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Photos: Chris Brown

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  1. Two stars for one

    R&B singer Chris Brown poses in the media room at the BET Awards 2011 held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on June 26, 2011. (Jason Merritt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A start in street art

    Brown visits Art in the Streets the first major U.S. museum survey of graffiti and street art at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Los Angeles on May 26, 2011. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Smiles in court

    Brown appears in court with his attorney Mark Geragos for a probation progress report hearing in Los Angeles on Jan. 28, 2011. Brown pleaded guilty to assaulting his then-girlfriend, singer Rihanna, after a pre-Grammy Awards party in 2009. He was given a sentence of five years probation and ordered to complete 180 days of community labor and a year of domestic violence counseling. (David Mcnew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. His idol

    Brown peforms a Michael Jackson tribute at the BET Awards in Los Angeles on June 27, 2010. (Matt Sayles / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. On the big screen

    Brown arrives at the premiere of the film "Takers" at Arclight Cinema Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, Calif., on Aug. 4, 2010. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. For the record ...

    Larry King, left, speaks with Brown as his mother Joyce Hawkins, center, wipes her eye during an interview Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009, on the "Larry King Live" show in Los Angeles, his first public interview since his arrest in February for assaulting Rihanna. (Peter "Hopper" Stone / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Receiving his sentence

    Brown stands next to Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies during his sentencing hearing on Aug. 5 in Los Angeles. The singer received 5 years probation and 180 days of community labor, as the result of a plea deal, after he was charged with two felonies for assault on Rihanna. (Rick Loomis / Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Remembering Michael

    Chris Brown attends the Michael Jackson public memorial service at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 7, 2009. (Kevin Mazur / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Avoiding jail

    Brown heads into court in Los Angeles for a preliminary hearing on Monday, June 22, 2009. Moments before the hearing was set to begin, an announcement was made that a plea deal had been reached in the singer's felony assault case. (Mario Anzuoni / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Magic moment

    On the same night as Rihanna, Brown attends the NBA Finals matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic on Thursday, June 11, 2009, at Amway Arena in Orlando, Fla. (Elsa / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Not guilty plea

    Brown, right, stands next to his attorney as he appears for his arraignment on two felony charges in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, April 6, 2009. The R&B singer plead not guilty to charges stemming from an attack on Rihanna. (Damian Dovarganes / Pool via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Happier times

    Brown and Rihanna perform during the Z100 Jingle Ball in New York on Dec. 13, 2008. Brown, 19, one of the fastest rising stars of the last two years, was freed on $50,000 bail after being arrested in Los Angeles for allegedly assaulting Rihanna, whose rise to fame equals his. The incident occurred in Brown's car early Feb. 9, several hours before the two were to appear at the Grammy Awards. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. The voice

    Brown performs during a concert in Amsterdam on Jan. 16. Brown rose to fame as a sweet-faced, 16-year-old with an engaging voice and amazing dance skills with the 2005 smash hit "Run It!" (Marcel Antonisse / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Year's best

    Brown accepts the artist of the year award at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008. (Matt Sayles / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Full of promise

    Brown performs during the Z100 Jingle Ball in New York on Dec. 12, 2008. The singer has been featured in movies such as dance flick "Stomp the Yard," had top-selling tours and a string of hits, including "Forever" and "No Air" with Jordin Sparks, for which he was nominated for a Grammy in 2009. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Crowd appeal

    The audience reaches out to touch Brown during an appearance on the TODAY show in New York's Rockefeller Center. (Richard Drew / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Moonman

    Brown poses backstage with his award for best male video at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards held at Paramount Pictures Studio Lot on Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008, in Los Angeles. (Chris Pizzello / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Orange crushed

    Brown arrives at the 21st Annual Kids' Choice Awards in Los Angeles, on Saturday, March 29, 2008. There was immediate fallout from Brown's arrest Feb. 9, 2009, with Wrigley stopping all ad and marketing campaigns tied to Brown, who had been their Doublemint gum pitchman. (Chris Pizzello / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The moves

    Brown performs on the TODAY show in New York's Rockefeller Center on Friday, June 6, 2008. (Richard Drew / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. What next?

    Brown performs on TODAY on Aug. 31, 2007. At the times of his arrest, Brown was near the end of promoting his platinum-selling "Exclusive" CD and was concentrating on filming movies. (Brendan Mcdermid / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Before the fall

    Rihanna and Brown are seen at the MTV Movie Awards on Sunday, June 1, 2008, in Los Angeles. (Matt Sayles / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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msnbc.com contributor
updated 6/22/2009 9:34:37 AM ET 2009-06-22T13:34:37

On Monday, Chris Brown’s lawyer struck a plea deal in his assault case. Brown pleaded guilty to felony assault and received a sentence of five years of supervised probation and six months of community labor.

But that is only one area of concern for Brown.

Robert Rosen, a photographer who tried to snap a photo of Brown while the R&B star played basketball at a health club, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming he was roughed up by one of Brown’s bodyguards. Said Brown’s attorney Mark Geragos at the time:

“This is a specious and frivolous lawsuit by one of the paparazzi seeking publicity and a payday. He’s done this before and lost. We will vigorously defend against this.”

Whether the photographer’s lawsuit has merit or not will be sorted out in court. But the timing is interesting. The incident with Brown and Rihanna took place on Feb. 8. The one with Rosen happened on March 13. That’s less than five weeks from one legal difficulty to another.

Obviously, that pace has not continued. Brown hasn’t been slapped with one lawsuit every five weeks or so. Yet the suit serves as a warning to Brown — and to anyone else in a similar predicament — of what may be to come as he tries to rehabilitate his image.

“He’s gained notoriety now,” said Glenn Gamboa, music critic for Newsday. “Like Kanye West at LAX, if you’re a big star whose photos can bring a lot of money to the paparazzi, they’re going to antagonize you anyway they can. He’ll just have to expect that.

“The antagonism will get extra ugly as the trial proceeds.”

In the case of hip-hop megastar Kanye West, he was charged earlier this year with misdemeanor battery, grand theft and vandalism in connection with the destruction of a photographer’s camera while at Los Angeles International Airport last September. West’s road manager, Don Crawley, was also charged in the incident.

But while West had not been charged before in any such incident, he developed a reputation for being hot-tempered. He blasted President George W. Bush in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and also complained in an expletive-filled rant after he failed to win anything at the MTV Europe Music Awards.

Sold as ‘the antithesis of R Kelly’
Brown, by contrast, had achieved the best of both worlds in music: He had a clean-cut image, yet was also respected by edgier factions of the business for his talent.

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Slideshow: Celebrity Sightings “His handlers and the people around him did a very good job in his career of walking that fine line with him,” noted Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of African and African-American studies at Duke University and the author of “New Black Man.”

“Clearly,” he added, “they sold him as a mainstream pop artist, the antithesis of R Kelly. But they also knew he had to have street cred to cross over in a significant way.”

But Neal said after the Rihanna incident, he may have stepped over the line into bad-boy hip-hop territory, and he will now have to accept the negative consequences of being hounded by outsiders.

“It will happen more so than it did before the incident,” Neal said, referring to potential paparazzi and fan confrontations. “That’s just the reality of the new notoriety he has.”

Neal feels that one of the best tactics Brown can do for himself now is step out of the public spotlight. “He needs to disappear,” Neal said. “That’s one of the things I give R Kelly credit for. He disappeared. You didn’t see R Kelly at a club.

“For Chris Brown, that’s part of the recovery process. He has to take the right kind of movie roles, recording jobs, focus on his talent, but he has to also better manage his personal life. The less people who have access to his personal life, the more he’ll advance in his professional career.”

‘They’re waiting for him to mess up’
Brown hasn’t exactly gone completely incognito, however. In March, Brown caused a stir after some photos of the singer were taken while he was jet-skiing in Miami. He flexed his biceps and smiled. Since those photos emerged so closely after the incident with Rihanna, it created the perception in some that he didn’t take his legal problems seriously enough.

Christine Acham is an assistant professor of African and African-American studies at the University of California-Davis. She said the topic of Brown has created some heated debates in her classroom.

“If he is trying to recuperate his image, he has to understand that TMZ and other outlets will be following him with incredible intensity,” she said. “The shots of him in Miami on the jet skis show that there is intense focus. They want him to trip up. They want him to seem cavalier about it all, like on the jet skis. They want to confront his bodyguards.

“They’re waiting for him to mess up.”

And that’s where his management comes in. “To keep up the Chris Brown persona,” Acham said, “they’re really going to have to think ahead and ask, ‘Do you want the paparazzi to follow you around while you’re on jet skis, or do you want to make a serious statement about your life?’”

‘At the end of the day, he’s a brand’
These are questions that Devyne Stephens addresses on a regular basis. Stephens is the founder and CEO of UpFront Megatainment, an Atlanta-based firm that manages artists, including the Grammy-nominated R&B singer-songwriter Akon. Part of Stephens’ responsibilities, he explained, is to counsel young artists and direct them along the proper path.

“He’s in the public eye. He’s a superstar,” Stephens said of Brown. “He’s a product. At the end of the day, he’s a brand. He always has to represent himself in the proper manner. He’s definitely a role model.

“He’s also young and really doesn’t have the experience to deal with adversity. It’s probably hard enough to deal with success at that age. He definitely has to be careful.”

Stephens said he would remind Brown to “stay grounded” and to be “thankful for the many blessings.”

“He has to focus on rebuilding himself,” Stephens said. “He has to understand that he’s Chris Brown 24/7, and his personal life and business life now become one, based on his success.

“He has to understand that and stick to the business of making records and remember that he’s a role model and people look up to him. As simple and as clichéd as that is, he’ll get it from that point.”

And just a footnote: Rihanna was recently sued by her Los Angeles neighbor because he claims she parks her cars on his property, and he also claims a security camera installed in her home points onto his property. So Brown is not the only half of a celebrity pair serving as a magnet.

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