A Not-So-Short History of Chris Brown’s Legal Issues
The recent rape allegations likely won't get in the way of his success, at least if history is any indication
When Chris Brown released his first album in 2005, people were floored by the then 16-year-old’s talent. He belted out the bops, and his dance moves drew comparisons to Michael Jackson. Then, when he took his relationship with Rihanna public in 2007, it was like an R&B fairytale come to life.
But that all came crashing down in 2009 when he assaulted Rihanna, the first in a steady string of charges that have spanned the past decade, right up to today, when Brown was detained in Paris—alongside two other unnamed individuals—over allegations of sexual assault.
And although none of his albums have matched the success of his self-titled debut, Brown has still had a pretty stellar career, both with music and acting. He has the support of fellow artists and producers even after, time and time again, he proves that he’s a troubled, violent person with a massive temper who has repeatedly assaulted women, and some men.
Here, we chart how Brown’s infractions have been peppered with success, and how he’s managed to maintain a much better social standing than he deserves.
February 2009: Rihanna is hospitalized after an argument with then-boyfriend, Brown, turned physical. Shocking photos of her puffy and bruised faced circulate on the internet; Brown turns himself in to the LAPD, and is arrested. He is supposed to appear at the 2009 GRAMMYs later this month, but he backs out.
June 2009: After being charged in March, he pleads guilty to felony assault.
August 2009: Brown gets five years’ probation, 180 days of community service, and has to attend an anti-violence program for a year. Rihanna gets a restraining order against him.
September 2009: Brown drops “I Can Transform Ya,” the first single off his new album, Graffiti. Although a lot of radio stations pull his songs following his sentencing, it still becomes his eighth top-20 hit on the Billboard charts.
December 2009: Graffiti is released. It becomes Brown’s lowest-selling album, and critics give it negative reviews, but it debuts at number seven on the Billboard charts, and is the week’s second highest-selling debut.
June 2010: Brown pulls off an intense tribute to Michael Jackson at the BET Awards, where he chokes up while singing “Man in the Mirror.” People see it as a heartfelt apology for his assault of Rihanna, and it marks a huge turning point on his quest for forgiveness.
March 2011: After an interview with Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, Brown apparently breaks a window his dressing room, seemingly agitated by a question about the 2009 assault.
June 2011: Brown wins five BET Awards for his fourth studio album, F.A.M.E., which also earns him a number-one spot on the Billboard charts. Tyga, T-Pain and Kelly Rowland all join him on the album tour.
February 2012: Brown makes his first GRAMMYs performance since the 2009 assault, and he takes home the award for Best R&B Album.
Also in February 2012, Brown is accused of stealing a phone from a fan who snapped a photo of him, but he is never charged with any crime.
April 2012: Brown is cast alongside Taraji P. Henson, Gabrielle Union and Kevin Hart in the romantic comedy, Think Like A Man.
June 2012: Brown gets into a fight with Drake at a club in New York, allegedly over Rihanna, but no charges are laid and he and Drake eventually reconcile.
July 2012: His fifth album, Fortune, debuts at number-one on the Billboard charts, and includes appearances from Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean and Nas.
October 2012: Brown violates Rihanna’s restraining order and shows up at her Halloween party dressed as a terrorist.
January 2013: Reports surface that show Brown possibly lied about his community service—claiming hours when he was, in fact, outside the U.S. Later this month, he and Frank Ocean fight over a parking spot in West Hollywood. The police report shows that Brown punched and pushed Ocean. No charges are laid.
October 2013: Brown punches a man outside a hotel in Washington, D.C., and he is arrested for felony assault. (The man apparently tried to get in on a photo with the singer and two women, and after Brown said “I’m not into this gay shit, I’m into boxing,” he broke the man’s nose.) The charge was eventually brought down to a misdemeanour, and Brown checks himself into a rehab facility while waiting for his sentence.
November 2013: Brown is kicked out of the aforementioned rehab facility for throwing a rock through his mother’s car window following a family therapy session. Soon after, his sentence comes through: 90 days at a rehab specializing in anger management.
March 2014: Brown gets kicked out of another rehab facility, and is taken into custody for not completing a drug test and for touching a fellow patient. He is then sentenced to 131 days in jail for violating his probation.
October 2014: Brown’s sixth album, X, peaks at number two on the Billboard charts, and includes collaborations with Nicki Minaj, Ludacris and Usher.
November 2015: As a prelude to his next album, Brown releases a mixtape called Before the Party, featuring a bunch of high-profile producers and artists, including Rihanna.
December 2015: Brown drops his seventh album, Royalty, named after his daughter, who is also pictured on the cover. (Her mother is Nia Amey, Brown’s ex-girlfriend.) It debuts at number three on the Billboard charts, and is the second best-selling album the week of its release.
January 2016: Las Vegas police investigate Brown after a woman alleges that he stole her phone and then hit her in the face during a party. Brown’s reps deny the woman’s claims; he eventually pays a financial settlement to the woman in a civil suit.
August 2016: After a standoff with the police that lasts a full day, Brown is arrested under suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon after allegedly pointing a gun at a woman’s face.
February 2017: Brown’s former girlfriend Karrueche Tran files a restraining order against him after he allegedly threatened to kill her several times. Tran also says that he punched her in the stomach, pushed her down the stairs, and threatened her friends and family. The five-year restraining order is granted later that year.
April 2017: According to police, Brown allegedly sucker punches a photographer in Florida during a performance. He is eventually arrested for felony battery related to this incident in July 2018, and released on a $2,000 bond.
June 2017: Brown releases a documentary, Chris Brown: Welcome to My Life, about his fame—and the trouble he’s landed in since it began. In the doc, several celebrities, including DJ Khaled and Mary J. Blige, defend him, and Brown insists that his time in the spotlight isn’t over yet.
August 2017: Brown gets a gig on Black-ish, playing… a troubled rapper. Following criticism for that casting, the show’s creator Kenya Barris defended the choice, saying “It had been 10 years since the Rihanna incident, which happened when he was a kid, basically, 19 years old.” She did say the show was unaware of Tran’s restraining order at the time, though.
November 2017: Heartbreak On A Full Moon, Brown’s eighth album, hits number three on the Billboard charts.
March 2018: Brown appears in Lil Dicky’s video, “Freaky Friday,” alongside Kendall Jenner and Ed Sheeran. Both Jenner and Sheeran were criticized for associating with Brown.
June 2018: A woman is granted a temporary restraining order against Brown for allegedly harassing and stalking her. Brown’s reps responded to these claims, saying that he doesn’t know the woman.
May 2018: Brown, rapper Young Lo (Lowell Grissom Jr.) and an unnamed woman are included in a lawsuit filed on behalf of a woman accusing them of a whole host of things, including sexual battery, assault and interference with civil rights. All of these incidents allegedly took place at a party at Brown’s home in L.A.
October 2018: Drake calls Brown “one of the most talented human beings on the planet” during a concert in Los Angeles, and brings him onstage so the pair can perform Brown’s 2017 hit “Party.”
January 2019: Brown and two other people are arrested in Paris after a woman filed a rape complaint against them. He remains in custody while a French judge investigates the allegations, though an Instagram post to his account noted that the allegations were “false and a whole lot of cap [sic].” He is later released without charge, and his lawyer says he will be suing for defamation.
Prior to the rape allegations, Brown’s year was off to a relatively good start. His single, “Undecided,” became his 91st Billboard chart entry, which means he is now tied for the second most chart entries in history with James Brown (and just behind Elvis Presley). He also just cut a new deal with RCA Records.
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