Originally created 07/20/00

Officials question Brown



BEECH ISLAND - The Aiken County Sheriff's Office sent its second in command to James Brown's estate Wednesday to ask the soul singer about allegations he swung a knife at a utility worker.

There was no arrest, but officers said the investigation is not over.

Mr. Brown spent about two hours telling his side of the story to Maj. Jody Rowland and Investigator Gary Eastlake as the officers toured the Beech Island home, sheriff's spokesman Lt. Michael Frank said. Mr. Brown's attorney, Buddy Dallas of Augusta, also was present, as were the singer's business manager and another attorney.

Lt. Frank said Mr. Brown was "very cooperative."

"He answered all of our questions," the sheriff's spokesman said. "At this point, we did not make any arrests. We still have information to gather, and that's what the investigation is focusing on."

The lieutenant refused to disclose what Mr. Brown said during the interview.

South Carolina Electric & Gas employee Russell Eubanks said in a sheriff's report last week that the 67-year-old singer assaulted him July 3. He said the singer swung a knife at him and ordered him not to leave when he went to the Brown estate to check a power outage complaint.

Mr. Eubanks said Mr. Brown answered the door and accused him of trespassing and sneaking around the property.

Mr. Eubanks, who is white, told authorities that Mr. Brown twice used obscenities and racial slurs while threatening to lock him up. He said the singer claimed to be a "government agent."

SCE&G officials said they later realized there was no power outage and did not know who called in the "no lights" complaint to a Columbia office.

Mr. Eubanks' complaint was filed July 13, but sheriff's officials waited until Wednesday to interview the Godfather of Soul because he was performing overseas at a festival.

The last time police officers visited Mr. Brown's home, the singer was charged with illegal possession of weapons and drugs. In January 1998, he was arrested after marijuana and guns were found at the home, Lt. Frank said. The sheriff's office found the items when deputies took Mr. Brown into custody on a probate judge's order that he get mental treatment. He was involuntarily admitted to Charter Rivers Behavioral Health Systems in Columbia and stayed six nights.

Mr. Brown later was ordered to complete a 90-day drug treatment program to avoid a two-year prison sentence.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.