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.
Gaughan admitted in a written ruling Friday that "a presumption of openness inheres in the very nature of a criminal trial." Still, once again the judge rebuffed the media's request that he release sealed transcripts and court documents.
"Closure is necessary to protect the minor victim and the defendant's right to a fair trial," Gaughan wrote.
But the judge pledged to make all the transcripts and documents public "after trial or, if necessary, sentencing." Let's hope he and all the media covering the trial remember this pledge.