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Outside the Criminal Courts, a Familiar Circus

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, March 05, 2009, at 07:34PM
Criminal Courts Media Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Still and video shooters set up on the north side of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center waiting for Chris Brown to appear for his arraignment.



Dozens of media and paparazzi descended on the entrances to the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center this afternoon, hoping to get a shot of hip hop artist Chris Brown as he appeared for his first hearing on charges that he assaulted girlfriend Rihanna the night before the Grammy Awards.

Still and video photographers spent hours camped outside the courthouse, only to be left with few shots as Brown was whisked under the building in a black Escalade. The media circus was nothing new to the building, site of OJ Simpson's famous trial and Phil Spector's ongoing murder retrial.

Brown's arraignment was originally scheduled for 3:30pm. By 1:30pm, a couple dozen photographers and a live video stream by TMZ were staked out at the building's southern entrance, a long ramp winding up from the parking lot below.

As they do so often, the media were there simply to wait. In the meantime, things occasionally got testy. An AP photographer sparred with TMZ over the latter's live audio stream. Photographers occupied their time by periodically holding an empty pizza box in front of the celebrity-hunting site's lens.

Outlets with multiple cameras on scene helped their odds by positioning shooters on the building's Temple street entrance or on a pair of Spring street driveways. Rumors spread that the arraignment had been pushed back (true, it was rescheduled for 4pm), or that Brown was at his lawyer's office nearby and headed over.

Two or three times after 3pm, dark SUVs pulling up outside the building on Temple street caused false alarms as cameras rushed over only to find out the vehicle's occupants had nothing to do with the case.

Soon after 3:20, shooters from Temple street rushed across the courthouse lobby -- at least as fast as they could without breaking courthouse rules against running -- on word that a black Escalade carrying Brown was pulling into the parking lot on the south side of the building.

Cameras surrounded the vehicle as it pulled into a space next to the ramp leading into the building. Brown's bodyguard cleared a path for the Escalade's occupants, who were soon in the middle of a sea of people looking for a shot of Brown.

It wasn't until after the party had entered the lobby that word began bubbling around that Brown wasn't inside. It later turned out that he had been brought into the building via a ramp reserved for judges.

Even as Brown's bodyguard led the Brown-less party into the courthouse, Phil Spector emerged from an exit just 30 feet away. Only a few cameras took the time to capture the music producer, accused of murdering actress Lana Clarkson in 2003.

Inside the building, Brown's arraignment was postponed until April 6 on the request of his lawyer. The singer exited the building through the same subterranean exit, driving away in a vehicle with deeply tinted windows just minutes after 4pm.

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