Jury Selection Begins In Star's Pornography Trial

CHICAGO (AP) -- On the first day of his child pornography trial in Chicago, a suit-clad R. Kelly faced nearly 150 Cook County residents, bowed his head slightly, smiled and said, "Hello."

It probably behooved the R&B superstar to make as good a first impression as possible with these particular men and women: A dozen of them are expected to end up on a jury that could find him guilty and send him to prison for up to 15 years.

Known for sexually charged hits like "Bump N' Grind," Kelly, 41, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he videotaped himself having sex with a girl as young as 13.

After introducing Kelly to the jurors on Friday, Cook County Circuit Judge Vincent Gaughan read the 14-count indictment against him. The initial session with potential jurors in Gaughan's stately, colonnade courtroom lasted only about 30 minutes, and reporters were not allowed in; one court official said there weren't enough seats.

Some of the potential jurors looked uncomfortable, and at least a few placed their hands over their eyes as the judge read some of the more graphic sections of the indictments, said Verna Sadock, a sketch artist who was in the room.

Each count is only a few sentences long and does not go into details about the allegations or possible evidence.

Earlier in the day, Kelly, dressed in a silver-blue suit and gold tie, sat expressionless in court. But the Grammy-winning artist looked more relaxed as he addressed the jurors, Sadock said.

The potential jurors - some carrying bags and coats, many looking serious and even glum - later filed out of the fifth-floor courtroom to fill out questionnaires for the next stage of jury selection. The questionnaires were not made public.

There was no afternoon session scheduled Friday and jurors were due back in court Monday morning.

Before jury selection began Friday, Gaughan denied a defense motion to again postpone the trial because of intense publicity surrounding the case, appearing to accept arguments from the prosecution that jury selection could weed out any tainted jurors.

But defense attorney Marc Martin said the jury pool had been "irrevocably poisoned" by a front-page story in Friday's Chicago Sun-Times that cited unnamed sources talking about a potential witness.

Many of the potential jurors would have read the article on the way to the courthouse, Martin said.

"There is no escaping the fact that the Sun-Times will be in every news box in Cook County," said Martin, adding that the contents of the story were also broadcast on TV and radio stations. "I heard it when I was putting on my tie this morning."

"Somebody out there is trying to sabotage Mr. Kelly's right to a fair trial," Martin said.

As he arrived at the courthouse Friday morning, Kelly didn't acknowledge the crowd outside as he walked through a special entrance. One raucous onlooker shouted "I love you"; another shouted "R. Kelly's a pedophile."

Once a jury's in place, prosecutors will have to surmount several hurdles if they hope to prevail.

Chief among them is that the alleged victim, now 23, says it wasn't her. And Kelly's lawyers - including prominent Chicago attorney Ed Genson - haven't admitted it's Kelly in the video.

The centerpiece of the trial is the video footage, which Gaughan ruled may be shown in open court.

Prosecutors claim the videotape was made sometime between Jan. 1, 1998, and Nov. 1 2000, and that the girl was born in September 1984. Kelly was indicted on pornography charges June 5, 2002, after the tape surfaced.

Some of the trial proceedings have been kept secret by the judge, and it's unclear whether prosecutors have sought - or been granted - permission to tell jurors about accusations that Kelly allegedly had sexual relations with other minors.

Media outlets, including The Associated Press, have filed a motion seeking to get court records and hearing transcripts unsealed. Gaughan has said he would rule on that motion May 16.

Gaughan, who has imposed a gag order, also said he would later rule on a defense motion to consider appointing a special prosecutor to investigate apparent leaks to the Sun-Times.

Reporters complained Friday about being keep out of the courtroom as the judge read the indictment to jurors.

One attorney for the news media in their motion to get access to the records and transcripts said it wasn't clear if Gaughan intended to keep reporters out.

"It was possibly inadvertent, but the press obviously should have been there," said Damon Dunn. "Criminal trials are constitutionally required to be public. And the public can only attend the trial through the press."

Although Kelly won a Grammy in 1997 for the gospel-like song "I Believe I Can Fly," his biggest hits are bawdy ballads like "Ignition" and his current single, "Hair Braider." He is due to release a new album in July.


WITN

275 E. Arlington Blvd. Greenville, NC 27858 252-439-7777
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 18827959 - witn.com/a?a=18827959