Eric Herman: May 2008 Archives

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

sparklemug genson2
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.

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.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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'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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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This page is a archive of recent entries written by Eric Herman in May 2008.

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