will.

In Massachusetts, this type of situation is far from uncommon. Whether it be because of what we know as “Battered Spouse Syndrome”, an honest-to-goodness change of heart or even the regret of filing of false charges, the Commonwealth does not simply drop these charges based on the complainant’s change of heart.

One difference occurs when the defendant and complainant are legally married. In such a situation, a spouse cannot be forced to testify against the other spouse. However, this does not always put the matter to rest. Sometimes the Commonwealth can proceed in the prosecution by showing evidence of the original statement the complainant made by demonstrating an exception to the rules against Hearsay known as an “Excited Utterance”. Then, if there is independent evidence of injuries or prior statements of the defendant or other witnesses, the Commonwealth will proceed without the spouse’s testimony.

In instances like Brown’s, where the two are not married, the only legal way she can refuse to testify is by claiming a Fifth Amendment privilege claiming that she might incriminate herself. However, this has to be accepted by the court and there usually has to be a showing to convince the judge that the claim of priviledge has merit. Or, the government can offer complete immunity from prosecution about whatever comes out.

So, the bottom line is that this prosecution may well continue regardless of whether the pair reconcile or Rihanna wants to walk away from the complaint.

Of course, another option is that the complainant take the stand and deny her prior statements. In such a case, the Commonwealth will have to impeach her credibility or even threaten her with charges of perjury.

The message here? Regardless of how assured you feel that a complainant who either has reason to seek a complaint or has threatened to seek such a criminal complaint against you, you must take it seriously. Immediately consult an experienced attorney to protect yourself.

Yesterday, the blog gods were celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day (except those who dwell in Suffolk County, who celebrated Evacuation Day). As a result of that, and the related posting problems, the daily Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog did not appear. Sorry about that. Hope you had a good one, though!

The full articles of this story can be found at http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/03/05/chris.brown.charged/index.html?iref=mpstoryview and http://www.411mania.com/music/news/99594/Rihanna-%5C%5CAshamed%5C%5C-To-Be-Seen-With-Chris-Brown.htm

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