By DeWayne Wickham
This was supposed to be a column about the rehabilitation of Chris Brown, the once wildly popular R&B singer who suffered a big fall from grace in 2009 when he plead guilty to felony assault in the beating of his then-girlfriend, pop singer Rihanna.
When the story of his brutal act surfaced, I joined the chorus of commentators who trashed Brown and warned Rihanna not to give him a second chance at love. But I’ve always believed that lawbreakers who are not imprisoned for life should – if they demonstrate contrition – be given a chance to get back on the right track.
And that’s just what I thought Brown had earned late last month when he successfully completed a year-long domestic violence course mandated by the court. That good news capped more than a year of encouraging reports about the progress he has been making from the judge who is handling Brown’s case.
In February, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg complimented Brown for his diligence in complying with the terms of the plea bargain agreement that kept him out of jail. In addition to the domestic violence counseloring, Brown was ordered to perform six months community service in his home state of Virginia.
“It looks like you’re doing really, really well. That’s always good to see,” Judge Schnegg said at the time.
Then in November the judge gushed praised for him after getting another good report from probation officials. “Out of thousands of probationers, no one has done a better or more consistent job than you have, and I really want to commend you for taking responsibility and for actually working diligently to complete all the things the court has required of you,” she told Brown.
That most recent praise for the 21-year-old Brown came five months after a series of concerts he was scheduled to perform in Europe was cancelled when he was denied a visa to enter the United Kingdom. That hardly seemed fair given the progress the talented performer had made in battling his dark side.
In fact, I though Brown had earned a chance to reboot his career, which has floundered since his beating of Rihanna. He appeared to be genuinely committed to making amends for his bad behavior – and really determined to prove he is no longer a crude brute.
Then he snapped on Twitter.
In a series of tweets on the social network, Brown proved to still have a hair-trigger temper when he lashed out Raz B after the former boy band singer tweeted that he couldn’t understand why Brown had been so disrespectful of Rihanna.
Brown responded with a homophobic term to describe the molestation Raz B claimed – and later retracted – he suffered while a teenage member of the R&B music group B2K.
Brown’s crass reference to anal sex in regard to the alleged assault was mean-spirited proof that while he passed the court’s domestic abuse class he needs to take an advanced anger management course – something he seemed to acknowledge a day after his Twitter war of words with Raz B.
"Yesterday was an unfortunate lack in judgment,” Brown told TMZ.com. "Words cannot begin to express how sorry and frustrated I am over what transpired publicly on Twitter. I have learned over the past few years to not condone or represent acts of violence against anyone."
In a 2009 video apology to Rihanna and his fans, Brown said he takes “great pride in me being able to exercise self-control.” But he didn’t two years ago during his physical encounter with Rihanna and he didn’t last month in his verbal clash with Raz B.
Brown’s rehabilitation is far from complete. He’s a talented – but greatly troubled – entertainer, who appears to be closer to teetering on the brink of self-destruction than exorcising his demons.
Those demons are what Brown must confront and defeat if he wants to get others to give him a second chance.