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Did Chris Brown's sentence fit the crime? Let the debate begin.

June 23, 2009 | 10:42 am


There has been some hand-wringing over a judge's decision to sentence singer Chris Brown to six months of "community labor" -- but no time behind bars -- after he pleaded guilty to felony assault on ex-girlfriend Rihanna.

But was the sentence too lenient? Several legal experts said the sentence appears to be in line with what other first-time offenders who plead guilty to the same crime would receive.

Dmitry Gorin, a former deputy district attorney who handled domestic violence cases, said the plea bargain “was not unreasonable.” 

“We have a first time offender here and he is getting 180 days' hard labor and five years' probation. That is not a light sentence for someone who's not been convicted before,” Gorin, adding he has negotiated similar pleas.

He said one must keep in mind that if Brown were to serve time in the L.A. County Jail,  he would serve only a fraction of his sentence because of jail overcrowding.

“I have had clients want to do the jail time when they know the jails are overcrowded and then won’t serve anything like the sentence,” he said. 

Stan Goldman, a Loyola Law School professor, said he believes Brown's defense team walked away with a good deal for their client. He said he has typically seen such defendants given a choice of 30 days in jail or 90 days with Caltrans cleaning up the freeway. 

In 1988, Christian Slater was sentenced to 90 days for beating his girlfriend and fighting with police, who responded to a brawl at a Wilshire Boulevard condominium in August 2007. He pleaded no contest to battering a female companion and a police officer and being under the influence of a controlled substance. 

A judge declined to allow him to serve the time in a treatment facility. Slater instead did the time in a La Verne police jail. There he worked as a janitor and did other manual help.

Similarly "24" star Kiefer Sutherland pleaded no contest to a single DUI count last year and was sentenced to 48 days in jail for that offense and violating the probation terms of his 2004 DUI conviction. He served his time in Glendale Police Department jail and did janitorial work.

Paris Hilton was famously sentenced to 45 days in jail for violation of the terms of her probation by driving on a suspended license. She ended up serving 23 days despite the sheriff releasing her at one point. Upon learning of the release the judge ordered a tearful Hilton back to jail.

In the Brown case, Sandi Gibbons, a district attorney’s spokeswoman, said the plea bargain is not special treatment and is what a first time offender in such cases can receive. 

She said Brown will also be on probation five years and will have to attend anger management classes. She added that Rihanna approved of the plea. 

-- Richard Winton

Photos: Times file photos of Slater, Hilton, Brown