A judge said she had no other choice but to sentence football great Jim Brown to six months in jail Wednesday when he refused to attend domestic violence counseling for smashing his wife's car with a shovel during a fight last summer.
At a sometimes tense hearing in Hollywood Municipal Court, a lawyer for the 63-year-old NFL Hall of Famer and movie actor said Brown was refusing counseling, as well as other probation conditions, because the sentence was unconstitutional and dehumanizing. In response, Judge Dale S. Fischer ordered Brown to serve six months in Los Angeles County Jail--the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor conviction of vandalism.
"The fact that Mr. Brown is refusing to get help with anger and violence only indicates to me the necessity for significant punishment," Fischer said as she imposed the sentence.
Despite that order, however, Brown remained free without bail Wednesday. After announcing her decision, Fischer said the sentence would be postponed until a judge decided on Brown's appeal of his conviction.
After the hearing the prosecutor said it was more than likely that Brown would serve time in jail. "Oh yes, Mr. Brown will go. There's no other avenue for him to take," said Deputy City Atty. Grace Lee. "We're very confident he won't win the appeal."
During a September trial, Brown faced charges of threatening to break his wife's neck and attacking her car with a shovel after a domestic dispute. A jury eventually acquitted Brown on a charge of domestic threats, but found him guilty of vandalism.
At the initial sentencing, Fischer ordered Brown to perform 40 days of community service, to surrender his driver's license for a year, to pay $1,500 to a battered women's shelter and to attend a year's worth of domestic abuse counseling.
On Wednesday, Brown's lawyer said that sentence was unfair, because vandalism is not a domestic crime and should not carry punishments for domestic abuse. "Mr. Brown is rejecting the terms of probation on principle," said defense lawyer Frank Williams. "It requires him to submit to a process that is dehumanizing and requires him to surrender his dignity." Williams argued that the only victim in the case was the car and that it ceased being a victim after it was repaired.
The judge--whom Brown has accused of being a radical feminist biased against black men--said Brown and his attorney were underplaying the severity of the vandalism conviction. Fischer said it was clear to her and the jury that Brown smashed the vehicle as a result of a domestic dispute.
"I have not seen any other crime of vandalism that compares with this," she said. "Most cases of malicious mischief involve kids spraying paint on walls. This is a crime of extreme violence."
Fischer ordered Brown to surrender his driver's license by Jan. 14 for one year.
Brown's wife, Monique, 25, initially told police that her husband threatened to snap her neck during an argument and that he had assaulted her on prior occasions. At the trial however, she said she had lied to police because she was angry at Brown over what she thought was an affair he was involved in. In court Wednesday, she told the judge that she was not afraid of her husband.
In a brief news conference on the steps of the Hollywood courthouse, Brown repeated his claim that the judge, as well as much of the legal system, is biased against him and blacks in general.
"The system has been corrupted, and it needs to be changed," he said.
This case is not the first in which Brown has been accused of mistreating woman, although it is the first in which he has been convicted. Brown has faced four charges of assault or battery against women in cases dating back to 1968. In each instance, charges were dropped when the alleged victims provided inconsistent stories, refused to cooperate or said the incident was an accident.