CHICAGO — "I kind of know her like the back of my hand."
Sitting on the witness stand, a 24-year-old woman named Simha Jamison told the court how she was able to identify the girl on the sex tape at the heart of R. Kelly's child-pornography trial: They were best friends.
She also said the man on the tape is Kelly.
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.
Jamison was among a string of witnesses on Wednesday (May 21) who identified the girl and Kelly on the sex tape, as Jamison's legal guardian, Peter Thomas, and two of the girl's relatives also took the stand. The girl's uncle, Ben Edwards Sr., and her aunt, Edwards' former wife and Chicago police officer Delores Gibson, both testified that they first saw the tape at a December 2001 family meeting held by Ben's sister, Stephanie "Sparkle" Edwards, to discuss legal options. That was about a month and a half before an anonymous copy was sent to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Upon hearing that Sparkle, a former protégé of Kelly's, instigated the meeting and had a copy of the tape in her possession at the time, defense attorney Ed Genson became very antagonistic toward Edwards, to the point that Edwards began answering "I don't recall" to every question about who was in the room when the tape was played. Genson suggested that if Edwards couldn't remember who was there, how could he know who was on the tape at all?
"She's my niece; she's my blood," Edwards retorted. "Why wouldn't I remember her?"
"OK, so your memory is bad," Genson said.
"Am I on trial here?" Edwards asked. "I told the truth. It looks like [my niece] is on the tape. It looks like R. Kelly is on the tape."
Defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. attacked Gibson for not taking the tape from Sparkle to give to the police and instead advising the girl's mother to see a lawyer. Toward the end of his cross-examination of her, he accused Gibson of conspiring with Sparkle to extort Kelly, and of going public when that failed. "You and Sparkle had that tape sent to the Sun-Times, didn't you?" he asked. "No," she said.
Jamison made the strongest witness, retaining her composure throughout. She did not allow Adam to rattle her on cross-examination. She testified that she and the girl had been best friends approximately since the summer after third grade until six years ago. The two girls rode bikes, rollerbladed, played basketball and went shopping together when they hung out, which was "every day," she said
Through her best friend, Jamison said, she also met R. Kelly (godfather to the girl allegedly in the video). The two girls often went places where Kelly played basketball (at a gym called Hoops) and recorded music (at a studio called Trax), as well as his home, including a sauna room known as the "Colorado Room." Frequently, when her friend visited her godfather, Jamison testified, she saw him give her money: "no less than 100 and no more than 500 [dollars]." The exact amount was disputed on cross-examination.
During Jamison's junior year of high school, she said she saw a sex tape at a friend's home, and recognized the two individuals on the tape. "I thought she looked just like my best friend ... (and) her godfather R. Kelly."
Jamison said she was able to identify her friend by her face and her hairstyle, since they had both gotten the same cut going into their freshman year: a mullet, "short at the top, long at the back." Jamison said they were 13 or 14 at the time.
Adam tried to confuse Jamison, showing her pictures of the girl with a braided hairstyle and asking her which year that would have been taken and how old she would have been at the time, though it turned out the picture was taken in January 1997, when the girl was 12. Adam also tried to get Jamison to identify Kelly by photos of a mole on his back. "I didn't recognize that as his back, but his head was attached to it," she said. "It doesn't look like a mole to me. A cancerous mole, maybe," she said, as Kelly smiled.
Jamison also got a few laughs out of the court, such as when Adam asked her about the possibility of the tape having been altered with special effects. Had she seen the Wayans brothers movie "Little Man"? "It looked real, didn't it?" Adam asked. "Not really," Jamison replied with some sarcasm.
[This story was originally published at 4:24 p.m. ET on 05.21.08]