Mel B, the “America’s Got Talent” judge once known as Scary Spice, has been awarded a temporary restraining order against her estranged husband, Stephen Belafonte, but only after publicly alleging a dark history of domestic violence she says went on during their nearly 10-year marriage.
The former Spice Girl, whose real name is Melanie Brown, filed for divorce from Belafonte, whose real name is Stephen Stansbury, on March 23.
In her explosive restraining-order request, which was filed Monday and obtained by The Times, Brown said she didn’t know her ex’s legal name until after they were married, as he’d held himself out as the son of entertainer Harry Belafonte, which he is not. His criminal record, detailed in the filing, includes a 2003 conviction for domestic violence against the mother of his first child.
A judge granted the temporary restraining order the day Brown filed for it. Belafonte is required to stay 100 yards away from Brown and the kids, including the 5-year-old daughter they share. He’s also prevented, among other things, from contacting or threatening her in any way.
“I’m shocked at these allegations … ,” Belafonte told TMZ on Tuesday. “I think someone’s trying to set me up to look like a bad guy.”
In a case like Brown’s, “the goal is to get protection obviously,” family law attorney Peter Walzer, who doesn’t represent either party, told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. However, he added, “these domestic violence restraining orders are extremely powerful in family law — can be a factor in setting spousal support, especially if he’s a dependent spouse, and also is a factor in custody awards.”
As a dependent spouse, he said, Belafonte would be looking at spousal support in the neighborhood of 25% of Brown’s net income. Allegations of domestic violence could change all that.
At this point criminal charges are unlikely, Walzer said. “In this case, the police were never called,” he said. “The police are not going to read the tabloids and then bring a prosecution for something that happened many years ago, probably in a foreign country.”
Brown’s divorce filing may have been prompted by the death of her father. In her restraining order request, she accuses Belafonte of hiding her passport so she nearly missed getting to see him before he died March 4 in Britain.
Monday’s petition has plenty of shocking allegations — which at this point remain unproven. Brown told the court that Belafonte allegedly:Choked her in a rage in 2007, which she labels the first incidence of physical violence between them. Punched her in the face in Australia after accusing her of flirting with fellow “X Factor” judge Usher while she was working on the Aussie version of the show. Punched her in the face with a closed fist in Prague when they got into a fight while traveling after the Spice Girls performed at the London Olympics. Forced her to lie about injuries from those incidents after the marks were seen publicly. She told colleagues that her split and swollen lip in Australia was because of an allergic reaction to shellfish and tweeted that she’d hurt her face in Prague after falling while running in high heels. Enlisted her in threesomes with “random women” and made sex tapes without her permission, then threatened to release the recordings to destroy her career. Employed a nanny whom he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, had an affair with and eventually impregnated. Suggested that the nanny have the child so they could all live together as a family. (The nanny ultimately had an abortion, the petition says.)
Brown says in the document that she tried to leave Belafonte “many times” during their marriage, which followed a two-month courtship at a time in her life when she described herself as “vulnerable.” She said she didn’t know until after they were married that her then-husband wasn’t the son of entertainer Harry Belafonte, as he’d claimed to be. Every time she tried to leave, she said, he threatened her with violence and swore he would release the sex tapes.
“Thank God she got away,” a source close to Mel B told “Entertainment Tonight” on Wednesday. “Mel’s friends are shocked that it took her this long to finally leave him, but are so relieved that it happened. Everyone is so proud that she finally had the courage to leave him.”
Family-law attorney Walzer said something similar.
“I’m glad she got the courage to do it, and it’s not over. I’m sure she’ll be under tremendous pressure to drop it,” he said.
“But remember, now there is a restraining order. If he violates it, that’s a criminal act and he will be prosecuted for that. I’m sure he’s been told, be very careful, because if he threatens her, invades her e-mails, does any act that would be a violation of this order — and many people do, they can’t control themselves. They think they’re above the law.”
Belafonte’s conviction record in Los Angeles County includes a couple of crimes. In 2001, he pleaded guilty to vandalism — a charge Brown says was reduced from assault against two men — and was sentenced to 24 months summary probation.
In 2003, he entered a no-contest plea on a charge of domestic battery and was sentenced to 36 months of summary probation and 30 days in jail, the latter of which he swapped for 20 days of community labor with Caltrans.
On Friday, according to TMZ, Belafonte was patted down by federal agents outside his Hollywood Hills home. They were reportedly searching for firearms, though apparently none was found. Days later in her petition, Brown alleged that he possessed a gun illegally during their marriage.
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