Sunday 20 August 2017

Stephen Belafonte can visit his daughter amid bitter Mel B divorce battle

By David Mercer

Stephen Belafonte appeared at Los Angeles Superior Court, but the former Spice Girl did not attend the hearing.

Mel B’s estranged husband is allowed to visit his young daughter despite facing claims of domestic violence and alleged links to the porn industry, a court has ruled.

Stephen Belafonte appeared at Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday where a judge extended a temporary restraining order granted to the ex-Spice Girl after she accused him of years of physical and emotional abuse towards her.

But Judge Lawrence Riff ordered that Stephen could visit his five-year-old daughter Madison twice a week at a supervised centre as the couple continue their bitter divorce battle.

Lawyers for the singer – whose full name is Melanie Brown – had opposed granting Stephen visitation rights, branding him a “convicted domestic violence offender” with an “extensive criminal history”.

“This man represents a continuing danger to the child,” Mel’s lawyer Larry Bakman said.

Stephen was “involved in adult pornography” and the “importation of women from other countries” to work in the industry as well as “possible money laundering”, he added.

The lawyer also claimed Stephen had brought into his home a rapper known as Tru Life who had served eight years for manslaughter.

“He had a convicted felon who was just released from prison residing in the family home and sleeping in Madison’s bed,” the lawyer said.

Mr Bakman said he had evidence on a “large number of computers” that Stephen was involved in pornography.

“The evidence will show Mr Belafonte is involved in the leasing of various locations throughout the city for the use of pornographic films,” he said.

Mr Bakman said new evidence was developing about Stephen’s use of “assets for various illegal, nefarious activities”.

He added that he expected a divorce trial to take at least 10 to 15 days as 20 witnesses had come forward and “that witness list is growing daily”.

Mel, who filed for divorce on March 20 citing “irreconcilable differences”, did not attend the hearing.

Stephen’s lawyer Grace Jamra said the allegations against her client were part of “an ongoing smear campaign”.

She told the court: “We’re not going to address evidence that is being developed or fabricated or manufactured.”

She added: “Mother Teresa does not marry Attila the Hun.”

Ms Jamra said Stephen had already gone three weeks without contact with Madison.

Judge Riff said he did not have jurisdiction to grant Stephen visitation rights to his stepdaughter Angel, whose father is Eddie Murphy.

He also ordered that both Mel and Stephen did not “disparage” each other in front of their daughter.

Mel was granted a temporary restraining order earlier this month after claiming she was the victim of “multiple physical beatings” at the hands of Stephen.

In court papers, the 41-year-old singer said her husband had threatened to “destroy” her career by releasing sex tapes of her.

Lawyers for Stephen have branded the allegations “outrageous and unfounded”.

Mel, who is now a judge on America’s Got Talent, married film producer Stephen in Las Vegas in June 2007.

A preliminary hearing was fixed for August 18, while the full divorce hearing is due to begin on September 25.

Press Association

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