James Brown’s lawyer said the late singer and his partner weren’t legally married and that she was locked out of his South Carolina home for estate legal reasons.
“It’s not a reflection on her as an individual,” lawyer Buddy Dallas told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I have not even been in the house, nor will I until appropriate protocol is followed.”
Brown’s partner, Tomi Rae Hynie, was already married to a Texas man in 2001 when she married Brown, thus making her marriage to the “Godfather of Soul” null, Dallas said. He said Hynie later annulled the previous marriage, but she and Brown never remarried.
“I suppose it would mean she was, from time to time, a guest in Mr. Brown’s home,” Dallas said.
Brown, 73, died at an Atlanta hospital Monday. After his death, Hynie, 36, found the gates to the singer’s Beech Island, S.C., home padlocked and said she was denied access.
Hynie argued that she has a legal right to live in the home with the couple’s 5-year-old son. “This is my home,” she told a reporter outside the house. “I don’t have any money. I don’t have anywhere to go.”
In a phone interview with The Associated Press from an Augusta hotel Tuesday, Hynie said she had documentation to prove she was legally married to Brown.
Hynie said the couple had planned to renew their vows but not remarry. She indicated that while annulment papers relating to her previous marriage initially may not have been filed properly, a judge had told her she was legally married to Brown.
“I just want this resolved,” Hynie said.
Dallas said legal formalities needed to be followed, adding that Brown’s estate was left in trust for his children. He declined to elaborate on Brown’s final instructions.
“Ms. Hynie has a home a few blocks away from Mr. Brown’s home where she resides periodically when she is not with Mr. Brown,” Dallas said. “She is not without housing or home.”
Dallas said Brown and Hynie hadn’t seen each other for several weeks before his death.
Hynie said Brown had sent her to California for a few weeks to relax on the beach after a recent concert tour.
“I was taking antidepressants,” she said. “My job, marriage was difficult. So he sent me to the beach. He paid $24,000 for me to go.”
“He was a difficult man to live with, but he was a great man,” she said. “I was the only one who could handle James.”
Hynie said she believes Brown’s representatives were trying to discredit her so that his estate wouldn’t have to be shared with her. She acknowledged that the bulk of the estate was left to Brown’s children, but said Brown had told her she could live in his home with their child as long as she wanted.
“That was James Brown’s wishes,” Hynie said as she broke down in tears.
Hynie and Brown had a sometimes tumultuous relationship. Brown pleaded guilty in 2004 to a domestic violence charge stemming from an argument with Hynie and was let off with a $1,087 fine. He was accused of pushing Hynie to the floor at the home and threatening to kill her.
Brown is survived by at least four children.