Originally created 01/30/98

Brown may get jail time



AIKE -- Soul singer James Brown's criminal record makes it more likely that he'll serve another prison sentence if he's found guilty of two misdemeanor gun charges, authorities said Thursday.

However, a third charge for simple marijuana possession can be settled in Magistrate's Court for a fine of $425 or 30 days in jail. Under South Carolina law, Mr. Brown would also lose his driver's license for six months.

Sentencing guidelines and the existence of prior convictions are factors that a judge would consider in setting a sentence if Mr. Brown is found guilty, Solicitor Barbara Morgan said.

"Prior record always enhances that possibility," she said. "However, the facts and circumstances of each case would control."

The maximum sentence for the misdemeanor charge of unlawful use of a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is two years in prison.

Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminal justice at the University of South Carolina, agreed that Mr. Brown's criminal record could make a difference during sentencing.

"You wouldn't think that most people with his record would serve time, but that's not to say he wouldn't," Dr. Alpert said. "It's a sentencing issue."

Mr. Brown was released from a South Carolina prison in 1991 after serving two years for aggravated assault and failing to stop for a police officer. Tests later showed that Mr. Brown had used the hallucinogen PCP.

Sheriff's deputies found a small amount of marijuana and two rifles at Mr. Brown's Beech Island house Jan. 15 while they took him into custody on a probate judge's order as a "mental transport." He eventually was admitted to Charter Rivers Behavioral Health Systems in Columbia and stayed six nights.

Tuesday, the Aiken County Sheriff's Office charged Mr. Brown with two counts of unlawful use of a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance and simple possession of marijuana. Sources close to the investigation have said Mr. Brown tested positive for PCP.

The rifles, along with some spent shells, were in plain view while deputies served the probate papers on Mr. Brown, sheriff's Lt. Michael Frank said.

Under state law, Ms. Morgan said, Mr. Brown couldn't be charged with gun possession by a convicted felon because the weapons seized were rifles -- not handguns -- and because they were found at his residence. Those situations are exemptions in the law, she said.

"We have been in contact with ATF (U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) to see if they would be interested in applying federal charges," Ms. Morgan said.