News

Singer R. Kelly acquitted of child pornography charges

Stacy St. Clair
Chicago Tribune (MCT)
R&B star R. Kelly, 41, waves to supporters as he leaves the Cook County Criminal Courts Building after he was acquitted of child pornography charges Friday, June 13, 2008, in Chicago, Illinois. (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

CHICAGO - A Cook County jury on Friday acquitted R&B superstar R. Kelly of child pornography charges, marking the end of a high-profile trial rich in courtroom drama and celebrity intrigue.

The 41-year-old singer, whose real name is Robert Kelly, long denied charges that he videotaped himself engaging in a variety of sex acts with his then-underage goddaughter.

Authorities said the female in the video could have been as young as 13 at the time. The jury of nine men and three women deliberated for 7 ½ hours before finding Kelly not guilty on all 14 counts.

"R Kelly was found not guilty because they had the best jury that Cook County could produce," said Kelly's attorney Sam Adam Jr. "Two things happened today. R. Kelly got his name back and (his goddaughter) never had to lose hers," Adam said.

Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine called the case unusual because the alleged victim denied being the woman in the video. Sometimes, the community has to press forward with the cases, anyway, Devine said.

"If we acquire the same evidence today or tomorrow, we will bring that case," he said.

Kelly prayed in the courtroom in the moments before the verdict was announced.

As the verdicts kept coming in, each count not guilty, Adam said he heard Kelly saying "Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus."

On the courthouse steps outside, Ieshi Agee, 25, stood with her three young boys to await the verdict. They cheered as Kelly walked out.

"I knew he wasn't guilty!" Agee screamed.

Kelly left the courtroom surrounded by his entourage, who kept reporters away from the singer and escorted him to a waiting sport-utility vehicle as some 50 supporters shouted support to him.

Though Kelly did not speak to reporters, he did salute and wave to fans.

Allan Mayer, a Kelly spokesman, said, "Robert has asked me to speak on his behalf for now. Robert has said all along that he believes in our system, and he believes in God. And that when all the facts came out in court, he'd be cleared of these terrible charges.

"He did not expect that it would take 6 ½ years. It's been a terrible ordeal for him and his family, and at this point all he wants to do is move forward and try to put it behind him. He wants to thank his lawyers who defended him so brilliantly. He wants to thank his fans who stuck by him and supported him with such love.

"Most of all, he wants to thank God for giving him the strength to get through this. He's going to have more to say about all of this very soon. But for right now, he'd be more inclined to be with his family, collect himself and get strong again. But we'll be hearing from him soon about all of this.

"Again, he thanks everyone for their support, and he thanks our system of justice for seeing him through. And he thanks God for his strength and his love."

The spokesman declined to take questions.

Kelly's SUV drove to Douglas Park on Chicago's West Side, where a tour bus was waiting for him and his entourage. There, Kelly, his entourage and his defense team exchanged hugs and handshakes.

Before entering the bus, Kelly shook hands with a woman who pulled up in a van and hugged several female fans, who had been screaming upon his arrival to the park.

The verdict ends a bizarre case that had languished for nearly six years. During almost four weeks of testimony, the jury heard about three-person sexual encounters and watched a sex tape in which the male participant is seen urinating on a female.

Neither the alleged victim, now 23, nor her parents testified during the trial. All three denied her involvement in the tape to a grand jury in 2002.

Without their cooperation, the prosecution used other witnesses to describe the relationship Kelly shared with his goddaughter - an aspiring rapper who witnesses said became a member of his entourage while in junior high school. She often visited him at his downtown recording studio or watched him play basketball at a Chicago gym, they testified.

Only one witness testified to having direct knowledge of an inappropriate relationship between Kelly and the alleged victim. Lisa Van Allen told the jury she engaged in a series of sexual encounters with the singer and his goddaughter when the girl was a minor.

The defense tried to undermine Van Allen's testimony by accusing her of concocting the story to extort money from Kelly. Van Allen, who lives in Georgia, called prosecutors with information about the case shortly after her fiance was arrested on guns and weapons charges.

Kelly's attorneys contended the young woman in the tape is not the alleged victim but a prostitute. They called three family members of the alleged victim who testified that they saw no resemblance between their relative and the female in the video.

Kelly also did not testify. Without testimony from him or his alleged victim, the singer's attorneys built their case around a caterpillar-shape mole along his spine. They argued that the man in the recording has an unblemished back, meaning Kelly couldn't be the man in the video.

If you don't see the mole, the defense told the jury, then Kelly cannot be convicted. Kelly's attorneys also suggested the 27-minute tape had been doctored, going so far as to say someone could have edited the singer's head onto another man's body. A prosecution expert testified such editing trickery would take 44 years and still would be obvious to viewers.

The defense team was ecstatic with the verdict, calling it a major victory for an innocent man.

Ed Genson, Kelly's lead attorney, said he has "graduated from late middle age to senior citizen on this case. Now I am going to get a little sleep." Sitting beside him at a table speaking to the media was Adam Jr., who traded compliments with Genson.

Adam said the entire case was won because of Genson and his legal strategy. Genson said Adam "gave one of the best closing arguments I have ever heard." Genson called the legal team the best he has worked with in his legal career.

"The evidence won the case, and we put together the best trial team I have seen in 43 years of practicing law," Genson said.

The drawn-out legal battle has not slowed Kelly's music career. He has released five albums and a greatest-hits collection since he was indicted in 2002. He also has completed several concert tours.

___

(Tribune reporters Azam Ahmed, Kayce Ataiyero, Jeff Coen, Monique Garcia, Jeremy Gorner, James Janega and Angela Rozas contributed to this report.)

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Music

Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.