Two more witnesses identified

Before court recessed for the day on Wednesday, two more of the prosecution’s witnesses in the R. Kelly child pornography case identified the alleged victim, depicted in the 27-minute homemade sex tape, as a girl in her early teens.

An assistant principal at a west suburban elementary school, Joel Rhea, said he knew it was the alleged victim on the tape because of her “facial features and forehead area,” and said she appeared to be around 14 or 15 years old on the video.

Rhea, who also coached a girl’s basketball team that played against the alleged victim’s team in seventh and eighth grades, said he saw the alleged victim about eight times during two basketball seasons, and would also see her at outings with one of her close friends, Simha Jamison.

When the defense attorney, Marc Martin, asked about the identification based partially on the alleged victim’s forehead, Rhea said the alleged victim was constantly teased at school for having a “big forehead.”

Martin also asked if Rhea remembered a time when the alleged victim had braces during her elementary school years.

“I recall a time when she had braces, possibly in the eighth grade. I’m not 100 percent sure,” Rhea told Martin.

Martin then read from the assistant principal’s May 2002 grand jury testimony where Rhea stated that he remembered the alleged victim having braces for “more than a year.”

The alleged victim having braces was brought up briefly in Tuesday’s testimony by defense counsel Sam Adam Jr. when he asked a former friend of the alleged victim’s family if she remembered the alleged victim wearing braces in the late 1990s.

Tjada Burnett said the alleged victim did wear braces between 1997 and 1999, but could not pinpoint an exact time.

The female in the video does not appear to be wearing braces.

The sexually explicit tape was made between 1998 and 2000, authorities said.

Also identifying the alleged victim was her former coach.

Jacques Conway, who is also a pastor and retired Oak Park police sergeant, coached the alleged victim’s high school basketball team in 2000 and 2001. He said the female’s “facial features, size, height and cross she was wearing” confirmed that it was the alleged victim in the videotape.

Conway said he had an “open door policy” with his players and all students at the west suburban high school. They knew they could come to him with any questions, concerns, or for advice.

On cross examination, Adam asked Conway if he ever saw or suspected that anything was going awry in the alleged victim’s life.

“You were more than just a basketball coach, a police officer and a pastor. She was free to come to you. She never came to you and said ‘My godfather is molesting me,’ Adam asked.

Conway replied, “No.”

“As a police officer and a pastor who deals with families every day, you look for signs of trauma. You listen to see if these things are going on. At any time did you see anything that would lead you to believe that she would sell her body for money?” Adam asked.

“No, I didn’t,” Conway said, adding “it was not like her.”

Conway also knew the alleged victim’s mother in the 1980s when she worked at a dry cleaners, but did not know that she had a daughter. He found out the connection when he would see the mother at the alleged victim’s games years later.

Testimony wrapped up earlier than expected Wednesday.

An Atlanta woman who allegedly had a three-way sexual tryst with Kelly and the alleged victim was scheduled to take the witness stand Wednesday afternoon, but the defense told the judge that a man called their office earlier that day to inform them about information that could undermine the woman’s credibility.

The man is expected to arrive in Chicago tonight.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Vincent Gaughan cut court proceedings short so the defense and prosecution could have time to interview the man before the woman testifies.

The woman may now testify Thursday.%u2028

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

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