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Pop star Chris Brown bows his head Monday at his hearing in Los Angeles. ((Lori Shepler/Reuters))

Singer-actor Chris Brown has pleaded guilty to felony assault in a plea deal reached Monday, just moments before the start of a preliminary hearing into the case.

Fellow pop star Rihanna, Brown's former girlfriend and the alleged victim of the assault, was preparing to testify in a Los Angeles courtroom when the deal was reached.

Brown's attorney, Mark Geragos, said Brown, 20,  will face supervised probation and six months of community labour in the deal.

A Los Angeles judge expressed concern over the deal because Brown is not a California resident.

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Pop star Rihanna stands next to her attorney Monday during the hearing in Los Angeles. ((Associated Press))

However, it appears the singer will be allowed to do his community service in his home state of Virginia.

Both Brown and Rihanna missed the Grammy Awards this February, and a string of other appearances in February and March, after a violent incident.

Pictures widely circulating on the internet showed a woman, reported to be Rihanna, with a badly bruised face.

Brown's attorneys had attempted to delay the hearing until police revealed who had circulated the photos.