CHICAGO — The prosecution asked to dim the lights. The defense asked to move so they could see better. The jurors leaned in, some poised to take notes. And after a few technical hiccups, the tape started.
THE R. KELLY TRIAL: IN BRIEF|
Status of Trial
Opening arguments began on May 20
Kelly faces 14 counts of child pornography — seven for directing, seven for producing.
What's at Stake?
Kelly faces 15 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. If convicted, he'd have to register as a sex offender.
For full coverage of the ongoing R. Kelly case, see The R. Kelly Trial Reports.
Most courtroom observers had anticipated that the prosecution in R. Kelly's child-pornography trial would wait to show the sex tape at the heart of the case at a later point in the trial — after they had laid some groundwork, established who they believe the underage girl on the tape was or discussed authenticating it. In other words, save it for a dramatic moment. But the state's attorneys rolled out the tape during the direct examination of their very first witness, a retired Chicago police officer named Dan Everett, who received the tape from a Chicago Sun-Times reporter in February 2002 (that reporter, Jim DeRogatis, has been subpoenaed for a hearing on Friday).
Kelly has always claimed that he has never even seen the tape, and the singer looked uncomfortable watching it at first. Sometimes Kelly would turn to one of his defense attorneys, Sam Adam Jr., and make a few comments in his ear. Otherwise, his attention was on the screen, resting his head on his hand during part of the tape, tilting his head and leaning forward at times. Some of the members of the jury looked a little disturbed, including juror #6. Juror #44 had looked eager to see the tape when it started, but as it progressed, he slinked back in his chair, his eyes darting at his fellow jurors to see how they reacted.
Juror #66 looked a little bewildered to be there at all, since at the start of the day, he had just been an alternate. Juror #68, a victim of rape, had asked to be excused for hardship reasons: She said that she had thought she could use vacation days to pay for her time away from work during the trial, but her employer had not agreed, and so she wouldn't be able to make her mortgage payments.
During Everett's testimony, in which he talked about being given the sex tape and his attempts to identify the persons on the tape, he referred to knowing who the girl on the tape was because of a "previous investigation." He was most likely referring to the investigations conducted by the Chicago police and the Department of Children and Family Services regarding the girl's alleged molestation and her parents' complicity. This, however, had already apparently been ruled on in a closed hearing, and the mention of the word "investigation" nearly led Judge Vincent Gaughan to call a mistrial.
"They told you not to mention the word 'investigation,' " Gaughan admonished the witness after sending the jury out of the courtroom.
"It was a slip of the tongue," Everett said.
"You're an investigator who now works with Homeland Security. We listened to a litany of your qualifications and job history, and all of a sudden, it's a slip of the tongue?" Gaughan retorted. "That's an egregious mistake."
Concerned the witness would slip again, the judge said that if it happened once more, he would grant a mistrial, at which point Kelly's attorney Ed Genson renewed his motion asking for a mistrial.
Once the jury was called back, Everett told them he had made a "mistake" and referred to the incident as a "prior interview."
Everett also testified that he had interviewed several family members of the girl in question, including her parents, aunts and uncles, although the judge ruled that the content of those interviews was hearsay.
In the prosecution's opening statements, Assistant State's Attorney Shauna Boliker told the jury that Kelly had "commanded" the girl in question to perform the sex acts seen on the tape and that he had controlled the situation. Defense attorney Adam countered in his opening statement that it wasn't Kelly or the girl in question on the tape, and that the female seen must be a "professional prostitute" since she's seen accepting money.