CHICAGO — At R. Kelly's child-pornography trial, fans sometimes gather on the front steps of the courthouse to proclaim their support for the singer as he gets ready for another day of proceedings. But on Thursday (May 22), a certain fan wasn't outside: She was on the fifth floor, standing by the freight elevator used by members of the jury to remain concealed from the press and the public. As the jurors got off the elevator, she yelled, "Free R. Kelly!" And in case they missed it, she said it again as a sergeant came to arrest her.
Had the outburst been outside, there would not have been a problem. But a few feet from the very courtroom where Kelly is being tried, in front of the people who are trying him? That's contempt of court. The fan, Debra Triplett, was handcuffed and brought before Judge Vincent Gaughan. The arresting officer, Sergeant London Thomas, was sworn in and testified that he witnessed the entire incident: "I was looking directly at her and heard her say it." Gaughan set her bail at $50,000 and scheduled a hearing for June 25.
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.
After determining that the jurors had not heard Triplett's plea, the trial resumed from where it had left off on Wednesday. Two more witnesses took the stand and identified the girl on the tape.
One of those witnesses was another childhood friend, Aubrey Hampton, who got to know the girl in question through mutual friend Simha Jamison and their love of basketball. The other witness was Hampton's mother, Mary K. Jerit, who works at the Department of Children and Family Services.
Hampton said she was able to recognize her friend by her face, haircut, voice and mannerisms, such as the way she would bite her lower lip, and she said her friend looked to be about 13 or 14 on the tape. However, like Jamison, she hadn't seen her friend in six years, "since the investigation started." Still, she was certain it was her friend with Kelly: "It was never a question."
Defense attorney Marc Martin took Jerit to task for not bringing the matter to the attention of authorities, given her position at DCFS, when she discovered the tape in her daughter's bedroom (she threw it out instead). "I didn't report the tape to DCFS, but I did inquire if it was under investigation," Jerit said.