Chris Brown Pleads Guilty

UPDATED 07/06/2009 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/06/2009 at 01:00 AM EDT

Chris Brown

Chris Brown

Rihanna

Rihanna

More than four months after his arrest for battering Rihanna during a late-night argument in a car, Chris Brown, 20, took responsibility for his actions. On June 22, the same day Rihanna, 21, was set to testify, Brown struck a deal, pleading guilty to felony assault with no jail time. His sentencing, slated for Aug. 5, will include 180 days of community labor (e.g., picking up trash) in his native Virginia, a year of domestic abuse classes and five years probation. For now he must stay 50 yards away from Rihanna (at industry events, he can't be closer than 10 yards) and have no contact with her. (The judge may ease this constraint on Aug. 5 so that the two can be around each other should they choose to be.) "Rihanna feels this is a fair and just resolution," her attorney Donald Etra later said, while Brown's lawyer Mark Geragos said his client wants "to get his life [and] career back on track."

So why did Brown cop a plea now? Perhaps to spare his on-and-off girlfriend the stress of testifying. But L.A. criminal defense attorney Jeffery Rubenstein, who isn't involved with the case, has another theory: "When he saw she was fully ready to testify, he caved in." Brown's guilty plea permanently taints his image. "It's a tragedy to his reputation and reduces his legitimacy [as an artist]," says a music insider. "This will haunt him."

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