LOS ANGELES (CNN) — He looks so young. And he is. At 20, Chris Brown is not old enough to buy a beer without breaking the law. But he got himself into a world of legal trouble when he assaulted his then-girlfriend Rihanna in February.
“We have to be like 10 yards away from each other,” Brown softly tells CNN’s Larry King in an exclusive interview to air Wednesday night – his first television interview since his arrest.
Brown still loves Rihanna. He tells King he’s still in love with her. Even tougher for him is looking at the photo. You know the one—the image that might haunt, and define Brown forever. “When I look at it now, it’s just like, wow, like, I can’t — I can’t believe that — that actually happened.” He adds he does not remember performing the violent acts that have changed his life.
Yet Brown pleaded guilty to felony assault on June 22. The deal keeps him out of jail. A second felony charge, making criminal threats, was dropped. He was sentenced to five years probation and six months of community labor.
What does it mean? “It means he walks the straight and narrow for five years,” Brown’s attorney Mark Geragos tells King. “I’ve grown to love this kid like a son or a nephew. I have a high degree of confidence — I’ll say it now so that you can play it back if he ever does anything — but a high degree of confidence that he’s not going to do anything like this in the future.”
Brown agrees, saying “everything comes with consequences. They want me to pick up trash remove graffiti.” He calls the sentence fair. “I’m a hard worker. It’s something I’m willing to do.”
Why did it happen? How did it happen? They are questions Brown and his mother, Joyce Hawkins, have been asking. “Chris has never, ever been a violent person, ever,” Hawkins tells King.
She said her husband was abusive – and Brown knew it. “I used to be scared to go to bed,” the singer recalls. He’s not blaming that for the attack on Rihanna. Still he says, “nobody taught us how to love one another. Nobody taught us a book on how to — how to control our emotions or our anger.” He adds, “I wish I could have changed that night.”
Rihanna calls Brown’s mother “Mom”. The two have spoken and seen each other periodically since the incident. The court order that prevents her son from seeing Rihanna does not extend to Joyce. “(I) let her know that I was very, very baffled, what had happened, and apologized for my son, along with I’m so sorry what happened to you. And I didn’t know what — I didn’t know what else to say, and I gave her a hug, and she hugged me, as well.” Hawkins then cries.
“I just need to prove to people I can be a role model,” Brown says. “That’s not who I am as a person, and that’s not who I promise I want to be,” the singer laments. It’s been a couple of months since he saw Rihanna, and admits the separation has been “difficult.”
He’s sad when asked about her dating other men. “I definitely would be affected by it, but, at the end of the day, I mean, we’re not together, so, if she’s happy, I’m cool.” Would he be with her now if things had been different that night? Brown says only, “We’ll always be friends.”
And as much as Chris Brown wants to move on, he‘s left with this: “I made a mistake, and I — and it was just something I have to live up and own.”