Just as R. Kelly's child-pornography case in Chicago starts heating up, the case against him in Polk County, Florida, is also gaining momentum, as the first major arguments in the pretrial process are now being made.
Kelly's defense team filed motions last week to suppress evidence at the heart of the case — digital pictures of a nude underage girl found at his Florida residence — claiming that the search was illegal.
The R&B singer, who must appear at every pretrial hearing at Chicago's Cook County Courthouse and must request the court's permission to travel outside of the jurisdiction, faces no such requirements or restrictions in the Florida matter. Thanks to more liberal state laws, Kelly was able to waive his right to appear at the pretrial conferences, which have proceeded accordingly without him. Though several motions have been filed in the past year since he was arrested on the Florida charges, last week's motion was the first one of substance, his defense team said.
Kelly was first arrested on June 5, 2002, in Davenport, Florida, but that was on the Chicago fugitive warrant for 21 counts of child pornography ("R. Kelly Arrested On 21 Counts Of Child Pornography"). Following this arrest, two applications for search warrants were filed, to search the two residences he had rented while staying down south, which he used as living quarters and a recording studio.
During these searches, police seized four video cameras, a laptop computer, adult videotapes and a digital camera that contained 12 images depicting sexual activity by a female who was under 18 years of age, with three of those images also depicting Kelly involved in sexual conduct with the female minor, investigators said at the time. Seven months later when he returned to Florida to shoot a video for the remix of "Ignition," Kelly was arrested on a Polk County warrant for an additional 12 counts of possession of child pornography (see "R. Kelly Arrested On Child Porn Charges Again").
Kelly's team is asking the judge to throw out all the evidence seized, on the basis that the search was improperly conducted. They claim detectives coerced Kelly's housemates into consenting to a search of the house and misrepresented facts to obtain the two warrants — one for drugs and the other for child pornography.
"While the [first] warrant being executed was confined to a search for narcotics, the officers conducting the search had child pornography ever present in their minds," defense attorney Ronald Toward argued in the motion filed last week. He further argued that investigators had no legal reason to suspect they would find child pornography, drugs or other illegal items in Kelly's private bedroom, which had been locked when detectives arrived.
According to the probable case statement used to obtain the search warrant, detectives thought they would find child pornography based on the pending child-pornography case in Chicago.
"The Fourth Amendment is designed to ensure protection of several core values," defense attorney Diane Buerger argued in a related motion filed last week, "including prevention of general exploratory search warrants, as well as the idea that an individual's home is a castle in which he or she enjoys freedom from unwarranted government intrusions. In this case the conduct of the Polk County Sheriff's Department transgressed these core values on a variety of fronts."
The matter is scheduled to be heard on Thursday. Kelly has pleaded not guilty on all counts.
For full coverage of the R. Kelly sex tape scandal, see The R. Kelly Reports.