Kim Janssen: June 2008 Archives

Kelly trial post-mortem

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The arguments in court may have ended, but the dispute about what the R. Kelly trial means is likely to rage for some time.

Pop critic Jim DeRogatis (who broke the story of the tape at the center of the case) and columnist Mary Mitchell have their say in today's Sun-Times.

And Bill Wyman, who has been closely following the case at his blog, Hitsville, says he always insisted you can’t go wrong betting that the rich guy gets off.

But Slate's Josh Levin thinks "it's possible that the jury would've acquitted if the defense had said absolutely nothing."

That girl on the go thinks the main difference between R. Kelly's trial and O.J. Simpson's was that the victim wasn't white.

To an outside observer looking at the case in the context of other celebrity trials, Kelly's acquittal may seem unsurprising. But it's worth noting that in a private last-minute straw poll of the 20 plus reporters in court to cover the case, not one predicted that Kelly would be completely cleared (many did predict a hung jury, however).

Whether you think this says more about the media or the jury probably depends on your own view of the verdict.

In that vein, here's one final, sad footnote: TV reporter Randi Belisomo's personal take on a small moment at the margins of the Kelly trial.

Juror wants out of R. Kelly trial

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There was more jury drama this morning in the R. Kelly trial this morning as a juror asked to be excused.

It isn't yet clear why the juror, a black male in his 30s or 40s who is a student at a culinary school, wants out, or whether the judge will agree to his request.

The juror sent the judge a note which read, "How can I be removed and go home? I really need to."

Gaughan has now allowed the jury to stop for lunch. He'll resolve the issue when everyone returns in an hour or so.

The jury has also asked for a second TV and VCR so that they can compare two tapes at the same time. They already have one VCR, a copy of the notorious sex tape at the center of the case and a tape which shows pop videos in which the alleged victim appears.

Judge Gaughan will also rule on this request after lunch. He told Kelly's attorneys that he wants Kelly, who missed this latest courtroom exchange, to remain in the building from now on.

A juror who exchanged angry words with a waiter while eating dinner with his fellow jurors last night has narrowly escaped being kicked off the jury by Judge Gaughan this morning.

Deputies who have been keeping round-the-clock tabs on the jury since it was sequestered last night told Gaughan the juror had become enraged that he had to wait to be served a beer.

The juror, a white man in his 30s or 40s, told the waiter, "I've been waiting for f****** half an hour — how long do I have to wait? All I want is a couple of beers and a hamburger."

Jury resumes deliberations

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The jury came back into the building and resumed its deliberations at 8:30 a.m. They deliberated for nearly three and a half hours Thursday. If they can't reach a verdict today, Judge Gaughan is expected to tell them to continue deliberating into the weekend.

12-angry-men
Publicity still from the 1957 movie, "12 Angry Men."

With R. Kelly's fate in the hands of 12 jurors tonight, there's no shortage of pundits willing to guess the verdict.

MTV News decided there was nobody likelier to accurately predict the odds of a conviction than a bunch of bookies.

Bill Wyman at Hitsville, Scott Smith at Time Out Chicago and this guy who swears a lot are all unimpressed with Sam Adam Jr.'s closing argument.

Regardless, most people outside the courtroom have already made their minds up about the case, according to Steve Jones's USA Today story.

And as of 10 p.m. Thursday night, 67% of respondents to a Blender magazine click-poll think Kelly is "completely screwed."

If Kelly is convicted, this Canadian who sells duck hunting decoys on eBay may want to change his name.

If jurors decide that R. Kelly is guilty they will be telling the world that the alleged victim in his child pornography trial is "a whore," Kelly's attorney said in closing arguments at lunchtime.

Closing arguments have since wrapped up, and the jury began deliberating at 2:30 p.m.

Speaking after prosecutors had showed the jury the notorious sex tape at the center of the case one last time, defense attorney Sam Adam Jr said that the girl on the tape had accepted cash before performing a series of sex acts.

Showing the jury a studio photograph of the alleged victim on a large screen, he then told them that if they were going to find Kelly guilty of 14 counts of child pornography, "you are going to have to call (the alleged victim) 14 times individually and collectively a whore."

Barely audible, he whispered, "My momma told me when we were kids, 'if you ain't got something nice to say about someone, don't say it about her."

He concluded his argument saying, "How are you 14 times going to call her a whore?"

Adam had earlier reasserted his claim that the man on the tape does not have a mole on his back, as Kelly does. "It comes and goes," he said.

But, closing for the prosecution, assistant state's attorney Robert Heilingoetter said, "We're not saying that she's a prostitute - we're saying, based on the evidence that you heard in this trial that she is the victim of child pornography."

He told the 12 jurors and three alternates that, "Today is the opportunity to hold the defendant responsible for the production of this tape," adding, "the opportunity to hold him criminally responsible will never come again."

Rotten tomato hits R. Kelly trial

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A mix-up over a copy of the sex tape at the center of R. Kelly's trial is a "rotten tomato in the barrel," Judge Gaughan said this afternoon as the two sides squared off again over the so-called "mole defense."

It's unclear what measures Gaughan will take about the mix-up—a mistake in the state's attorney's office.

Prosecutors gave Kelly's defense team a copy of the sex tape on DVD two weeks ago, telling them it was an exact copy of the original. But the DVD copy is actually of a lower quality than the original, prosecutor Robert Heilingoetter acknowledged today.

Also, the copy was not made by prosecution video expert Grant Fredericks, as the state had previously claimed, but by a junior member of the state's attorney's staff, Heilingoetter said.

The defense has had access to the original sex tape, but the mistake could prove significant because Kelly's attorneys used the DVD during their questioning of defense video expert, Charles Palm.

Shown frames from the DVD, Palm said he could not see a mole on the man in the tape's back.

Fredericks used a high quality copy of the original tape when he testified, pointing out a spot on the man in the tape's back that corresponds with a mole on Kelly's back.

Both sides signed a stipulation last week, agreeing that the DVD was an accurate copy of the sex tape. That stipulation was read to the jury and will probably now have to be corrected in some form, at a minimum.

It's a while since we looked at what the rest of the world is saying about the R. Kelly trial.

The scoop of the week comes from MTV, who have managed to find out just what Shawn Wayans thinks of the "Little Man" defense. (He doesn't seem impressed).

Bravo, Keith and Chuck

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Keith Murrell and Charles Freeman talked a good game when they vowed to arrive in Chicago Thursday night with revelations that would rock the R. Kelly trial.

Friday night they played a good game, making monkeys out of the media, including this reporter.

All week the Kansas City pair have expertly played competing reporters off against each other in the same way a cheating lothario strings along a bevy of smitten lovers, calling us at 3 a.m., not returning our calls, then promising us favors and urgently summoning us to meetings, only to stand us up.

But their elaborate choreography of the trial's press corps reached an impressive crescendo tonight.

guillotine

Today's testimony started slow in the R. Kelly trial, but things spiced up this afternoon when the jury was shown a video of a headless couple having sex.

Defense expert Charles Palm made the clip from a section of the sex tape at the center of the case, using special effects to illustrate how easy it is to digitally manipulate video. The defense hopes Palm can successfully refute the evidence of prosecution expert Grant Fredericks, who said that the tape could not have been digitally altered. Parts of the media have dubbed this the "Little Man Defense" or the "Wayans Defense."

The clip showed the couple on the tape having sex in what the state says is the hot tub room at Kelly's former home. Their bodies slowly become transparent, then slowly reappear. Then their heads slowly disappear until their two headless bodies are romping. At one point, the man on the tape - his head intact - appears to be having sex with a headless woman.

The heads come and go "like ghosts" on the manipulated tape Palm said.

For perhaps the first time since R. Kelly's trial began, this morning's testimony was completely free of drama and the circus-like atmosphere that has enveloped the case.

It felt like a normal trial, almost.

There were no bombshells, just five witnesses in quick succession who the defense hopes will chip away at the state's case.

Sun-Times reporter and music critic Jim DeRogatis will not have to testify in R. Kelly's child porn trial after all, Judge Vincent Gaughan ruled this morning.

Kelly's legal team wanted DeRogatis - who broke the story about the sex tape at the center of the case in 2002, and passed a copy to police to investigate - to take the stand for the defense. They said his testimony was "crucial" to Kelly's defense, claiming it would undermine the testimony of prosecution witness Stephanie "Sparkle" Edwards. They have also claimed DeRogatis's reporting has shown an "extreme bias" against Kelly.

Judge Gaughan ruled Friday that DeRogatis had no protection against testifying under either the First Amendment or the Illinois reporter's privilege, reaffirming that decision Tuesday and saying that DeRogatis must testify. The reporter's privilege only protects journalists from revealing their sources, he said.

But this morning Gaughan said that DeRogatis was protected against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment. "He does not have to testify," the judge said.

This trial has already seen its fair share of dramatic witnesses fly in from out of state.

Now two Kansas City men who have not been called as witnesses have promised to arrive in Chicago Thursday with what they say will be devastating revelations about Kelly and his child porn case.

R. Kelly's business manager, Derrel McDavid, was identified by Lisa Van Allen today as the man who paid her and another man $20,000 each to turn over a copy of an R. Kelly sex tape.

McDavid has been in court most days during the trial, often sitting next to Kelly at the defense table, whispering discreetly in the star's ear. He was in court again this morning, but he'd gone by the time his name came up.

When Van Allen mentioned his name, it reminded me of a passing encounter I witnessed a couple of weeks ago during jury selection. MTV News writer Jennifer Vineyard grabbed McDavid in the corridor outside the court and, noting that he'd been talking to Kelly, asked who he was.

His response?

genson2
Ed Genson.

Ed Genson, one of the attorneys representing R. Kelly, provided one of the most memorable moments in the trial when he boomed "I'm not your sweetie!" at Stephanie "Sparkle" Edwards.

This afternoon he provided another. Objecting to a copy of Kelly's album, "R." being admitted into evidence for the jury to peruse, Genson told Judge Gaughan that the sexually explicit lyrics in the liner notes could prejudice the jury against Kelly.

Asked by Gaughan precisely what lyrics he objected to the jury seeing, Genson then read the lyrics from one song on the album at length. Genson's soft voice could not be fully heard from the press benches, but his performance was enough to reduce prosecutor Shauna Boliker and everyone else within earshot to fits of giggles.

As Genson recited the lyrics, Kelly covered his face.

Click here for all the lyrics to all the songs on "R."

Gaughan decided that the jury can have the CD, but the lyrics will be blacked out.

State rests in Kelly trial

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The state has rested its case in the R. Kelly child porn trial.

Prosecutor Shauna Boliker had no further questions for star witness Lisa Van Allen after today's late lunch break.

The state had been expected to call a medical expert who would testify about the alleged victim's likely age on the notorious sex tape. But at 4:45 p.m., Boliker announced that the state had called its last witness.

Kelly's attorneys are due to begin presenting their case Wednesday morning. The jury will have tomorrow off.

Sun-Times reporter Jim DeRogatis must appear in court tomorrow, Judge Gaughan said. Gaughan ruled Friday that DeRogatis must testify for the defense.

R. Kelly's accountant paid Lisa Van Allen and a Kansas man $20,000 each to return a videotape of Kelly participating in a threesome with Van Allen and the alleged victim in this case, Van Allen testified this afternoon.

Van Allen said the $40,000 pay-off, exclusively revealed by the Sun-Times, was made to her in March 2007. Kelly personally offered her $250,000, but only $40,000 was handed over, she said. Van Allen said she invested the pay-off in her business. Kelly's business manager Derrel McDavid, handed over the cash, she said.

The day after the Sun-Times revealed the pay-off, Kelly's attorney Sam Adam Jr. visited Van Allen and her boyfriend, Yul Brown, in Atlanta to interview her, defense attorney Sam Adam Sr. said. Under questioning from Adam Sr., Van Allen repeatedly denied that Brown had tried to extort cash from Adam Jr. at that meeting.

She also denied that Brown had boasted that he and Van Allen had been offered a $300,000 book deal.

On cross-examination, R. Kelly's attorney Sam Adam Sr. is attempting to paint Lisa Van Allen as a liar and a thief.

Adam got Van Allen to admit that she had relationships with two men convicted for fraud in the federal courts. One - Damon Pryor - is the so-called "mystery witness" who flew into town at the last minute last week. He's the father of Van Allen's child. The other man - Yul Brown - is Van Allen's current partner.

Under questioning from Adam, Van Allen said that she knew Pryor had served time for fraud before they met in 2001. She also knew Brown was a fraudster, she said.

She laughed when Adam asked her if she only dated men with federal fraud convictions.

While they were together, Pryor told her "how you interject yourself into a case - that you go at the last minute" with important testimony, she said. Van Allen agreed with Adam that Pryor was a "conman," describing their relationship as "a mistake."

Adam pointed out that Van Allen had not come forward for nearly five-and-a-half years as a witness against Kelly, suggesting a link between Pryor's advice and her late emergence as a witness.

But Van Allen denied telling Pryor that the tape at the center of the case was a fake, or that she had told him she planned to extort cash from Kelly. She denied telling a Minnesota woman the same thing, also denying that she knew two men called "Chuck and Keith" had staged the tape at the center of the case to get money from Kelly.

The Minnesota woman, Lena Prado, has not been mentioned in court before, but Van Allen said she had known her since 1999. Van Allen denied having a sexual relationship with Prado.

Van Allen did admit to stealing Kelly's $20,000 Rolex from his hotel room. Asked why she had never admitted stealing the watch until today, she said, "That's not what (R. Kelly's) on trial for."

She acknowledged that her current partner, Brown, had been sentenced to probation for a weapons conviction just two weeks after she eventually approached prosecutors, offering to testify against Kelly. But she denied that prosecutors had told her they "needed" her to take the stand. Brown had faced up to 22 years for possessing an AK-47 machine gun, Adam said.

Lisa Van Allen's testimony lived up to its explosive billing this lunchtime. She's still being questioned, but she's already dropped several bombshells, saying she had three-way sex with Kelly and the alleged victim in this case at least three times.

Van Allen said she had met R. Kelly at the video shoot for "Home Alone," in which she appeared, in late 1997 or early 1998. Kelly's cousin, "Blacky" invited her to join Kelly in Kelly's trailer, she said. She talked with Kelly and ended up having "intercourse" with him in the trailer, she said. She was 17 at the time, she said.

The pair exchanged numbers and Van Allen soon visited Kelly in Chicago, eventually giving up her job in Atlanta to be with him full time. Kelly paid for her to stay in hotels and she spent most of her time with him at the studio, she said.

Van Allen said she went on tour with Kelly and was picked out of the crowd at the end of each show to perform simulated sex with him on stage at each show's finale.

In late 1998, she testified, Kelly took her to his former home on the North Side of Chicago, where she met the alleged victim in this case for the first time. Kelly taped them while they had three-way sex in his "log-cabin" room, she said. That's the same room he's alleged to have filmed the tape in this case. Kelly told her the alleged victim was 16, she said.

On another occasion, following an awards ceremony in Chicago at which Kelly had been honored, Van Allen, Kelly and the alleged victim in this case again had videotaped three-way sex. But this time they did it on Kelly's basketball court.

"He took up his camera and we took off our clothes and we all had sex again," she said. Van Allen said Kelly stopped the sex session after she broke down crying. "I didn't want to do it," she said.

On a third occasion, sometime in 2000, Kelly, Van Allen and the alleged victim romped again, this time in his trailer at the video shoot for "Woman's Threat," Van Allen said. Kelly and the alleged victim ran naked to hide after somebody knocked on the door and disturbed them, she said.

Van Allen said Kelly carried a "duffel bag" containing his home-made porn wherever he went.

"He carried it everywhere," she said. "If we was at the studio, it was in the studio with him; if he was at Hoops (his gym) it would be at Hoops with him...the bag would follow him."

Van Allen confessed she had stolen R. Kelly's Rolex watch from a Georgia hotel in 2001. She said she had been granted state and federal immunity from prosecution for child porn in return for her testimony.

Asked why she had come forward to testify, she said, "It's the right thing to do."

She said she was not there when the tape at the center of this case was made, but identified the alleged victim and Kelly as being on that tape.

Damon Pryor can testify, judge rules.

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One last delay this morning before Lisa Van Allen can take the stand. Prosecutor Shauna Boliker attempted to have Judge Gaughan ban Van Allen's ex-boyfriend Damon Pryor from testifying for the defense.

Pryor will allege that Van Allen stole R. Kelly's watch from a hotel room, Boliker said. Perhaps more importantly, Pryor will testify that Van Allen told him it isn't Kelly on the notorious sex tape at the center of the case, Boliker said. Pryor will also testify Van Allen told him that two men,"Chuck and Keith," made the tape, she added.

Urging Gaughan to exclude Pryor, Boliker said that anything he would testify to would be "rank hearsay," adding that Pryor had previously inserted himself at the last minute into a high-profile case in Georgia.

But Judge Gaughan ruled in Kelly's favor.

Pryor can testify, he said, because his testimony could impeach Van Allen. Whether Pryor is credible is "for the jury to decide," he added.

Lisa Van Allen takes the stand

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The long-delayed testimony we've all been waiting for has finally arrived.

Lisa Van Allen—the prosecution witness expected to testify that she took part in three-way sex with R. Kelly and his alleged victim—has taken the stand. Her 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.

The Sun-Times exclusively revealed Van Allen's likely testimony three weeks ago. But the defense has battled in secret hearings to prevent her from testifying for nearly two months. Originally slated to testify Tuesday last week, she has three times been asked to wait a day after last-minute legal arguments between Kelly's attorneys and the state.

More members of the public have shown up today than on any previous day of the trial. They're expecting fireworks.

There was one final delay this morning when the prosecution filed a motion to exclude the evidence of Damon Pryor, Van Allen's ex-boyfriend.

Also this morning, before the jury took their seats, Judge Gaughan cautioned Van Allen that she might incriminate herself on the stand. Gaughan noted that Van Allen has her own attorney to advise her.

But now, before the packed courtroom, Van Allen – wearing a black dress - has begun her testimony.

Stay tuned.

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.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Kim Janssen in June 2008.

Kim Janssen: May 2008 is the previous archive.

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