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Prosecution's star witness will not testify Thursday, judge says
The carrot has dangled before us all week, taunting and teasing us like an aquatic mirage in the desert.
We sat patiently as the state called witness after witness to say what the others had already said before. We struggled through testimony about evidence collection that was drier than the sandwich we ate for lunch. All because we thought that, finally, now we would get the fireworks we were promised.
But the day has turned out to be a dud.
Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan informed the jury a short while ago that Grant Fredericks, a forensic video analyst, will be the last witness of the day, thus dashing our hopes of hearing from the prosecution's star witness who was set to testify that she had a three-way sexual encounter with R. Kelly and the alleged victim.
A wave of disappointment washed through the courthouse as word got around that the woman's bombshell testimony was not happening Thursday. The spectators in the gallery thinned out. Court personnel in the hallway walked away shaking their heads upon learning that they broke away from their own cases for nothing.
We're sorry we got your hopes up, loyal blog readers. Trust us, we're disappointed too. We're now left trying to figure out how to make video analysis seem sexy.
Kayce T. Ataiyero
May 29, 2008 3:01 PM: Tale of the tape: Video expert testifies
If you ever wanted proof that forensic investigative techniques are just not as interesting as they appear on TV dramas, this last witness is your guy.
George Skaluba, a video analyst with the forensic unit of the FBI, spent the better part of an hour and a half Thursday discussing the various ways that videotapes are produced, reproduced, analyzed, morphed, doctored and damaged.
We call it the "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Videotapes Plus An Hour More" testimony.
He used more technical terms than helpful in a blog, and ultimately concluded the following: 1) The tape is not an original, and he doesn't know what generation tape it is.
2) The more you copy a tape, the more the quality and clarity of the video deteriorates.
3) It was not a good-quality tape.
4) The copy he reviewed didn't appear to be altered, but the original may have been.
5) To morph the faces and images in the 27-minute video (think "Little Man") was possible, but it would take "years" and would be "very, very difficult because of the length" of the tape. On top of that, he said, it would likely be easily identifiable.
May 29, 2008 12:43 PM: Still no star witness
This morning's testimony has been the equivalent of your mom making you eat your Brussels sprouts before you can have dessert.
For the first time since the trial began, all six rows designated for spectators were filled in anticipation of the prosecution's bombshell witness, who is expected to testify that she had a three-way sexual encounter with Kelly and the alleged victim.
What the gallery got instead was importantyet mind-numbingly boringtestimony from an investigator and the former head of the sex crimes unit for the Cook County state's attorney's office who spoke of the procedures used to collect and analyze evidence in the case.
Now, it's not that we're shallow. We understand that this is first and foremost a legal case and that the state must lay the foundation for how it has gathered its evidence. We understand that this is information that we need to know.
But what we really want to know is what this star witness has to say. And after several false starts and delays, we say enough with the preshow. It's time for the main event.
Kayce T. Ataiyero
May 29, 2008 10:46 AM: Singer's mystery witness arrives, but who is he?
R. Kelly's secret witnessthe man whose emergence ground the proceedings to a halt Wednesdayhas arrived at the courthouse.
Wearing a rainbow jacket and a red Philadelphia Phillies cap, the man entered the criminal courts building through a special entrance with defense attorney Sam Adam Jr., who declined to give the man's name.
Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan stopped testimony Wednesday after the man contacted the defense to say he had information that could undermine the testimony of the prosecution's most controversial witness.
The man was interviewed by the defense team last night after flying into Chicago around 7 p.m. Per Gaughan's instructions, the prosecution was allowed to depose him this morning.
It's unclear whether the deposition took place. Law-enforcement sources Wednesday expressed doubts about the timing and significance of the man's appearance.
The defense team swears the man called its offices at 9 a.m. Wednesday after reading an Internet report about the case and used his emergence to postpone the testimony of the state's most fought-over witness.
The witness, a woman from suburban Atlanta, was set to tell the jury that she had a three-way sexual encounter with Kelly and the alleged minor depicted in the videotape at the center of the case. She also has testified in closed-door hearings that she accepted money from the singer's associates in exchange for handing over a copy of the video. She is expected to take the stand today.
The woman's relationship with Kelly concerns the defense so much that the singer's lawyers fought to keep her off the witness list in a series of secret hearings last month. They also filed a motion asking the judge to force the prosecution to file criminal charges against her.
Gaughan sided with the prosecution on both counts.
Kellyor "the package" as sheriff's deputies refer to him when discussing his movements over their radioshad not arrived as of 9:50 a.m.
The trial resumes at 11 a.m.
Stacy St. Clair
May 29, 2008 5:03 AM: After delay, R. Kelly sex-tryst witness to testify
Court adjourned abruptly Wednesday, after R. Kelly's attorneys suggested someone had stepped forward with information that could undermine the testimony of the prosecution's star witness.
The newfound defense weapon is flying into Chicago tonight to meet with Kelly's team. It's unclear what insights the man will provide.
"I have no idea what's going on," Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan said. "It might be the impeachment of the [prosecution's] witness."
Defense attorneys insisted the situation wasn't an 11th-hour attempt to prevent the trial's most controversial witness from taking the stand today. They argued they needed to speak with him before the star witness testifies so they could prepare a proper cross-examination.
"We never knew about the witness until 9 a.m. this morning," attorney Sam Adam Sr. said. "The witness called us."
The delay means the prosecution's star witness cannot testify until at least tomorrow. She is expected to tell the jury that she engaged in a three-way sexual encounter with Kelly and the alleged victim depicted in a sex tape at the heart of the case.
The judge considered her testimony so controversial, he held a series of secret hearings last month to determine whether she should be allowed to testify. He made the extraordinary step of barring media from the proceedings because he said pretrial publicity about her relationship with Kelly could poison the jury pool.
Stacy St. Clair
May 28, 2008 12:43 PM: Educator identifies alleged victim as girl on tape
As an educator, he's been around hundreds of students in the eight years since he's seen the alleged victim. But Joel Rhea, an assistant principal at Havlicek Elementary in Berwyn, testified Wednesday that he never forgets a forehead.
Rhea, who was formerly a teacher and girls basketball coach at Percy Julian Middle School in Oak Park, told the court that he met the alleged victim in the fall of 1997 when she was a player on an opposing team. The teams would play each other three or four times a season. Rhea said he would also see her at social events because she was best friends with one of his players.
So when he saw the sex tape he said he knew it was her and that she was 14 or 15 at the time. Sure, he said he recognized her facial features, her smile. But the forehead was dead-on.
"Everyone gave her a hard time because she had a big forehead," Rhea said. "We would joke about her forehead, that she had a big forehead."
"You were joking about a 7th grade girl having a big forehead?" defense attorney Marc Martin asked.
"The kids were," Rhea responded.