December 11, 2003 01:00 PM

R&B singer Bobby Brown surrendered to police and was charged with battery Wednesday, three days after he allegedly hit his wife, Whitney Houston, in a purported domestic dispute in their suburban Atlanta home, reports the Associated Press.

After his surrender and booking, Brown, 34, and Houston, 40, left Georgia’s Fulton County Magistrate Court together. Brown is reportedly scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing Jan. 7.

Brown’s lawyer, Maurice Bennett, tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his client and Houston were trying to work out the matter between them “as husband and wife.”

Houston declined comment, but her lawyer, Mark Trigg, reinforced Bennett’s remark, saying: “She is trying to resolve the matter privately.”

Houston and Brown, married since 1992, have a 10-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina.

Police spokesman Kurtis Young tells the Journal-Constitution that the alleged incident between the couple started as “a verbal confrontation, which escalated to a physical confrontation,” though he would not provide details on the cause of the argument. The officer responding to the call saw bruises on Houston’s cheek and inside her upper lip.

In a police report obtained by the New York Post, “Brown stated he was going to ‘beat her ass,’ and then struck the left side of her face with an open right hand.”

Simple battery is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Normally on a first offense in domestic violence cases, the charge is dismissed if the defendant undergoes counseling, notes AP.

Brown has a history of legal and drug problems. In August he was fined for traffic and drug offenses only hours after an early release from jail.

Having served half of a 14-day sentence for violating probation from a previous drunken-driving conviction, Brown was then fined for possessing 28 grams of marijuana, speeding and driving with no license or proof of insurance.

In 2000, Brown served 26 days in a Florida jail for an earlier probation violation. In the same year he pleaded “no contest” to charges of assaulting a hotel security guard in West Hollywood.

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