Chris Brown was formally sentenced for the altercation he was involved in with [artist id="1940303"]Rihanna[/artist] earlier this year, and although much of what occurred on Tuesday was simply putting a stamp on an agreement reached back in June, one thing that stood out was the protective order issued against the "Forever" singer was not lifted.
Judge Patricia Schnegg told [artist id="1961441"]Brown[/artist] he could not have any contact with his former girlfriend for the next five years. And changing that decision is more complicated than it might seem, especially following the fresh discovery of court documents that seem to suggest the couple had been involved in a pair of domestic-violence incidents well before February's altercation.
During Brown's last hearing, when he reached a plea deal in the case, Rihanna's attorney, Donald Etra, informed reporters afterward that his client didn't feel the order, known as a "stay away," was necessary. Rihanna had been granted a protective order in the past against Brown in the aftermath of their altercation, but that order was not as intense as the guidelines of the much stricter protective order mandated by Schnegg.
Etra reiterated Tuesday that the protective order was not under his control, as it was a decision made by the court. "Rihanna was advised of the plea agreement before it was entered by Mr. Brown — she did not object at that time. The stay-away order was imposed by the court," he said.
Under the conditions of the order, Brown must stay at least 100 yards from Rihanna and not threaten, harass or in any other way make her life uncomfortable. Should the former couple appear at the same event due to their careers, the distance kept between the two will be reduced to 10 yards. Etra said his client was advised what she must do if she chose to modify the arrangement.
"At the [last] hearing, the court stated that Rihanna could modify the set plan," he explained. "Rihanna knows what her legal options are if she wants to see a modification of the order. Once again, the court did explain to her when she was present in court in June."
But now, new evidence has emerged that seems to indicate February's incident wasn't the couple's first. In court papers obtained by various news tabloids, it appears Brown and Rihanna had a "verbal dispute" while in Europe last year, and she slapped him. Brown allegedly responded by shoving her into a wall. The papers also reveal that, just three weeks before Brown's arrest, the former couple were in Rihanna's native Barbados and got into an argument while driving. Brown got out and broke both the driver's and front passenger-side windows, according to reports. No one was injured and local authorities were not notified.
According to legal expert Peter T. Haven, a modification of the order might not be that easy. He was present in the courtroom at the time Brown's plea deal was announced and said Schnegg was adamant about the stay-away order. He suggested the judge likely wanted to protect the singer just as much as the victim by issuing the protective order.
"She was kind of tough-minded at the last hearing. ... She wanted [Brown] to do labor service, not community service," he explained. "And she made a point of saying she wasn't gonna lift that stay-away order — she wasn't even gonna consider lifting it until after he started to get some counseling. She was very adamant about that. She made a point about that. And when the victim stepped forward and said, 'I don't really need this order, I'm comfortable with just a do-not-harass order,' the judge basically said, 'No, you really need to understand — I really need this in place.' And a judge with [Schnegg's] experience may have lots of reasons for doing that. She may see people fall back into trouble or get themselves in compromising situations or difficulties that she doesn't want to happen."
As it stands now, Brown would not be able to have any contact with Rihanna until August 25, 2014. The judge warned Brown that she has heard chatter about the two reuniting at different points. That remark is something that should be taken very seriously, Haven insisted.
"That's something that really irks a judge," he said. "A judge's order is a judge's order. They don't like their orders messed with or disregarded. No judge would like the concept of their orders being undermined by anyone."
The protective order may be revisited over the course of the next year, when Brown visits the judge as he's required to do every three months. But Haven advised that if either Brown's camp or Rihanna's camp attempt to make a motion against the order, the judge may be wary regarding the reasons. The issue, he said, is more a matter of what Schnegg feels is best as opposed to the wishes of the former couple.
"The judge is basically the keeper of her own orders," he said. "She gets to decide when to lift them, when to modify them, when to not modify them."