R. Kelly trial begins despite protests

A verbal battle between R. Kelly supporters and protestors was underway as the R&B singer arrived for the first day of his child pornography trial Friday.

Flanked by his five-person security team, including a videographer, Robert Kelly emerged from a black Cadillac Escalade dressed in a bluish-gray suit and walked straight into the Cook County Criminal Court building at 26th Street and California Avenue as fans and concerned parents shouted “He’s innocent” and “He’s going to jail” back and forth at each other.

Kelly, 41, arrived about 15 minutes before the 10 a.m. start time.

The judge presiding over the trial denied the R&B superstar’s motion to delay the trial — its second request in one week — based on information leaked to the media a few days before the trial began.

A defense lawyer for Kelly told Cook County Circuit Court Judge Vincent Gaughan that information leaked to the Chicago Sun-Times came directly from closed-door hearings and has “irreparably poisoned” potential jurors.

The Chicago native’s defense team said a woman who claims she had a three-way sexual encounter with Kelly and the alleged victim is expected to testify for the prosecution, and allegations that an aide to the R&B artist paid off a woman for the return of the salacious videotape was leaked to the media — all information that was sealed.

“Our principal concern is that Mr. Kelly receive a fair trial,” Marc Martin, one of Kelly’s defense lawyers said.

“We can move forward with a fair trial for the defense,” lead prosecutor Shauna Boliker said.

Gaughan agreed and said it is unknown what effect prior media coverage of the case will have on potential jurors. If bias is suspected at a later time, he would further consider the motion.

Sheriff deputies then ushered 150 potential jurors into the courtroom around 11:45 a.m. while reporters were told to wait outside of the courtroom, at the other end of the hallway.

As the media lined the walls outside of the courtroom’s door waiting for entrance, Gaughan started the court proceedings. Kelly was introduced to the courtroom and the first-time unsealed indictments against the Olympia Fields resident was read to the jury pool.

Kelly was charged in 2002 with 14 counts of child pornography. He allegedly videotaped himself between 1998 and 2000 having sex with a minor. The alleged victim who would now be 23 years old said she is not in the videotape.

Reporters asked sheriff’s deputies why the media was left outside of the courtroom that the public has open access to.

The judge’s media liaison told reporters that Gaughan did not realize the media was not inside the courtroom because it was standing-room only because of the large jury pool.

Then the judge continued with the proceedings and refused the media access, saying, “No, not right now,” the liaison said.

Gaughan continued with the proceedings for about 15 minutes before dismissing the jurors for the day. The media was not allowed inside the courtroom until Kelly was dismissed.

Jury selection will resume May 12. Twenty jurors will be interviewed each day and a total of 16 jurors, including four alternates, will be chosen. The trial is expected to last at least five weeks. There will be no trial proceedings on Fridays.

Kelly has pleaded not guilty and could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

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