The jury deciding the fate of R. Kelly has recessed for the night after deliberating for about 3½ hours Thursday. Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan, who is presiding over the trial, said jurors would be sequestered at a motel. Deliberations are scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. Friday.
June 12, 2008 4:53 PM: Judge denies jury request for trial transcript; Van Allen testimony was sought
About an hour and a half after they began deliberations, the jury in the R. Kelly child pornography trial sent a note to Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan asking for the entire trial transcript for review. Specifically, jurors wanted to take a look at the testimony of the state’s star witness, Lisa Van Allen.
Van Allen testified that she had a three-way sexual encounter with Kelly and the alleged victim. The defense tried to discredit her by saying she was one of the masterminds of a vast conspiracy against the singer.
Attorneys for both sides said the request for the entire transcript was not practical because it would take several hours to print the full document and delete the sidebar dialogue, which is not meant for the jury to hear.
Defense attorney Edward Genson said he would prefer that the jury be allowed to get Van Allen’s testimony, but the state objected saying the jury should get the whole transcript or nothing at all.
Gaughan sent a note to the jury informing them that the transcripts are not available at this time and that they were to continue with their deliberations.
Kayce T. Ataiyero
June 12, 2008 3:35 PM: Prosecutor told jury to liken singer’s child-porn case to 1st-degree murder case
In what was the final argument in the R. Kelly trial, before the jury began to deliberate R. Kelly’s fate at about 2:30 p.m., Cook County Assistant State’s Atty. Shauna Boliker told jurors to think of the case as a first-degree murder case.
Victims don’t testify in first degree murder trials, she said, and neither did the alleged victim in this case.
Instead jurors rely on witness testimony to make their decisions, Boliker said during her rebuttal to the defense’s closing statements. And this jury, she said, saw 14 witnesses who identified the alleged victim and 12 who identified Kelly as the man on the tape.
“They came before you, and they told the truth,” she said.
Boliker ridiculed Kelly’s defense, calling it “ever-changing” and an attempt to taint the entire legal process by branding everyone involved as conspirators in a vast plot to take down Kelly.
“Conjecture and speculation, and ... maybe this happened and maybe that happened,” said Boliker, describing the defense strategy. “It’s just innuendo, ladies and gentleman, and you cannot consider that as evidence.”
Besides, she said, the defense was trying to play a sleight of hand trick, drawing the focus away from the most critical piece of evidence, the videotape.
“That videotape, no matter what they say, contains [Kelly’s] face,” she said.
Boliker also attacked the defense forensic videotape witness, Charles Palm, who said that he could have modified the sex tape in a matter of months.
Palm, who admittedly taught himself how to analyze videotapes, has reviewed only 11 tapes in his time as an expert, she said, compared with the thousands reviewed by one state witness.
And even though Lisa Van Allen, the woman who claims she had a three-way sexual encounter with Kelly and the alleged underage victim, wasn’t someone “you’d want your son bringing home to dinner,” her testimony stood for itself.
“This is not a who-done-it,” she said. “It is a he-did-it.”
June 12, 2008 2:45 PM: Judge puts case in jury’s hands
The jury began to deliberate R. Kelly’s fate at about 2:30 p.m. after hearing closing arguments and legal instructions.
June 12, 2008 2:40 PM: Defense’s closing focuses on sex-tape questions
At the start of his closing arguments in the R. Kelly trial, defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. zeroed in on the emotions that the jury might have been left with after the state’s show-and-tell presentation of the sex tape at the heart of the case.
The state witnesses, who were shown the tape before they testified, had been emotionally manipulated the same way, Adam said.
“You see what they did? They sit you down for four and a half weeks, they stick this video in your face [The prosecution] put you in the same place that he put every single witness that was supposed to identify [the victim],” Adam said. “Put yourselves in the witnesses’ place, with the pressure and the prosecutor in your face telling you that they need you to make an ID.”
For nearly an hour, Adam put on a little show of his own, a theatrical, and at times comical, tale of a vast conspiracy among liars who were all trying to extort R. Kelly.
Among them was Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards, a former Kelly protégé who is a relative of the alleged victim. Edwards testified that she introduced Kelly to the girl and identified them both as participants on the tape. Edwards said she was heartbroken by the tape and the devastation it caused her family.
But Adam said that Edwards and her family, which included a Chicago police officer, were more interested in money than justice. Rather than call the cops, Adam said, they called a lawyer.
“Let’s face facts. You know what this was. It was her meal ticket,” Adam said.
After all, Adam said, if the family was really outraged at what they saw on the tape they would have taken a much different approach.
“Any solid man or woman would have gone over and broken his legs. They would have beat the crap out of him,” Adam said. “That’s real. That’s practical. That’s family.”
Adam went on to inquire about the whereabouts of the alleged victim and why the state didn’t call her since she “lives right down the street.” He said that while the defense could have chosen to call her on their own, they did not want to “mess that girl’s life up” any further.
Instead, he reminded the jury of the girl’s prior grand jury testimony in which she denied that she was the person on the video. Adam said if it was her, she would have testified. And, Adam asked, if it was her, wouldn’t someone have known about it?
Wouldn’t a 13-year-old girl blab to her friends about having sex with a star like Kelly?
“She is a 13 year-old-girl having raunchy, dirty, nasty sex with a superstar who’s won Grammy Awards and she tells no one?” Adam said. “You couldn’t keep a 13-year-old girl’s mouth quiet about having Hannah Montana tickets.”
This is especially true of a girl like the alleged victim, Adam said, who by the state’s own account was a sweet, wholesome girl. He showed the jury pictures of the girl when she was younger. She did not look like the kind of person who would get sex for money, Adam said. If she were that kind of girl, people would know, Adam said.
"[Prosecutors] want you to convict him because that girl may look like the girl in the video. How is that beyond a reasonable doubt?”
Adam told the jury that the state had not met its burden to prove that the participants on the tape are Kelly and the alleged victim. He said the best the state could do was to tell the jury to “look at this picture that might be” them on a “fifth-generation tape that the state can’t even get to work here today.”
During the state’s closing arguments, prosecutors had difficulty running the tape, which skipped and had pixelated lines running through it at different points.
Adam asked the jury if they could tell if the alleged victim was in the gallery right now. If they couldn’t, how could they tell whether it was her on the tape?
One by one, Adam picked away at claims made by state’s witnesses, including those of Lisa Van Allen, who testified that she had a sex with Kelly and the alleged victim. According to Adam, Van Allen was a co-conspirator who helped hatch the plan to frame his client.
Van Allen testified that Kelly walked around with a duffel bag full of homemade porn tapes. “We are supposed to believe that he goes around with a bag of porn tapes everywhere he goes like some Porno Santa Clause,” Adam said. “It didn’t happen because Robert doesn’t carry around porn videos.”
The defense has said that Kelly has a prominent mole that would be visible if he were on the tape.
Adam showed jurors a split screen of Kelly’s back, where a mole was visible and the back of the man in the video. The latter did not have a visible mole.
“The truth be told, there is no mole. It’s that simple,” Adam said. “It ain’t him and if it ain’t him you can’t convict him.”
It’s also not her, Adam said. With a picture of the young girl on the screen, Adam told the jury that “the world is watching you” and that in order to find Kelly guilty they would have to call the alleged victim a prostitute 14 times.
Kelly is charged with 14 counts of child pornography.
“You’re going to have to say this girl, before the world, is a whore,” Adam said. “My momma used to tell me if you ain’t got nothing nice to say don’t say it at all.”
Kayce T. Ataiyero
June 12, 2008 1:15 PM: In prosecutors’ closing, it’s all about the tape
As it began, so it ended, with the prosecution’s closing arguments in the R. Kelly child pornography trial focusing on the sex tape at the center of the case.
In the last moments of their hourlong closings, prosecutors replayed segments of the tape and, in somewhat painful detail, pointed out every instance where they say Kelly racked up his 14 counts of child pornography charges.
The state began, however, by highlighting their greatest hits. Assistant State’s Att. Robert Heilengoetter started with what, to our minds, was among the most colorful exhibitions of courtroom drama in the whole 5-week trial: the testimony of singer Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards.
Edwards told the jury how she introduced the alleged victim, a relative, to Kelly when the girl was just 12.
“She was my heart,” Edwards testified at the time.
“You can imagine the feelings of betrayal that [Edwards] she felt toward the defendant,” Heilengoetter said. “You could feel her outrage, couldn’t you, during the course of her testimony,” he asked the jury. “You could feel her disappointment.”
Heilengoetter went on to fine-tune that sentiment: "[The alleged victim] was a young girl under the age of 18 who didn’t know how to divert the desires of an adult male.”
Who was that adult male? “Her godfather, Robert Kelly,” Heilengoetter said.
Then in short order, Heilengoetter listed the ways in which the prosecution believes it had connected the tape to Kelly, starting with his former home, where prosecutors said the alleged incident took place.
In that home, in what was called the Log Cabin room (so dubbed for its Lincoln-esque appearance), prosecutors said the sex tape was filmed with the alleged underage victim.
Heilengoetter said that the pictures snapped by the police of the room in Kelly’s home matched the images from the sex tape.
Specifically: “The corresponding seven light fixtures” and “the towel racks around the sauna room area” and the “slats in the ceiling.”
Then there was the tape itself: His voice, his body and his face. The alleged victim’s voice, her body and her face. They were clearly Kelly and the alleged victim, Heilengoetter said.
This was buttressed by the 14 people, among them relatives and close friends, who came before the court to identify the alleged victim in the tape, Heilengoetter said.
Heilengoetter also reminded jurors of the testimony of Lisa Van Allen, who said she met Kelly during a video shoot in Atlanta, where they had their first sexual encounter. Van Allen testified that she would go on stage and simulate sex with the R&B star, but these weren’t her only performances, Heilengoetter said.
Kelly also had her perform in sex tapes, some of which were recorded with the alleged underage victim, Heilengoetter said.
“She spoke of how it was the defendant who operated the camera [And] told everybody what to do during the course of the sexual encounter,” Heilengoetter said.
Heilengoetter then went through the tape, numbering each count of child pornography the state believes Kelly committed.
After six years, he told jurors, “This is finally the day ... the opportunity to hold the defendant criminally responsible for this tape has finally come today. The opportunity will never come again.”
June 12, 2008 10:45 AM: Crowd packs courtroom for closing arguments
Spectators and media packed the 5th floor of the Cook County Criminal Courts Building this morning, angling for a seat in what is in all likelihood going to be one of the most entertaining days in the trial of R. Kelly: closing arguments.
Some are likely to be disappointed, as the number of seats open to the public--State’s Atty. Richard Devine among them--is about half of what is required to seat them all. Something tells us Devine won’t have a problem getting in, though.
It looks like the final statements, which were set to begin at 10:00 a.m., will start about an hour late.
June 12, 2008 5:33 AM: What to expect in R. Kelly closing arguments
And now comes the end.
The R. Kelly trial nears its conclusion today with closing arguments beginning at 10 a.m. The jurynine men and three women could start deliberating as early as this afternoon.
With both sides eager to make one final impression on the panel, here are three points likely to be stressed by each side:
The tape: Two video experts testified it would take decades to fabricate the sex tape at the heart of the child pornography tape. One analyst also broke down a portion of the video to show jurors that the video’s male participant has a mole on his backjust like Kelly.
The friends: The alleged victim denies any involvement with the sex tape, but three former junior high friends readily identified her for the jury. The young women were adamant and unshakable on the witness stand.
The photos: At one point during the trial, the prosecution put up side-by-side pictures of the alleged victim and the female from the sex tape. Though some relatives denied a resemblance, the subjects in the photograph looked very similar.
The victim: The alleged victim, now 23, did not testify during the trial and denied her involvement in the sex tape before a 2002 grand jury. The trial jury already knows this, but you can bet they’ll be reminded again.
The tape: Kelly’s attorneys may move away from the mole defense, given recent revelations that their video expert used a lower-grade tape to demonstrate that the male participant had an unblemished back. However, jurors still may have doubts about the video because of its poor quality and unknown origins.
Lisa Van Allen: Van Allen is the only witness to testify to first-hand knowledge of a sexual relationship between Kelly and his alleged victim. As such, the singer’s attorneys dedicated much of their efforts to trying to undermine her. They’ll paint her as a thieving blackmailer who only stepped forward to spare her fiancé from gun and drug charges. If the jury believes this, it could mean trouble for the prosecution.
Stacy St. Clair
June 10, 2008 3:49 PM: Testimony comes to an end
Testimony officially ended in the R. Kelly trial this afternoon as the judge ordered jurors to report back Thursday for closing arguments.
The jury was dismissed without any mention of a faulty stipulation regarding the accuracy of a DVD shown in court.
The prosecution learned Monday night that images from the sex tape at the center of the child pornography trial were compressed and lost significant detail when they were transferred to the DVD, Assistant State’s Atty. Shauna Boliker said. The prosecutors blamed the error on “dumb lawyers” who simply wanted the DVD to more easily show shortened clips from the original video. The state swore to its veracity in a stipulation, a statement read to jurors in which both sides of the case agree on an item.
The situation was further complicated by the fact that the defense already presented testimony based on the supposed accuracy of both the DVD and the stipulation.
Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan called the stipulation “a rotten tomato in the barrel” and took an hourlong recess to consider the matter. After reviewing the transcripts, the judge said it was clear the defense had access to an uncompressed, unaltered copy of tape, in addition to the disc.
Gaughan asked the prosecution and defense to work together to resolve the matter. The two sides huddled for nearly an hour before returning to court and telling the judge they intended to put their agreement in writing.
Details of the resolution were not announced in open court.
Stacy St. Clair