R. Kelly acquitted on all counts

June 13, 2008 8:46:35 PM PDT
R&B singer R. Kelly cried as he was acquitted on all 14 counts at his child pornography trial Friday afternoon. When the jury was brought into the room before the verdict was read, R. Kelly took a deep breath and bowed his head as each count was read and held his attorneys' hands.

The superstar dabbed his face with a handkerchief and hugged his attorneys after being found not guilty on 14 counts of child pornography.

Kelly did not speak to reporters as he left the courtroom. He exited to cheering fans and got into his SUV.

"He needs a little time to be with his family, collect himself and get strong again," said Allan Mayer, R. Kelly's spokesperson. "Robert has said all along that he believed in our system and he believes in God, and that when all the facts came out in court, he would be cleared of these terrible charges."

Jurors deliberated for less than a day - six hours total between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. They had to decide if Kelly was the man shown on a videotape having sex with a girl as young as 13. Both Kelly and the girl, who is now 23, denied they were on the tape. Neither took the stand during the trial.

Had he been convicted, Kelly would have faced up to 15 years in prison and have to register as a sex offender.

"What happened today when those verdicts started? You got to see the real Robert Kelly," said defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. "He sat there, he was contrite, he sat there and he was crying. He sat there and he was thanking God. All I heard the entire time those verdicts were being read, 'Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus...' That is the Robert Kelly I have come to know."

Lawyers React

Prosecutors thanked Cook County prosecutor Dick Devine's office and the witnesses who came forward in this case.

Prosecutors said the alleged victim's ouches, relatives and close friends from childhood stood steadfast during investigation and trial. "To be dead honest, I don't think we would have done anything differently," said Assistant State's Attorney Robert Heilingoetter. "We believed in all the witnesses that were brought forward. I know that in the representation of the witnesses, sometimes it's glamorous to say that somebody is a star witness or somebody was more important than someone else, but to be honest, every witness that we presented that took the stand i think was as equally as important as any other." The witnesses were "honest and forthright" said one prosecutor, who said that despite the widespread attention that was given to this case, the wirnesses stuck to their convictions.

"They were troubled by what saw, and that was their motivation," said one prosecutor. "There was nothing sinister about them coming forward."

Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Shauna Boliker said the shame and humiliation of the crime often keeps victims of similar crimes from testifying. But prosecutor refused to speculate on why the alleged victim in this case would not take the stand. Prosecutors said they did not subpoena the victim because the didn't want to "revictimize" her.

Prosecutors would not comment on possible coercion or payment by Kelly to the alleged victim and her family.

Jurors Explain

Five of the jurors, who wished to remain anonymous, explained the rationale for their verdicts. They say it came down to the girl who was pictured on the infamous sex tape. They say they could not be sure that it was indeed the 15-year-old girl that prosecutors said it was. One juror said he was fairly convinced that it was R. Kelly on the tape, but again, could not be sure about the girl.

"Was it R. Kelly on the tape? That is secondary to whether or not we could, beyond a reasonable doubt, assume and confirm that it was the victim that the state said it was," said jury foreman Jamon Mytty.

The jurors also said the question of Kelly's mole possibly being on the tape did not factor into their considerations.

The defense attorneys say they were elated with the decision and that they believe the jurors made the right decision.

"I didn't think it was that tough a case. I really didn't" said defense attorney Sam Adam Sr. "When the jury saw the tape, they knew. They just gave it a good shot. They didn't want to find him not guilty immediately. That's the way I analyzed it. There might have been one or two in there that were adverse to our position, but I never had any doubt the jury in this case was going to acquit him."

"We are part of the criminal justice system," said Devine. "We present the case as well and as professionally as we can. It is then in the hands of the jury, or the judge if it's a bench trial. We have to accept that decision. That's the way the system works."

There were quite a few cheering fans on hand to get a glimpse of the superstar and also offer their support. All of the fans spoken to said they agreed with the verdict.

"I think that he's innocent, they should just left him go because it jeopardizes his music," said one female fan.

"Obviously, I'm pretty sure she was willing. You know, I agree with the court," said one male fan.

The jurors spoken to also said that they were not influenced by R. Kelly's celebrity. One juror, in fact, said he had no idea who R. Kelly was. Jurors say that they took their responsibility to be fair very seriously, and they say they feel good about the verdict.

Locals and Fans React

As longtime radio host and R Kelly critic Cliff Kelly took the mike for his afternoon drive show at WVON Friday, he knew his callers would be weighing in on R Kelly. The host said he thinks yet again a controversial character has gotten lucky with the justice system.

"Although the evidence was shaky, if the prosecution cannot come up with enough evidence to at least get one count out of 14, they probably should not have brought the case at all," Cliff Kelly said.

Cliff Kelly said he thinks the singer's career will be renewed. But a humbler R. Kelly will be less likely to embrace misogyny and sexism in the future.

"The fact is, if he knows he did it and he still got away with it, he might think, 'Gee, maybe I am blessed and I ought to do better,'" said Cliff Kelly.

On WLS-AM's Roe Conn Show, there was less surprise at the verdict.

"The people who are involved in this case, the witnesses, nobody is completely clean here. As a matter of fact, R. Kelly is the cleanest guy.," host Conn said.

To some, R. Kelly is a superstar. And while the acquittal is a big relief to Kelly, it is cause for celebration to his fans.

"I've watched enough 'Law & Order' to know if you don't actually have someone saying 'I've been abused,' then you have no trial," said fan Shay Hillsman.

"I kind of knew he was going to win. I just- the whole time I was looking at him and he had his head down sometimes when he was going in court. And, you know, I just wanted to be out there screaming, 'Keep your head up,'" said fan Joyce Waller.

"Actually, I am an R. Kelly fan. But even if I wasn't, I agree with the court's decision," said fan Hector Gomez-Delacasa.

The short six-hour jury deliberation came as no surprise to Kelly supporters. Some callers into the talk radio, however, believed the jury verdict was wrong. They cite other cases involving young women that R. Kelly settled with out-of-court.

"I can't believe he actually got off," said one Roe Conn Show caller.

"This may be the only trial today at 26th and California that won't end in conviction, 'cause you've got a famous guy right there," said Conn.

While the singer was stoic in public as he entered and left the courthouse, in private, those who know him say he was much different.

"He's a very emotional person. You don't know that because he's a superstar and a Grammy winner and all of that. Did you see him cry when the verdict came in?" said Sam Adam Sr.

The six-year legal odyssey has had little impact on his career. He's continued to sell CDs and sell out concert halls. Fans spoken to said they're expecting greater success from this point on.

Kelly Background

R. Kelly's most popular songs include "I Believe I Can Fly," "Bump N' Grind" and "Ignition."

Kelly grew up in a housing project on the South Side. A high school talent show is where he caught the music bug. Kelly said he loved the attention.

Kelly's career took off in the 1990s, not only winning three Grammys for "I Believe I Can Fly." But the superstar produced and wrote for several successful artists. Kelly also helped many young talents, including Stephanie Edwards, known as "Sparkle." She would later testify against Kelly identifying the singer and the female on the tape as her niece.

The criminal case against Kelly all began in 2002 when someone anonymously sent Chicago Sun-Times music critic Jim Derogatis a tape allegedly showing a Kelly and a girl as young as 13 having sex.

Six years ago, Kelly was charged with 21 counts of child pornography, later reduced to 14. At the time, Kelly's defense argued that the woman on the tape was an adult.

"At the time the tape was made, the lady on the tape was not under the age of 18, simple as that," said Ed Genson, defense attorney.

But, it was not that simple. Over the years, Kelly's defense changed. Kelly claimed he was not the man on the tape and the victim said she was not young female on the tape. Without a victim, prosecutors were forced to try a case bringing in over 13 witnesses who identified Kelly and the girl on the tape, including the girl's friends, relatives and former coaches. But the key witness was 27-year-old Lisa Van Allen. She testified to having threeway sex with Kelly and the alleged victim. Van Allen said two of the encounters were videotaped by Kelly.

The case against the singer also came down to the battle of the video experts, one saying it was impossible to doctor or morph the tape while another testified it was possible.

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