R. Kelly trial starts Friday

After six years since being charged, R&B superstar R. Kelly will finally start day one of his child pornography trail Friday.

The trial was originally set to begin last September. Chicago native Robert Kelly, 41, was indicted in 2002 for allegedly videotaping himself between 1998 and 2000 having sex with a minor.

The teenage girl, who is now an adult, said she is not in the videotape, making the prosecution’s case difficult. Area attorneys are not surprised that it has taken so long for the trial to start, partly because of the charges against the singing sensation. Also, because of the backlog in the Cook County criminal justice system, they said.

“Serious charges usually take a long time. The defense could have brought a speedy trial motion, but they haven’t,” said William Hooks, a criminal defense attorney. Attorney Andre Grant said there are too many cases in the system and it unfortunately takes a long time to get to court. Plus, the case is not a strong one.

“The alleged victim said it’s not her in the tape. That creates a tremendous problem. In fact, you don’t have a victim, because the alleged victim said it’s not her. And for the most part, her parents are saying that it’s not her either,” Grant said. In January, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Vincent Gaughan dealt a blow to prosecutors when he denied their request to have an expert challenge the credibility of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors said denials by victims of sexual abuse are relatively normal and asked that Dr. Sharon Cooper, a developmental and forensic pediatrician, be allowed to testify about the girl’s denial. “There’s a specific denial in front of the grand jury,” Ed Genson, lead counsel for Kelly’s defense, said at the January status hearing about the girl who denied being in the videotape.

The judge agreed. With the then-teen refuting claims that she was involved with Kelly, and on the videotape, the prosecution was not anxious to get to trial. And as far as the defense is concerned, they never have to go to trial, Grant said. He also does not think the testimony from a woman who said she had a three-way sexual tryst with Kelly and the alleged victim will make the prosecution’s case stronger.

“This case has been going on for six years. Where has she been and why has she just popped up now? That’s always suspect. People will come out of the woodwork. It will depend on how the defense handles the witness and what her background is; what her motives are,” Grant added. With Kelly’s fame and the case looming for six years, there are few people who do not know who R. Kelly is, or have heard about the case.

“The key to the trial will be a neutral jury, Hooks and Grant said. The prosecution and defense will have to weed out those who want to be on the jury for notoriety; those who have biases against Kelly, or those in favor of him, said Grant.

“They will have to find jurors that have not already made up their minds” Hooks added. Kelly has denied the allegations. If convicted he faces up to 15 years in prison.

______ Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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