Attorney’s musical overture hits sour note

Tribune staff reporter

A lawyer was booted from the Cook County Criminal Courts Building today after attempting to foist his own music CD on R. Kelly in the courtroom where his trial is taking place.

Attorney Mike Roman approached Kelly on Friday morning while the singer was sitting alone at the defense table. With his lawyers and the prosecutors meeting privately in the judge’s chambers, the R&B superstar was left to fend off the man’s overture.

Roman--a local criminal-defense lawyer who fronts the Latin rock band, Mike Roman and the Tellstars, in his spare time--offered Kelly a free copy of his CD “Cha Cha Time.” Kelly, 41, is considered one of the music industry’s most prolific songwriters and producers.

“No, thank you,” Kelly said with a polite smile. “I’m not allowed to take anything.”

Roman persisted, but Kelly continued to decline the CD.

“I’m not allowed to talk to anyone,” said the singer, reminding Roman of the gag order imposed on him by trial Judge Vincent Gaughan.

Roman offered to just leave the disc, but Kelly asked him not to.

“Please,” Kelly said quietly. “You have to leave me alone.”

Other attorneys in the courtroom noticed the conversation and called deputies to assist Kelly. Roman was briefly detained, much to his displeasure.

“I’m a lawyer and I’m musician,” Roman told the authorities. “What’s wrong with that?”

Deputies held Roman in a courthouse anteroom while they discussed the matter with Gaughan. The judge later ordered officers to escort him from the building.

Roman cooperated with his removal--but not before trying to sell a “Cha Cha Time” CD to one of Kelly’s defense attorneys for $15.

Roman would not comment after leaving the building. His band’s Web site says the group will be playing Taste of Chicago this summer.

Stacy St. Clair

May 30, 2008 1:11 PM: Sun-Times music critic ordered to testify

Sun-Times music critic Jim DeRogatis must testify at R. Kelly’s child pornography trial, a judge ruled today.

Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan said DeRogatis--who provided the police with the sex tape at the heart of the case--is not protected by any reporter’s privilege or the 1st Amendment because he is the first person known to have possessed the video.

The defense has the right to question him about what he may have done with the VHS cassette between the time he received it and the moment he handed it over to the authorities, according to the ruling.

The Sun-Times will appeal the decision, attorney Damon Dunn said.

Gaughan will not allow the defense to ask him about his sources or subpoena any reporting notes he took before he gave the tape to a law-enforcement official, according to the ruling. However, he must turn over notes from an interview he conducted after police began investigating the case.

DeRogatis most likely will assert his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination and not answer certain questions while on the stand, his lawyer said.

The defense intends to question DeRogatis about whether he manipulated, morphed or copied the video after receiving it. The singer’s attorneys contend the music critic--who spent years chronicling the R&B superstar’s relationships with young women--has a personal vendetta against Kelly.

“The bias was so strong it compelled the reporter to break the law,” said Kelly’s attorney, Marc Martin.

Last week, Kelly’s team suggested that DeRogatis copied the sex tape and showed it to Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards, a relative of the video’s alleged female participant. If that happened, it’s possible he might have broken the state’s laws against reproduction, possession and dissemination of child pornography, the defense says.

Both the judge and the defense, however, acknowledge the statute of limitations ran out on any copying or screening of the tape in 2002. If he still has a copy--or had it within the past three years--it’s possible he may have broken the law, Gaughan said.

The judge has repeatedly warned reporters covering the case that the 1st Amendment does not give them the right to possess or show censored versions of the sex tape. “Possession of child pornography is a crime,” he said Friday.

Sun-Times attorney Dunn would not comment on whether DeRogatis made a copy. He also denied that the music critic’s feelings about Kelly affected how he handled the tape or wrote his stories.

“Whether or not Mr. DeRogatis harbored a bias against pedophilia is not important,” Dunn said.

May 30, 2008 5:28 AM: Inside dope on prosecution’s key R. Kelly witness

While the jury spends the weekend pondering whether R. Kelly’s mole really does—or does not—appear in the sex tape’s freeze-framed images, everyone else has work to do.

Attorneys will be back in court this morning to discuss a defense motion to subpoena Jim DeRogatis, the Sun-Times music critic who first gave police the videotape. The newspaper is fighting any attempt to compel him to testify.

But that’s not the only thing keeping lawyers busy. Both sides are certain to spend the weekend preparing for prosecution witness Lisa Van Allen.

The 27-year-old single mother is expected to testify that she had a three-way sexual encounter with Kelly and the alleged victim depicted in the sex tape at the heart of the child pornography case. We caught up with Van Allen’s fiance, Yul Brown, Thursday night and here’s what he told us about her:

•Van Allen met Kelly when she was a 17-year-old extra on his “Home Alone” video.

•She and the singer had a relationship from 1998-2005, even though Kelly was married and had children.

•Her sexual relationship with Kelly included a ménage a trois with the singer and his goddaughter, the girl prosecutors say is depicted in the sex tape at the heart of the child pornography case. A videotape was made of at least one three-way encounter, but Brown declines to discuss what became of it.

•Van Allen had the role of hair braider in his 2001 video “My Wish.”

•She is currently four months pregnant and works for her fiance’s investment company.

•The secret defense witness brought into undermine her testimony—and temporarily postpone her court appearance Wednesday—is her ex-boyfriend and father of her 5-year-old daughter.

•She is looking forward to testifying. “She knows her reasons for coming forward,” Brown says. “Like she says, why would she tell everyone she had sex with a minor if it wasn’t true? She knows the truth.”

Stacy St. Clair

May 29, 2008 4:23 PM: Prosecution’s star witness won’t testify Thursday

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.

Azam Ahmed