August 25th, 2009
07:01 PM ET
60. 52. 6. And zero.
Those were the details of Chris Brown's sentencing Tuesday – and the smallest number may be the most important.
Under the terms of his plea deal for assaulting Rihanna back in February, the 20-year-old R&B star will be on felony probation for 60 months. He'll have to complete a 52-week domestic violence counseling program, and perform six months of "community labor" - L.A. Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg was clear that she wanted Brown to work. And Judge Schnegg continued the protective order preventing Brown from contacting or approaching Rihanna in any way.
The judge seemed to take special care to ensure Brown understood that last point, reading the language of the order out loud, and then addressing Brown directly. She noted that while she didn't rule by hearsay, she wasn't "immune to the chatter" that Brown and Rihanna had been seen together since the order was first imposed. She spelled it out: violating the protective order would be a violation of Brown's probation. That means no contact of any kind, staying at least 10 yards away at "industry events" such as award shows, and at least 100 yards away the rest of the time.
I've only met Brown once, nearly two years ago, at the press junket for the movie "This Christmas." My impression of him was of a talented kid: enthusiastic about music and basketball, a little more polite than your average teenager, and enjoying his celebrity status. I don't know how much he's changed in the last two years, or how much he'll change in the next five, over the course of his probation. But I hope he finds a way to become the role model that so many people seem to want or expect him to be - to convince both his fans and those who rightfully blasted him for his criminal behavior that he's a changed man, that he learned the worst possible way what a real man does and doesn't do. Being a cautionary tale isn't comfortable, but it may be the best thing that could come out of all this.
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