CHICAGO — The state called her a "victim," the defense called her a "harlot" and a "whore," but neither side called her to the stand — and her absence may make all the difference.
R. Kelly's child-pornography trial reached its end on Thursday (June 12) when both sides got one last chance to convince the jury with closing arguments, after which point the case was handed over to the jury to decide. While the state bolstered its case by reviewing the sex tape in open court one last time, Kelly's team went on the attack, calling several females involved in the trial either "liars," "extortionists" or "whores" all after the singer's money.
"In order to find R. Kelly guilty [of the 14 counts against him]," defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. said, "you're going to have to call this girl a whore 14 times. Before the whole world, you're going to have to say that [the prosecutors] proved it to you: that this girl is a whore."
"This isn't a case of a groupie who came into his trailer and presented herself as older than she was," Assistant State's Attorney Robert Heilingoetter countered. "They're calling her a prostitute. We're not saying that. We're saying she's the victim of child pornography."
THE R. KELLY TRIAL: IN BRIEF|
Status of Trial
The prosecution rested on June 2; the defense rested on June 9. Closing arguments were heard June 12, and the jury began deliberations.
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.
As the two teams went head-to-head, the state reminded the jury of all the evidence that the defense would have them soon forget. "What about his house, for starters?" Heilingoetter asked. "The background of the tape is in his home. ... So either you believe he's walking around with that duffle bag of [sex tapes], or you believe that someone broke in, shot the background in his house, looped it, and — using technology that does not exist and goes undetected by the FBI — faked a tape. Or someone took a tape out of his bag while he was playing basketball or performing in the studio."
Kelly's team said there was no such bag, and the only person who testified she saw it was Lisa Van Allen, whom Adam equated with Satan, quoting 2 Corinthians 11:14: " 'Satan came disguised as an angel of light.' That's what she is." Adam said he took it personally when Van Allen said he threatened and intimidated her during their meeting, instead claiming that it was she who had threatened him, seeking to get money in exchange for not testifying against Kelly. Adam also made a connection between the prosecution's copy of the sex tape — since the tape itself was manufactured in Peachtree, Georgia — and Van Allen, who lives in Atlanta. Could one of the fathers of her two children — both ex-cons — be behind this, he asked?
"We're not going to chastise Lisa Van Allen for her choice in men," prosecutor Shauna Boliker said, pointing out that it was revealing of Kelly's private life that Van Allen had been his choice of a live-in companion for three and a half years. "Maybe you don't want to bring her home," Boliker said. "Maybe you don't want your son bringing her home for dinner. But don't you think that if it was about money, she wouldn't have been here? They claim she has no proof, no tape. But she said it herself: When they asked for the tape, she said, 'Ask Robert.' "
The family of the girl in question wasn't much better, Adam claimed. If they were as well-meaning as the state claimed in coming forward to make IDs of the girl, why hadn't they done something before? Why didn't they confront Kelly? "Someone would have gone over there, broken his leg," he said, "beat the crap out of him. That's what you would have done." But not even her aunt Delores Gibson, herself a police officer, did so much as call the police, Adam said. Aunt Stephanie "Sparkle" Edwards called her niece "my heart," but she might as well have called her "my meal ticket," Adam said.
Adam also questioned why no one ever noticed anything inappropriate between Kelly and the girl, which he said was proof nothing had ever happened between them. "This wasn't a gardener or the man down the street or a janitor," he said. "This was a 13-year-old girl having sex with a superstar, and she doesn't tell anyone? She doesn't let it slip to her best friend? Never? Not anyone? You can't keep a 13-year-old's mouth closed over Hannah Montana tickets, but this?"
And where was she in all of this, he asked, implying her absence itself also confirmed no molestation occurred. "She's just down the street," Adam claimed, "but [the prosecutors] don't go out and bring her in."
"Shame on them," Boliker said. "We don't need to drag that poor child here in court."
Boliker likened the case to one of first-degree murder, when the victim can't take the stand to say that he was shot point blank but the evidence proves it for him. And in this case, Boliker said, enough damage had already been done to the girl and her family, which has been divided "because of his crime, because of his action" ever since. Van Allen, Sparkle, all the people the defense casts aspersions on, Boliker said, they weren't the ones accusing Kelly, nor were they the ones on trial for their actions.
"This is the people of the state of Illinois versus R. Kelly," she said. "He is the one who is responsible. This is not a who-did-it; this is a he-did-it. We know what happened, no matter what they say. This young child who looks up to him, who admires him, who does what he tells her to do, she was a vulnerable young child. How dare he call her a prostitute?"
After closing arguments, the case went to the jury, which is now sequestered. Deliberations continue Friday.