CHICAGO — R. Kelly's team struck back hard on Wednesday (June 4), the first day of the defense case in the singer's child-pornography trial, by bringing forth family members of the girl in question who don't think she's the one on the tape. The defense also sought to decimate the prosecution's star witness, Lisa Van Allen, with the first of three witnesses called to impeach her testimony about having a threesome with Kelly and the girl in question.
THE R. KELLY TRIAL: IN BRIEF|
Status of Trial
The prosecution rested on June 2; the defense began on June 4.
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.
Since four of the girls' relatives — an uncle, a cousin and two aunts, including Stephanie "Sparkle" Edwards — had testified for the prosecution, the defense countered with another aunt, uncle and cousin who testified in quick succession that it wasn't their family member on the tape. No one from this round of relatives had watched the sex tape in full, they said, but saw "bits and pieces" at the office of Kelly attorney Ed Genson. Still, they said they were certain, even when shown a side profile photo of their relative juxtaposed with a side profile image of the girl on the tape.
"No, that definitely wasn't her," cousin Shonna Edwards said. And when asked to identify the girl's body, "Not even close."
"No, that does not look like my niece," aunt Charlotte Edwards said.
"They're not the same," uncle Leroy Edwards said.
Genson asked how the girl in the photo parted her hair, and they responded that she parted it in the center. Genson then asked how the girl on the tape parted her hair, and they responded that it appeared to be parted to the left.
The three also said that the man on the tape did not look like Kelly, who they considered a family friend. Genson also asked about the pop group that the girl and Shonna were members of and Leroy had managed. The group did some traveling, often overseas, during the time frame that the prosecution had said the tape was made, between 1998 and 2000.
Leroy Edwards testified that he was first made aware of the tape when his sister Sparkle called and asked him to look at it back in 2002 (he declined), but when his brother-in-law (the girl's father) asked him just last week to take the stand, he agreed.
"Your family has been split in half?" prosecutor Robert Heilingoetter asked.
"Yes," Edwards answered.
"You're not as close as you used to be?"
"Not since that phone call [from Sparkle]," Edwards answered.
"Was part of that dissension caused by Stephanie authenticating the tape and cooperating with the police?" Heilingoetter asked.
"I guess you could say that."
On redirect, Genson asked if Sparkle also wanted to go to a lawyer and get money.
"That was my belief," Edwards answered.
After the three relatives testified, the next witness, Jason Wallace, was called in an attempt to undermine Van Allen. Wallace, a sports agent and law clerk, had met with Van Allen, fiance Yul Brown and defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. on May 8 in Atlanta, Georgia. Wallace said that the purpose of the trip was to interview Van Allen about her upcoming testimony in the trial, but that Van Allen didn't say one word in the meeting, instead deferring to Brown. Wallace claimed that Brown implied that if Kelly offered them money — around $350,000 — that Van Allen need not take the stand about her alleged sexual encounters with him and the girl in question. However, Wallace conceded on cross-examination that there was no recording of this conversation, which took place outside the presence of a court reporter, and his written summary of the conversation was not exact.
"It wasn't verbatim," Wallace said. When asked about other statements made during the conversation, he admitted he hadn't included everything that was said — including statements by Adam that might have explained some of Brown's responses.
"Sam Adam Jr. told her that he didn't believe she would get immunity? That was an effort to intimidate her, isn't that true?" Heilingoetter asked. "You went down there to try to create an illusion of impropriety?"
"I don't think so," Wallace said.
Meanwhile, in an earlier hearing outside the presence of the jury, Chicago Sun-Times reporter Jim DeRogatis declined to answer most questions, other than his name and job, asserting his reporter's privilege as well as his First and Fifth Amendment rights. Judge Vincent Gaughan told him that reporter's privilege and the First do not apply, since he would not be asked to reveal his sources, but the judge did agree that the DeRogatis could plead the Fifth until it is determined whether the state can offer him immunity from child-pornography charges. DeRogatis will not be forced to testify for now, the judge said, but he ordered the reporter to turn over his notes by 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Find a review of the major players in the R. Kelly trial here. For full coverage of the R. Kelly case, see the R. Kelly Reports and check out this complete timeline of the events leading up to the trial.