A photo of battered-looking music superstar Rihanna has been obtained by the entertainment Web site TMZ.com.
The photo was reportedly taken by police after her boyfriend Chris Brown allegedly assaulted her the night of the Grammy awards nearly two weeks ago.
In the photo, the singer's lips appear swollen, she has welts on her forehead and bruises on her eyes, nose and cheeks. Rihanna, who turns 21 today, was also bitten on the arm, according to TMZ.
The photo could determine whether criminal charges will be brought against Brown, 19, and the severity of those charges.
"If there's just swelling then Chris Brown may get away with simply being charged as a misdemeanor. If that picture does in fact depict broken bones, facial fractures, contusions, then he's looking at a felony and probable jail time," said ABC News legal analyst Dana Cole.
Brown, an R&B superstar, was arrested Feb. 8 and booked on suspicion of making felonious criminal threats to a woman whom authorities have not publicly identified
The publication of the photo has created another controversy. The Los Angeles Police Department launched an internal investigation and asked for the public's help in finding the person who leaked it.
A police news release said the image "has the appearance" of one taken during a domestic violence investigation, and classified its release as a case of serious misconduct that could result in termination.
In an interview with ABC News Radio, TMZ.com news manager Mike Walters asserted his organization obtained the photo legally.
"To my knowledge and to TMZ's knowledge, this is not a photo from the LAPD ... TMZ legally obtained this photo and we posted it on our website," Walters said. "This photo is a story in itself, it doesn't need any text or editorial judgment. It tells a thousand words."
The image of the battered songstress is likely to confirm had feelings among former Brown fans who are now disappointed in his alleged behavior.
Monique Wright-Williams had always forbidden her three girls from watching hip-hop music videos because of the way they portray women as "hoochies or sex objects," she said.
"I don't ever want them to think of themselves as a sex object," she told ABCNews.com.
The music of Chris Brown, though, was different. Marketed as more of a Jonas Brother than a Lil Wayne, Brown won the approval of both mother and daughters. Wright-Williams' oldest daughter, Solange, a 17-year-old college freshman, plastered her room with pictures of the R&B singer and affectionately referred to him as her "husband."
So when the Syracuse, N.Y., family learned that Brown had been arrested last week for allegedly beating his pop-star girlfriend Rihanna, the news came as a shock.
"I'm obviously disappointed," Wright-Williams, a youth services agency director, said. "He was in a good position to serve so many young black children well. Whenever anybody who is in a good position to have a nice impact on my children, and children in general, tumbles and falls in such an important way, it's here we go again."
Perhaps. The fall of a teen idol is familiar territory. But the swift and critical public response to Brown's arrest from the Williams family and other members of the black community has come as something of a surprise to some people.