May 2008 Archives

R. Kelly seized his opportunity early, dropping out of high school to concentrate on his music career.

Attorney Mike Roman's
chance for musical fame came later in life, this morning in room 500 of the Cook County criminal courts. Spotting that Judge Gaughan, Kelly's attorneys and the prosecutors were all in the judge's chambers, leaving Kelly alone in the courtroom with a handful of reporters, Roman pounced.

Bravely ignoring — or blissfully unaware of — Judge Gaughan's strict rules against anyone uninvolved in the case speaking with Kelly, Roman walked over to the star as he sat unguarded at the defense's table.

Judge rules DeRogatis must testify

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Sun-Times music critic Jim DeRogatis must testify for the defense in R. Kelly's child porn trial, Judge Vincent Gaughan ruled this morning.

DeRogatis passed the notorious sex tape at the center of the case to police for investigation in 2002, and Kelly's attorneys say it is "crucial" to the singer's defense that DeRogatis testify.

Sun-Times attorney Damon Dunn argued Friday morning that DeRogatis should be protected from testifying by the Illinois reporter's privilege and the First Amendment. Kelly's attorneys were attempting to create a "chilling effect" against reporters covering Kelly by bringing DeRogatis in to testify, he said.

Anything DeRogatis could say in court would be "irrelevant" to Kelly's defense, he added.

But Gaughan sided with Kelly's attorney Marc Martin, saying that the reporter's privilege only protects journalists from identifying their sources. Gaughan said he would not allow Kelly's team to question DeRogatis about his sources, or to ask him how he got the tape, or to ask DeRogatis if he made a copy of the tape. "He will have to testify," Gaughan concluded.

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Lisa Van Allen

Pitted against each other as witnesses, Lisa Van Allen and Damon Pryor share a past — and a child.

Van Allen, 27, is the prosecution’s star witness who is expected testify she had a three-way sexual encounter with R. Kelly and the underage girl who allegedly appears in a sex video with the singer.

Van Allen, who lives in the Atlanta area, at one time possessed another sex videotape featuring Kelly, sources previously told the Sun-Times. A Kelly aide paid her to get it back, sources said. The tape showed Van Allen, the underage girl, and Kelly engaged in sex acts, a source said.

With Van Allen’s testimony expected this week, the defense revealed Wednesday it had a new witness — Pryor — who could undermine her credibility.

Mole defense takes a beating

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Prosecutors began the R. Kelly trial by telling the jury they'd see the sex tape at the center of the case "frame by disgusting frame."

Thursday they did just that, in super-slow motion. It showed just what the defense said it wouldn't: a dark spot on the man in the tape's back.

Threesome witness will not testify today

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The woman who had been scheduled to testify this week that she had a sexual threesome with R. Kelly and an underage girl will not testify today.

The prosecution is currently questioning its last witness of the day, forensic video analyst Grant Fredericks. Meanwhile, the woman is catching a flight back to Atlanta, according to a source close to the situation. She is planning to return to Chicago on Sunday and might testify on Monday.

The same source also described defense surprise witness Damon Pryor as a former boyfriend of the woman, a single mother from the Atlanta area. "He's just looking for his 15 minutes of fame," the source said.

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Damon Pryor -- the mystery witness dramatically flown in from out of state last night by R. Kelly's attorneys -- has refused to give his social security number to the prosecution, further delaying the testimony of a potentially crucial state's witness.

Defense attorneys hope the mystery witness can cast doubt on the story of an Atlanta woman, due to testify today that she participated in three-way sex with Kelly and the alleged victim in this case.

The Atlanta woman's evidence could be crucial, since no other prosecution witness is expected to testify that they actually saw Kelly and the girl have sex first-hand.

She's also expected to testify that Kelly's aides attempted to pay her off to keep her from testifying.

Kelly's attorneys have battled for nearly two months to keep her from testifying and to limit what she can testify to if she does take the stand. Twice already this week she has been due to testify, only to see her testimony delayed by defense motions.

The mystery witness who could undermine her was quizzed by Kelly's attorneys last night, but prosecutor Robert Heilingoetter this morning told Judge Gaughan that he needed more time to finish questioning the man. The mystery witness had refused to give prosecutors his social security number Heilingoetter said. Without it, the state can't confirm that he is who he says he is.

Judge Gaughan told Heilingoetter, "If he doesn't give you his social security number, he's going to be in major trouble. All right?"

The problems with the mystery witness mean the Atlanta woman will not testify until this afternoon, at the earliest. A detective and an FBI agent are set to testify this morning, instead.

Sam Jr. gets misidentified

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Jacques Conway, who testified Wednesday, has the sort of resume prosecutors probably wish all their witnesses had: Methodist pastor, retired police sergeant, president of the Oak Park and River Forest School Board.

Yet Conway committed a gaffe that caused an awkward moment — he described defense lawyer Sam Adam Jr. as a "white male."

Adam Jr. is, by his own description, half black. Yet when prosecutor Robert Heilingoetter asked Conway to pick out R. Kelly in the courtroom, Conway said the singer was "the African-American male between two white males."

Kelly was seated between Adam Jr. and defense lawyer Ed Genson at the time.

The Post-Tribune previously revealed that the lead prosecutor pursuing R. Kelly was a high school homecoming queen and a pom-pom girl. Now we have the pictures to prove it!

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Here Shauna Boliker is being crowned Homecoming Queen for 1977 at Andrean High School in Merrillville, Indiana. Luckily, Boliker's fellow prosecutor Robert Heilingoetter has better taste in suits than her hirsute King.

And click here to see Boliker star again in the 1977 Andrean yearbook as she captains the school's "Ninerettes" troupe.

A fuller account of Boliker's achievements in the intervening three decades is contained in this article.

Testimony ended abruptly in the R. Kelly child pornography trial Wednesday — because of a last-minute defense witness who could undermine the testimony of a woman who allegedly had a threesome with Kelly and an underage girl.

The prosecution witness, a single mother from Atlanta, had been scheduled to testify this afternoon. But at about 1 p.m., Judge Vincent Gaughan adjourned the proceedings for the day.

Gaughan told the courtroom, out of the jurors’ presence, that defense lawyer Sam Adam Sr. informed him that morning of a new witness — not previously on the defense’s witness list — who had just come to light.

“I have no idea what’s going on. But it might be impeachment of this witness” scheduled for this afternoon, Gaughan said, apparently referring to the Atlanta woman.

Another coach IDs alleged victim

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The alleged victim's high school basketball coach identified her as the girl on the tape at the center of the case this morning.

Jacques Conway, a retired Oak Park Police Sergeant, and an ordained United Methodist pastor, was the final state's witness for the day. As a police officer, he was attached to Oak Park River High School as a "resource officer," he said, adding that he also coached basketball at the school

Conway testified that he had bought a DVD copy of the infamous sex tape near the intersection of Madison and Pulaski in Oak Park and had inventoried it as evidence.

He said he had watched the tape and had identified the alleged victim by "her facial features, her size and the cross she was wearing," estimating she was 14 or 15 years old in the tape.

Coach identifies alleged victim on tape

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Former Percy Julian Middle School Spanish teacher Joel Rhea became the 13th state's witness to identify the alleged victim from the tape at the center of the case this morning.

Rhea, wearing a black shirt and gray suit, testified that he had coached the Percy Julian girls basketball team while the alleged victim played for Percy Julian's Oak Park rival, Emerson Middle School.

The alleged victim was close friends with players on the Percy Julian team, including Audrey Hampton and Simha Jamison, he said, adding that he had met the alleged victim "seven or eight times" while she was in the seventh grade.

He said he could identify the alleged victim as being on the tape by "the facial features, the forehead and the smile," and estimated she was 14 or 15 on the tape.

The alleged victims friends teased her about her "big forehead," he said.

R. Kelly's "Freak Show"

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Adding fuel to the argument that the R&B superstar views his current legal battle in part as one more opportunity to hype his new music, Kelly has leaked a second song from "12 Play: Fourth Quarter," scheduled for release in July. The title, appropriately enough: "Freak Show."

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Judge Vincent Gaughan (file)

It was Judge Gaughan's 67th birthday today. He celebrated with a flag cake. The sheriff's deputies, who tucked into it at lunchtime (having previously refused Steve Dahl's doughnuts) gave it the All-American thumbs up.

According to Edward Mclelland of Blender magazine, the deputies have codenamed Kelly "package." Whatever can they mean?

And what was Kelly talking about when he sung "I can't wait to drink your milk – you're looking like a big ol' piece of cake," in this video?

Finally, for those of you keeping score, Mark Muro at VH1 says it's three-zip to the prosecution.

Former Kelly assistant Lindsey Perryman testified this afternoon that she first met the girl allegedly shown in the sex video in 1999 at a Chicago recording studio. The girl showed up at the studio with her parents and little brother -- and "had a pillow and overnight bag with her," Perryman said.

Perryman, who worked on and off for Kelly from 1999 to 2006, said the girl in the videotape is the same girl prosecutor claim it is. She also identified the man in the sex tape as Kelly.

MTV Cribs: R. Kelly trial edition

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Pepe Le Pew in "Space Jam."

Two more witnesses identified the alleged victim and R. Kelly as being on the tape at the center of the case this morning.

Raven Gengler, a school friend who played basketball with the alleged victim, and Tjada Burnett, a friend of the alleged victim's family, became the ninth and tenth prosecution witnesses to make those claims.

Burnett described the alleged victim's haircut in the tape as a "bob." Other witnesses have described it as a mullet.

But perhaps the most memorable moment this morning came when prosecutors showed the jury photos from inside Kelly's former home, providing us with an MTV Cribs-style look at the star's tastes in home decor.

Kelly's trial-financing business plan?

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Author Earl Ofari Hutchinson, in a column at The Daily Voice, suspects R. Kelly has a financial backup plan in case of a conviction: "Here's a bet. Accused child pornographer and sexual panderer R. Kelly has three albums in the can ready for release. If Kelly is convicted of the multiple counts slapped against him in his Chicago trial, the albums will fly out the can fast and even faster off the store racks. Kelly's well documented penchant for underage teens, and his boasts and taunts in his songs, topped by the very real possibility that he had sex on the homemade, smutty videotape with a very underage teen, mean little to his legions of devoted fans."

His first claim may not be off the mark. Sun-Times pop music critic Jim DeRogatis has noted before that nearly every time the Kelly trial seemed about to start during the last five years, the incredibly prolific R&B star has released new music. Before jury selection began this month, radio picked up his now ubiquitous new single "Hair-Braider" (listen).

But the second claim is more slippery: Can we claim that people who buy his records are truly indifferent to Kelly's alleged crimes? Perhaps many are simply uninformed — or, more likely, maybe an artist's personal woes just don't trump good music (subjective, I know). Granted, the O.J. Simpson book didn't exactly fly off the shelves, but Michael Jackson's income only started dipping when his albums started sucking, not as an immediate result of his own child sex trial.

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A week into R. Kelly's trial, there are already dozens of talking points for bloggers to mull.

Judge Gaughan's decision to jail Debra Triplett for allegedly yelling "Free R. Kelly!" has already attracted reader comments here on the Kelly Chronicles. Now Perez Hilton thinks Kelly should pay Triplett's legal fees.

Over at chicagoist, Marcus Gilmer has been comparing R. Kelly to Drew Peterson. Here's one difference Gilmer missed: Peterson hasn't released an R & B album. Yet.

But L.A. Weekly's Randall Roberts thinks the Kelly Chronicles staff planned to set its account of Sparkle's confrontation with Ed Genson to music, "Trapped in the Closet"-style. We didn't, honest.

Andy Grimm of the Post-Tribune has been looking into the background of hard-working prosecutor Shauna Boliker, and he's discovered she was a pom-pom girl and homecoming queen.

Finally, we've already looked at Kelly's "Little Man" defense, but now the technical experts at New York magazine have showed us just how Kelly's head could have been morphed onto another person's head.

Who is Buddy Meyers?

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The name of lawyer Buddy Meyers has come up repeatedly during testimony in the R. Kelly trial.

On Thursday, R&B singer Stephanie "Sparkle" Edwards said Meyers called her in late 2001 to tell her about the videotape that allegedly showed an underage relative of hers having sex with Kelly. Meyers sent an assistant to Edwards' residence to show her the tape, she testified.

Defense lawyers have repeatedly suggested Edwards and other family members were out to extract money or revenge — or both — from Kelly. That's why they involved Meyers, a personal injury lawyer, according to Kelly's lawyers.

The Sun-Times called Meyers for comment on Thursday, and he said he was "not directly" involved in the case. Asked to elaborate, the lawyer declined to comment further.

R. Kelly's attorneys are trying to have witnesses for the prosecution charged with crimes, it emerged in court this morning as the defense continued its pursuit of Sun-Times reporter Jim DeRogatis.

The jury has the day off but Judge Gaughan spent much of this morning in a secret hearing with both sides after prosecutor Shauna Boliker revealed that Kelly's attorneys have asked that state's witnesses be charged.

Boliker did not say which witnesses the defense wants charged, or with what, but Kelly's team has repeatedly questioned this week why witnesses who had seen the sex tape at the center of the case did not contact police sooner.

The defense has also suggested several times that anyone who possessed a copy of the tape committed the crime of child pornography, including DeRogatis.

It's also possible that the defense wants witnesses who have yet to testify charged. The Sun-Times exclusively reported two weeks ago that a state's witness was prepared to testify that she participated in a taped three-way romp with Kelly and the alleged victim.

The defense may be seeking to have that witness charged with child pornography, but until the judge unseals the defense's motion, there's no way of knowing.

The Hater is unimpressed with the "Wayans Defense."

But in this amusing take Josh Levin at Slate thinks it's the "Shaggy Defense" they'll be teaching at law schools for years to come.

Over at VH1, Mark Muro is still scoring the trial like a baseball game. It's 2-1 to the prosecution after a good day for the defense, he says.

Finally, it was only a matter of time before Second City Cop weighed in on the Kelly trial. With his readers' help, he's been coming up with more Johnny Cochrane-style catchphrases for the defense. None are safe for a family newspaper's website, so you'll just have to click here to read them.

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Sparkle.                                 Sweetie.

R&B singer Stephanie "Sparkle" Edwards clashed with defense lawyer Ed Genson this afternoon when Genson said Edwards was driven by revenge and money in identifying a relative of hers as the girl on the alleged R. Kelly sex tape.

At one point, Edwards and Genson were shouting at each other simultaneously and the singer called the 66-year-old lawyer "Sweetie."

"I am not your sweetie!" Genson shouted.

The exchange drew a stern rebuke from Judge Vincent Gaughan. "I don't want you talking at the same time. This is a court of law."

Two more witnesses ID girl in tape

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It sounds like half of Oak Park had a copy of the alleged R. Kelly sex tape back in late 2001. Yesterday, witnesses told the jury how rumors and copies of the tape were circulating in the western suburb, dubbed by native son Ernest Hemingway "the land of broad lawns and narrow minds."

Two more witnesses — who both knew the alleged victim when she was growing up in Oak Park — testified this morning. Aubrey Hampton, 23, said she first met the girl in the tape when they were in elementary school. Later, they played basketball and went to high school together. In 2001 or 2002, Hampton saw a sex tape featuring Kelly and her friend, Hampton said.

Hampton recognized her by "her face, and like some of her mannerisms, and at one point, her voice."

"She looked pretty young, probably about 13 or 14," Hampton said.

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Debra Triplett (supplied)

A woman who allegedly yelled "Free R. Kelly!" at the jury this morning is being held in custody by Judge Gaughan.

Debra Tripplett, 48, of the 1300 block of N. Lake St., Aurora, is charged with being in indirect contempt of court. Gaughan set her bail at $50,000.

She's accused of shouting the slogan twice at the jury as it emerged from an elevator on the fifth floor of the criminal courts building.

The jury was being led to the courtroom when Triplett allegedly made her outburst.

Wearing an oversized white t-shirt and jeans, she was arrested by a sheriff's deputy and brought before the judge this morning, before the trial resumed.

What bloggers are saying: Wednesday

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After the drama of Tuesday's testimony, today's court action perhaps understandably hasn't provoked as much response online.

Yesterday, VH1's resident expert was unimpressed with the defense. Today, he thinks Kelly's team did better.

A few people have had a go at coming up with a "If it does not fit, you must acquit"-style catchphrase for the defense. Here's TMZ's latest effort.

Delores Gibson identified the girl on the tape as a former relative by marriage. Gibson testified Wednesday that she saw the tape in December 2001 after getting a call from another of the girl’s relatives, singer Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards.

But on cross-examination, defense lawyer Sam Adam Jr. noted that Gibson—a Chicago police officer—did not go to the authorities until February 2002. “You became a co-conspirator in possessing items of child pornography, didn’t you?” Adam said.

“I did take action, but not at that moment,” Gibson said. “The [girl’s] mother didn’t want to cooperate, and neither did the father. As an officer and a member of the family, I had a lot of things to consider.”

His voice rising, Adam asked Gibson why she told family members to go to a lawyer rather than to police. “You know as well as anybody in this courtroom that that tape was phony, and this was about money,” Adam said.

Bennie Lee Edwards Sr., a relative of the alleged victim, took the stand this afternoon for the state.

Like Simha Jamison and Peter Thomas, Edwards, a 44-year-old truck driver, testified that he'd watched the sex tape this morning and could positively identify the alleged victim and R. Kelly as the people on it. He too estimated the alleged victim was 13 or 14 at the time the tape was made.

He said his son was in a pop group with the alleged victim and two other relatives in the late 90s, and that they had toured extensively abroad. His son is now a musician in Lionel Ritchie's band, he said.

But Edwards also testified he'd been arrested for possession of crack cocaine earlier this year. He denied the crack was his his but said he was attending drug school.

And when defense attorney Ed Genson got the chance to cross examine him, things quickly got worse.

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Marlon and Shawn Wayans in "Little Man" (supplied)

The defense's cross examination of the alleged victim's best friend, Simha Jamison, didn't seem to do Kelly much good. But it did provide a handful of memorable moments.

Defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. did manage to get Jamison to agree that there was nothing wrong in Kelly giving the alleged victim cash on a series of occasions. Jamison herself said Kelly had given her $100 cash for her birthday.

But in a series of lighter moments, Jamison's answers provoked laughter from just about everyone in the courtroom.

The alleged victim's best friend, Simha Jamison, took the stand this morning, identifying both R. Kelly and the alleged victim as being on the tape.

Wearing a black vest and white short, Jamison, now 24, testified that she and the alleged victim had hung out with Kelly "dozens of times" with he played basketball and recorded tracks at his studio.

The alleged victim had introduced her to Kelly when they were both 12, saying Kelly was her "godfather," Jamison said.

Race reared its head repeatedly during jury selection last week, with the defense accusing the state of trying to remove as many black jurors as possible.

The state, in turn, pointed out that the defense had used all of its strikes against white potential jurors.

Many observers believed the selection of eight whites and four blacks to serve on the final jury made it less likely Kelly would be acquitted.

But now that the defense has today made explicit its claim that it isn't Kelly on the tape at the center of the case, there is one way in which the majority white jury could work in Kelly's favor.

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R. Kelly arrives at court Tuesday morning (AP)

Court is done for the day after a dramatic few hours of testimony.

Most reporters in the courtroom thought defense attorney Sam Adam Jnr. had the better of prosecutor Shauna Boliker in the opening arguments. But VH1's resident expert, California-based attorney Mark Muro, thinks the defense boobed.

He thinks Kelly's lawyers need a snappy rhyme like "If it does not fit, you must acquit," to sell their mole defense.

He suggests, “With no mole on the back, the prosecution’s case must crack” or “No mole on the back, the case is whack.”

R. Kelly's legal defense team filed a motion Tuesday to subpoena Sun-Times pop music critic Jim DeRogatis. Judge Vincent Gaughan said he would take up the matter on Friday morning.

DeRogatis received the tape from persons unknown more than six years ago and turned it over the police. During opening statements Tuesday, defense lawyer Sam Adam Jr. told jurors, "Nobody knows where this tape came from."

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A dramatic and unorthodox moment in the colorful opening statement of Kelly's attorney, Sam Adam Jnr., was his use of photographic evidence that had not yet been admitted.

Opening statements are usually just that — statements, made without the use of visual aids or evidence. And as the judge has several times reminded the jury, opening statements cannot be considered as evidence.

But on Adam's cue, a fellow defense attorney hit a button which showed the jury a picture of Kelly's back on a giant screen. The picture, which showed a small mole on Kelly's lower back, was taken by Chicago Police following Kelly's arrest, Adam said.

Retired Chicago Police Det. Dan Everett is the state's first witness. He's the cop who collected the tape at the center of the case from the Sun-Times more than five years ago.

Everett explained that he had retired in 2006 after nearly 30 years as a Chicago Police officer, adding that he had spent most of his career investigating child abuse.

Under questioning from Assistant State's Attorney Robert Heilingoetter, Everett said he had been detailed to investigate the tape after his Lieutenant received a call from the Sun-Times on Feb. 2, 2002.

He said he'd watched the tape on the same day and had identified what "appeared to me to be an underage female and an individual who was an adult male."

But after the tape was played for the jury, Judge Gaughan angrily stopped Everett as he testified.

Tape shown to jury

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The tape at the center of the case was played for the jury shortly after 1:30 p.m. this afternoon after Kelly's attorneys failed in a last minute bid to prevent it being shown.

Court staff drew the shades and turned off the lights so that the video could be displayed on a 6ft wide screen. The courtroom, which had been filled with nervous laughter as Judge Gaughan made a joke just moments earlier, fell to complete silence as the tape was played.

The sex videotape allegedly made by R&B superstar R. Kelly took center stage immediately as his child pornography trial started today — with prosecutors and defense lawyers squaring off about who is in on the tape and where it came from.

Kelly, 41, is charged with making a sex video of himself engaged in sex acts with a girl as young as 13. He has pleaded not guilty.

Six years after Kelly was charged, the trial began at 11:30 today with opening statements.

“Everything was written, directed and choreographed by Robert Kelly. The angle, the lighting,” assistant state’s attorney Shauna Boliker said of the tape, which could be played for jurors this afternoon.

“This case is about child pornography that was created, staged, produced and starred in by the defendant that sits before you, Robert Kelly,” Boliker told the jury.

But defense lawyer Sam Adam Jr. said the case was “simple.”

“Robert Kelly is not on that tape. I stand before you on May 20, 2008 to tell you [the alleged victim] is not on that tape,” Adam said.

Adam said a mole at the center of Kelly’s lower back will prove it is not the singer who appears on the video. He told jurors that when the video was shown, it would become clear the man on the tape had no such mole.

That's today's report from the SOHH hip-hop blog, sharing a tip from an anonymous source claiming that Carey "Killa" Kelly — Robert's younger brother — will testify in the trial, asserting that Robert offered Carey a bribe to say that it's Carey pictured in the trial's centerpiece video, not Robert.

"He also has told several people in the Chi over the years," says the blog's source, "... that he has dirt on Kelly going way back."

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Carey Kelly, younger brother of R. Kelly, pictured in 2002. (Sun-Times file)

This would be the same Carey Kelly who told the Sun-Times: "And I say to America, the criminal justice system: If you let that nigger off, he's going to do it again, trust me. I bet my life on it."

Some background...

R. Kelly is in the building

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After nearly six years of delays, the day has finally arrived.

R. Kelly's staff say he has been looking forward to his day in court. But when he arrived at 9:45 a.m. this morning, he was wearing an apprehensive expression along with his navy suit and blue and red rep tie.

As usual, Kelly made no comments as he marched into the court building with four bodyguards and his business manager Derrell McDavid.

There wasn't much of a crowd waiting for him - just one middle-aged lady protesting what she claims was an unrelated case of police brutality, and a phalanx of press and TV photographers.

But one onlooker, a young white man in denim shorts shouted, "I'm coming out of the closet!" as Kelly whizzed by.

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The trial begins in earnest Tuesday morning with opening arguments from both sides.

In the meantime, here's one last blast of web-based pre-trial hoopla to whet your appetite for justice.

New York's Gawker has already questioned the sanity of Chicagoans, based on last week's jury selection.

Now the New York Times itself is suggesting (albeit with the help of a DePaul University law professor) that the case could be embarrassing for Chicago.

What's in that April 25th transcript?

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When news organizations including the Sun-Times challenged Judge Vincent Gaughan's closing of four pretrial hearings last month, the judge ordered a transcript sent to the Illinois Supreme Court. The transcript — from April 25, the final closed hearing — must have convinced the Supreme Court to back Gaughan, because the justices rejected the news outlets' request for an order reversing the judge.

Whatever is in that April 25 transcript must be very, very interesting. The Sun-Times reported earlier this month that the closed hearings dealt, in part, with an Atlanta woman who is expected to testify against Kelly. The woman will allege she was in a threesome with Kelly and an underage girl who appears in the sex video at the center of this case, according to sources.

Sources also told the Sun-Times that Gaughan was told during the closed hearings a Kelly aide paid the Atlanta woman in order to get back another sex tape featuring Kelly. The aide also arranged for the woman to take a polygraph test at one point, sources said.

Gaughan has made repeated references in court to the April 25 transcript. When media lawyer Damon Dunn was arguing the news organizations' position, Gaughan interrupted to ask Dunn if he had seen the April 25 transcript. Dunn said he had not — but added he was told Justice Thomas Fitzgerald had received it and opened the envelope that contained it.

With court shut down for the weekend, there might not be much new to say about the Kelly trial.

But that won't stop bloggers from trying.

Don at charactercorner is upset at Beyonce's mom, and he thinks whatever the jury decides, it's the victim's fault.

"Not even looming porn trial can slow down R. Kelly's career," read the headline on the front page of the Chicago Tribune Monday, the day jury selection started.

In the article itself, rock critic Greg Kot was more qualified: "Sex scandals have ruined or derailed countless pop-star careers, as Michael Jackson, George Michael, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry would attest. But R. Kelly’s career has remained robust."

The facts are, however, that Kelly's album sales have significantly decreased since his indictment in June 2002. Let's look at the numbers.

The Chicago Tribune has already had one reporter temporarily banned from the Kelly courtroom for violating Judge Gaughan's extensive decorum orders.

Now, it seems, our so-called rival has gone a step further, phoning a juror at least three times since he was selected.

Judge Gaughan called Trib reporter Stacy St. Clair before the bench this afternoon to explain the intrusion.

First there was Doughnutgate. Now Gumgate has upset Judge Gaughan.

Standing up from his seat on the bench this morning, Gaughan held a baggie up filled with grey, masticated pieces of gum, which he said he'd pulled from the bottom of the press seats.

"Don't stick gum on the benches," he boomed.

Judge maintains gag order on Kelly case

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An attempt by the media to open up sealed documents from the R. Kelly case was denied by Judge Gaughan this morning.

The Sun-Times, Tribune, Associated Press and National Public Radio teamed up to ask for access to records of closed door hearings in the case, arguing that the public has a constitutional right to see justice done.

But though Gaughan said "if it wasn't for the press we wouldn't have the type of justice we have today," he said ensuring Kelly receives a fair trial was more important.

Re-read in light of the current trial, this 1995 interview with the R&B giant seems oddly prescient and very relevant in 2008. It was conducted just as "You Are Not Alone," the single Kelly penned for Michael Jackson, became the first building block in helping that star reclaim his own career from the taint of a sex scandal involving a young boy. Said Kelly:

People need to not judge what they see on the TV. Nobody knows Robert or what he's been through. Not R. Kelly, but Robert. R. Kelly is a thing on TV.

I really love Marvin Gaye, and his albums were pretty sexual. I've read things in old magazines where people had things to say about him. But people are forgetting there's an artist, there's a creative situation, not just this freak. You've got to ask yourself, how can this same guy turn around and write `You Are Not Alone?'

I've experienced (controversy), maybe not on Michael's level, but on my own level. And you've got to think, `If I was a nobody and nobody knew me, nobody could talk about me.'

The full story as it originally ran some six and a half year before Kelly's indictment on child porn follows the jump.

Any attorney or journalist who regularly covers the courts will tell you that predicting what verdict a jury will reach is a mug's game. When the trial hasn't even started, it's an even more foolish proposition.

That said, there's a reason why the attorneys for both sides have spent the best part of a week arguing about who gets to sit on the jury, rejecting, one way or another, 56 potential jurors along the way.

It's the same reason Lee Meihls, the jury selection expert who helped Michael Jackson beat his child molestation case, is earning big bucks advising Kelly's defense team.

But Blender magazine thinks the jury doesn't look good for Kelly.

Full rundown of jurors in Kelly case

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Here's a recap of who made the grade:

1. A black woman in her 50s from Olympia Fields who's married to a Baptist pastor.

2. A white male executive in his 30s who said he thought Kelly was guilty, based on what he'd read, but who also promised to give Kelly a fair trial.

Two African-American women were selected to serve as the two final alternates this afternoon, completing the jury selection process.

R. Kelly sighed as he walked out of the small back room where Judge Gaughan has been conducting jury interviews. The news that the selection process was complete was announced moments later at 3:45 p.m.

Judge Gaughan is due to rule tomorrow morning on a motion by the media allowing access to court records currently under seal. Kelly will have to attend, Gaughan said.

The trial itself starts 11 a.m. Tuesday.

R. Kelly defense lawyer Sam Adam Sr. made frequent and vociferous objections to prosecutors' votes against minority jurors today.

The four new R. Kelly jurors

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The last four additions to the R. Kelly jury include a Romanian immigrant, a woman in her 20s, a man who has been busted for pot possession, and a man whose brother was once turned down for a job with the state's attorney's office.

R. Kelly jury is complete

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A complete, 12-member jury has been picked for the R. Kelly child pornography trial. The jury that will decide Kelly's fate consists of eight men and four women. Eight of the jurors are white, while four are African-American.

Judge takes shine to Air Force vet

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Judge Gaughan is a proud Army veteran and he seemed impressed by a potential juror with an Air Force background this morning.

The potential juror, a bearded white man who appeared to be in his early 60s, and who now works for Enterprise rent-a-car, told Gaughan he had served in Da Nang.

The judge joked, "You never went anywhere that didn't have air conditioning or hot water."

A 68-year-old man gave almost too-perfect answers during voir dire (jury questioning) this morning in the R. Kelly case.

When Michael Jackson stood trial in 2005, he used his website to rally fans to his support, with a pro-Jackson spin on each day's testimony.

But an uninformed reader looking at R. Kelly's website this week would be forgiven for not knowing he was in any trouble whatsoever. The trial is mentioned nowhere and the lead "news" item is a chance to watch Kelly's latest video, "Hair Braider."

There are, of course, plenty of bloggers happy to fill the vacuum Kelly has left...

No new jurors confirmed today

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Not one new juror has been picked today. But prosecutors have used five of their seven "strikes," which they can use to get rid of jurors they don't like. The defense has just one strike left.

That means there should be faster progress tomorrow. For now, there are just the eight jurors selected Monday and Tuesday.

Two potential jurors questioned today look likely to be added tomorrow.

Niles cops are getting younger, dumber

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Six hours into today's jury selection, not one juror has been picked to join the eight jurors selected Monday and Tuesday.

But the session has not been without incident. One young Niles cop in the jury pool gave such disturbing answers in his jury questionnaire that Judge Gaughan called him in for a humiliating interview, even though he had no chance of being selected to serve.

The sartorial splendor of Sam Sr.

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Amid R. Kelly's well-dressed handlers and hangers-on, defense lawyer Sam Adam Sr. stands out.

Five more potential jurors interviewed

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Five more potential jurors for the R. Kelly child pornography trial have been questioned so far this morning: Two white women, two white men, and one African-American man.

Doughnut-gate rocks Kelly trial

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It seems the excessive nerviness that marked Friday's court session, when over-exuberant sheriff's deputies accidentally locked reporters out of court during the day's key moments and confiscated a courtroom artist's sudoko puzzle, is not completely behind us.

Radio DJ Steve Dahl sent his associate producer, Brendan Greeley, down to the courthouse today with a couple of dozen doughnuts to thank the deputies for all their hard work on the trial.

"There was a good selection: glazed, chocolate, powdered, cinnamon," Greeley said. But it seems the gift was not gratefully received.

Kelly is accused of, among other things, urinating on the allegedly underage girl who appears in the sex video. On Monday, a urine smell polluted the air of the jury room where juror interviews are taking place. On Tuesday, the theme whizzed by again.

R. Kelly once gave an interview with Blender magazine in which he said that only Osama Bin Laden could understand what he'd been through.

Today, in a move that got him booted from the jury pool quicker than you can say "Charlie Sheen-style conspiracy theory," one potential juror suggested R. Kelly may have more in common with the bearded Saudi terrorist than public vilification.

Asked by Judge Gaughan to read out an undecipherable answer he'd given to a jury questionnaire question, the bespectacled potential juror gave a memorable answer...

Four more jurors have been confirmed this afternoon, bringing the total selected to eight. Of the jurors selected so far, five are men and three are women. Four are African Americans and four are white.


The four added this afternoon are:

One potential juror who was concerned about taking time off work if selected to serve during the trial asked Judge Gaughan whether the jury might be sequestered.

Gaughan said he did not plan to sequester the jury, but said that, under certain circumstances, "it might happen."

R. Kelly's jury consultant

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Who is that bespectacled blonde woman sitting next to Kelly during jury selection? None other than Lee Meihls, a jury consultant who worked for the defense on the Michael Jackson case.

Seven more potential jurors got the boot this morning. They included a man in his 40s who twice hesitated when asked if he could give Kelly a fair trial, a(nother) man who raised questions about the legal age of consent, a cancer specialist responsible for the treatment of hundreds of patients and an Asian cook who speaks next to no English.

Both the prosecution and the defense have now used three of their seven "strikes," which they can use to excuse jurors they don't like. The judge has kicked out another 20.

But two potential jurors look like they could yet become the fifth and sixth selected jurors.

A fourth juror selected

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Lawyers in the R. Kelly case have agreed on a fourth juror — the first to be added to the panel today. The newest juror is a college student studying criminal justice who says she wants to be a police officer.

Three more jurors questioned.

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Three more potential jurors have been screened, though it seems unlikely that any will make the jury.

The first was a doctor, who has four seperate practices, including UIC hospital. White, in his 50s and a cancer and sickle cell specialist, he said he expected to treat 60-70 patients in just two days next week.

Two more potential jurors questioned

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Judge Vincent Gaughan and lawyers questioned two more potential jurors in the R. Kelly child pornography case this morning— a 20-something woman who wants to be a cop and an older, self-employed man.

Day 1 of jury selection ends

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Despite four more hours of questioning potential jurors this afternoon, none were added to the three jurors selected to serve this morning.

That leaves Judge Gaughan slightly behind schedule to have the complete jury of 12 and four alternates picked by the end of the week. But the pace normally picks up as the process continues.

The judge aims to start the trial proper on Monday and that still seems likely.

A total of 13 potential jurors have so far been excused.

From court this afternoon:

1. Tell the judge that you think that the age of consent should be lowered to puberty. One senior with a white beard said, "My son says nature already provided an age of consent - puberty. It made sense to me."

When a potential juror was asked this afternoon what she thought of R. Kelly, the woman said, "Oh, I've heard he's the Pied Piper. He's a musical genius."

The judge informed the woman, a postal worker, that she could say negative things, too.

"He and Jay-Z don't get along," the woman said.

Remembering Aaliyah

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Fader

Timed, coincidentally or not, to the start of the R. Kelly trial, the New York music magazine The Fader has published its annual "icon issue," with this year's cover story paying homage to Brooklyn-born, Detroit-raised Aaliyah Dana Haughton.

Links to the controversial R. Kelly video

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Here and here.

No, it's not THE video at the heart of the case. But with the trial of the mega-selling R&B superstar finally getting underway, it's revealing to revisit how the brilliant cartoonist Aaron McGruder imagined the trial of R. Kelly in his short-lived animated series of "The Boondocks."

For some, serving on the jury in this trial will be the exciting opportunity of a lifetime. For others, it will be a tiresome chore.

Three jurors have already been selected, but six more have already been sent home with a county check for $17.20 in their back pockets.

If you really, really don’t want to serve on the jury, here’s five tried and tested responses that have already seen potential jurors bounced from this case.

In between questioning sessions for potential jurors this morning, assistant state's attorney Robert Heilingoetter complained about an unpleasant smell coming from the adjoining men's room.

Three jurors picked in R. Kelly case

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Three jurors have been picked for the R. Kelly child pornography trial: An African-American woman married to a Baptist pastor; a white male accountant; and an African-American man in his 50s who identified himself as a Christian.

Potential jurors in the R. Kelly child pornography trial are being asked their feelings about race, religion -- and the power of money in the criminal justice system.

First two potential jurors screened

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The first two potential jurors have been interviewed. One appeared the type the prosecution might prefer; the other seemed more favorable to the defense.

There was no crowd waiting on the court steps for R. Kelly this morning as he arrived wearing a grey suit and silver tie. After the noise and excitement of Friday, the court has begun the serious business of picking a jury.

The process of selecting 12 jurors and four alternates from the pool of 150 potential jurors is expected to take a week - far longer than the two to three hours needed in most trials in Cook County.

At least one juror seems already seems to have had enough.

Roll up, Roll up!

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Like a man in a china store who's so nervous about breaking a plate that he inadvertently trashes the entire store, Cook County court authorities ended up doing exactly the opposite of what they'd intended Friday morning.

After nearly six years preparing for R. Kelly's child porn trial, it took only a couple of hours for them to turn it into precisely the media circus they'd hoped to avoid.

MTV on the R. Kelly case

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You'd be forgiven for thinking the R. Kelly trial had already come and gone, even if you couldn't remember the verdict. It's been five years of seemingly interminable delays, after all. What exactly took so long to get to today, when jury selection began in the R&B star's child-pornography case? In addition to reading the comprehensive coverage in the Sun-Times, here's a good summary of the slow-down from MTV.

Also, MTV2 will be showing a special, "R. Kelly: When the Gavel Drops," at 1 p.m. this Sunday.

rkelly.JPG

The judge in Grammy-winning artist R. Kelly’s child pornography case this morning denied a defense motion to delay the trial and ruled that jury selection can begin.

Defense attorney Marc Martin had argued that the jury pool has been ‘‘irrevocably poisoned’’ by a story in today’s Chicago Sun-Times about a Kelly aide allegedly paying a potential witness in exchange for an incriminating tape.

But prosecutors contended it was premature to say the article affected potential jurors and that, if any were tainted, they could be weeded out during the selection process.

R. Kelly on trial


The story of the allegations against R. Kelly started here in the Sun-Times. Almost six years later, it's now finally reached a trial.

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