Chris Brown stepped out of an elevator Monday afternoon with the stride and attire of a runway model. He wore a monochromatic ensemble -- tight black cardigan over a black shirt and tie. His hands were deep in the pockets of black trousers and he stared straight ahead, ignoring the stares of those he passed.
Only the expression of his mother, who trailed after him grim-faced, and the presence of an attorney, who stepped confidently at his side, suggested he was strolling toward a judge's bench.
Nearly two months after police found his girlfriend, the pop star Rihanna, bloodied and bruised on a Hancock Park street, Brown appeared in Los County Superior Court and pleaded not guilty to charges of felony assault and criminal threats. The 19-year-old spoke in a voice so low that many of the three dozen journalists who had waited an hour for the hearing to begin were unsure if he had even answered Judge Patricia Schnegg's inquiry.
The judge told lawyers to return to court April 29 to set a date for a preliminary hearing but said Brown does not have to attend. The entire proceeding took less than two minutes, surprising some members of Brown's entourage who filed into the courtroom as the arraignment was ending.