Jun 27, 2008
Posted by: Hitsville

The R. Kelly case: Lisa Van Allen speaks

kelly upside downEssence magazine has a very long conversation with Lisa Van Allen, who you will recall was the woman who testified she had had a number of threesomes with Kelly and the allegedly under-age girl police said was on the sex tape at the center of the case. Lots of very poignant stuff here. Like this:

Essence.com: So how did you go from being an extra [at a video shoot in Atlanta] to meeting him personally?

Van Allen: He sent his cousin over to me. This guy told me his cousin wanted to talk to me. I asked him who his cousin was, and he said, “R. Kelly.” I said, “Okay,” and he arranged for me to be taken back to his trailer. In between the scenes, he came back to the trailer and talked to me. I was very flattered. Out of all the girls at the video shoot, he picked me out of everybody to talk to. We ended up having intercourse.

Essence.com: You had sex with him in the trailer that same day?

Van Allen: Yes. He started with a kiss, and from there we leaned back, and I just didn’t stop him. I was kind of worried that he wouldn’t want to see me again after that, but I wasn’t worried about the actual act at that time because I was just honored that he picked me. Being a young girl, I was like, “Wow.” I wasn’t thinking as a woman would.

And this:

Essence.com: Is it true that you got pregnant by R. Kelly and had an abortion?

Van Allen: Yes. I had the abortion in 2000, right before the “I Wish” video shoot. I was the one braiding his hair in that video. When I told him I was pregnant, he asked me what did I want to do, and I told him I wanted to get an abortion.

(The story includes a denial from one of Kelly’s lawyers. Another of his young girlfriends has said she got an abortion after an alliance with him; this woman was under-age at the time.)

And this:

Essence.com: In retrospect, do you feel that your relationship with him was damaging to you?

Van Allen: Yeah. As you can see, it still bothers me when I think about what went on. It’s emotionally stressful just knowing how I felt, how vulnerable I was. How I wanted him to love me and accept me. I didn’t want to get him mad at me. And I didn’t know what real love was. He was the first man I had ever dealt with—I was 17 when I met him, I hadn’t dealt with men before. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

Essence.com: If these allegations are true, some people have suggested that you are just as reprehensible as R. Kelly is—that you also were having sex with an underage girl. What is your response to that?

Van Allen: I didn’t know that she was 14. He left me in the dark just like everybody else was in the dark. People hear that I’m 27, and they think that I was an adult when it happened. They don’t realize that I was coming in to being a young woman. I didn’t know her real age. I didn’t know the truth.

Essence.com: Why do you think nobody else in R. Kelly’s circle has come forward about him and teenage girls?

Van Allen: Because they don’t want people to look at them in the wrong light, like how they’ve done me. You see how this case went. It was supposed to be about him, but when I came out, they just switched it all over to me.

Essence.com: The allegations and the video haven’t put a dent in R. Kelly’s career. He still has droves of devoted fans, and his albums still top the charts. Why do you think so few people seem to care about this issue?

Van Allen: It’s like no one wants to step up and take responsibility for what’s happening. I have no idea why more people don’t want to get involved and put themselves out there for our children. I guess if it was closer to home, maybe they would. If it was their child or their sister. But it shouldn’t be that way.

The first page of the interview is here.

The second page, the link to which is a little hard to find, is here.

Jun 15, 2008
Posted by: Hitsville

Wrapping up the R. Kelly acquittal

kelly upside downThe Chicago Tribune takes a look back and decides the verdict came from what everyone’s been saying all week: The prosecution didn’t have a victim:

One paramount lesson to take away from the failed child pornography prosecution of R&B star R. Kelly is this: It’s hard to win a conviction when the alleged victim not only denies it but also doesn’t show up in court.

“Child exploitation cases are usually difficult to defend,” said Paul DerOhannesian, a New York lawyer who is an expert on criminal cases involving the sexual assault of children. “But the lack of a [complaining] victim here was a major weakness that drained the case of emotion.”

There’s another thread here as well:

[…] Kelly’s gold-plated defense team had the resources and skill to put off the trial for years, and legal analysts say that delay may have sapped the potential to provoke juror outrage.

“Time was his friend,” said Andrea Zopp, the former Cook County prosecutor….

It was thought, in the Tribune as elsewhere, that the extraordinary six-year delay in the case was due to the trouble the state had in coming up with something to base the case on, absent the girl they thought was on the tape, who as the story said not only wouldn’t testify, but told police and a grand jury that it wasn’t she.*

It seems that in the end the state’s strategy was to base the case on the production of child porn, rather than statutory rape, which in a way took the victim out of it. You have to give Cook County credit: The case ultimately included a friend of both Kelly’s and the girl’s who could testify to having had three-way sex with the pair—and having been filmed doing it. But that gambit, obviously, didn’t work.

Meanwhile, the Sun-Times goes back to canvas the reactions of some of the witnesses at the trial—particularly those who were friends of the girl in question and ID’ed her in court:

Tjada Burnett, a family friend of the alleged victim who also testified against Kelly, said she “can’t understand” the verdict.

Burnett said she had spoken Friday night with Sparkle, the alleged victim’s aunt who introduced her to Kelly when she was just 12.

Sparkle “was very, very upset,” Burnett said.

Bennie Edwards Sr., the alleged victim’s uncle, who also testified for the state, described Kelly’s acquittal as “B.S.”

“How can the jury let a pedophile go like that?” he asked.

Though he too is estranged from his niece, he said: “She’s gotta be hurting right now.”

Kelly, he predicted, will “get what he’s got coming.”

————-

* Based on the testimony of other people at the trial, the chances are good that the woman was lying to the police and perjuring herself before the grand jury, and that the three relatives of hers who testified at the trial committed perjury as well.

Something I just noticed while looking something up in the original Sun-Times stories about Kelly’s predilections, emphasis added:

The girl in the video, now 17, was identified by her aunt, who said that her niece would have been 14 at the time the tape was made, based on her appearance. Kelly can also be heard on the tape referring to the girl by her first name.

————

Previously in Hitsville:

The verdict: Jim DeRogatis’s take
Post-morteming the R. Kelly case
Who you gonna believe: Your own eyes or R. Kelly’s defense team?

The world’s weirdest defense summation

Everything you need to know about the R. Kelly case

R. Kelly Sexfactsâ„¢ IV: The Quantum of Solace! The complete prosecution case!

The Godfather Who Shagged Me: The complete R. Kelly SexFacts™, Parts I, II & III—Every barfy thing you ever wanted to know about the origins of the R. Kelly case

Targeting Jim DeRogatis—literally

More on L’affaire DeRogatis

The DeRogatis ruling

Bad craziness at the R. Kelly trial?

At the R. Kelly trial, they do things they don’t do on Broadway!

Ever hear the one about the guy convicted of murdering his parents who asked for mercy because he was a orphan?

The NYT and R. Kelly: Curiouser and curiouser

The NYT finally notices R. Kelly isn’t a nice guy

R. Kelly and the NYT: The Freaky Defense

Tribune, Sun-Times protest closed hearings in R. Kelly case

Secret hearings in the R. Kelly case

R. Kelly’s Publicist: He slept with my daughter!

Jun 14, 2008
Posted by: Hitsville

The R. Kelly verdict: Jim DeRogatis’ take

kelly upside downThe Chicago Sun-Times reporter, whose reporting kicked off the R. Kelly scandals nearly eight years ago, gives his impression in the paper:

The 41-year-old artist proudly described himself as “the World’s Greatest,” a “Sexual Super Freak” and “the Pied Piper of R&B”—perhaps oblivious to the fact that the Pied Piper of medieval legend led 130 boys and girls from a German village to their doom. Yet despite his acquittal Friday on 14 counts of making child pornography, it remains difficult to dismiss his lyrics and his boasting in the media as mere hyperbole.The prosecution chose to pursue a very narrow case against the superstar, solely concentrating on a 26-minute, 39-second tape anonymously sent to the Chicago Sun-Times in February 2002. But as the paper first reported in December 2000, for more than a decade, public records and lawsuits allege that Kelly abused his staggering wealth and fame to pursue sexual relationships with underage girls, many of whom were left deeply wounded by those encounters.

The voices of those girls were never heard in Judge Vincent Gaughan’s courtroom. But they include:

• The late Aaliyah D. Haughton, Kelly’s celebrated 15-year-old protege, whom he illegally married in 1994 shortly after producing the debut album he titled “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.” (The marriage was annulled, and Kelly paid Aaliyah a token sum in a settlement.)

• Tiffany H[.]*, who sued Kelly claiming that he began having sex with her when she was 15 after he picked her while visiting her choir class at his alma mater, Kenwood Academy. (Kelly settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum.)

• Tracy S[.], a former intern at Epic Records who sued Kelly claiming that she lost her virginity to him at age 17. (Kelly settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum.)

• Patrice J[.], a Chicago woman who sued Kelly alleging that they began having sex after he met her at the Rock ‘n’ Roll McDonald’s following her high school’s senior prom. (Kelly settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum.)

• And Montina W[.], a legal-age dancer who sued Kelly claiming that he videotaped her without her knowledge while they were having sex. (Kelly settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum.)

And these are just the main on-the-record, names-attached cases we know about. (There is photographic evidence of two more, but the girls in them have never been identified.)

DeRogatis’s piece is a reminder of the second-saddest thing about the verdict. (The first is that Kelly’s back on the streets a smarter and wiser sexual predator, presumably with the minor object lesson learned that he merely probably shouldn’t film himself urinating on under-aged girls.)

The second saddest is that he’s now an acquitted sexual predator and will be referred to that way by a press that has already spent nearly eight years downplaying the acts he’s been accused of. A year before the tape came to light DeRogatis and his reporting partner, Abdon Pallasch, had crafted a convincing portrait of Kelly’s activities in that realm.

The acts in that story will now fade as Kelly takes a what will certainly be a victory lap of media interviews, no doubt with pliable folks who won’t press Kelly for explanations.

————-

* Hitsville sees no reason to print the women’s full names.

Jun 14, 2008
Posted by: Hitsville

Post-morteming the R. Kelly case

kelly upside downJosh Levin, who spent two weeks over the trial for Slate, offers his thoughts here:

[…I]n the end, [prosecutors] were undone by what they didn’t have. Even without a cooperative victim, the state’s attorneys might have swayed the jury if Judge Vincent Gaughan had allowed them to present evidence of Kelly’s past transgressions, like the four known settlements he’s paid to underage girls who’ve accused him of sexual misconduct. Once you know all of that stuff, it’s somewhat hard to imagine that R. Kelly didn’t tape himself having sex with an underage girl. If, like the jury, you don’t know the singer’s history, there’s a lot more room for doubt.

The Sun-Times, in its latest update on the acquittal, has a new take on the verdict:

In a dramatic verdict that appeared to stun even his own highly-paid lawyers, the 41-year-old R&B star was cleared of all 14 counts of child pornography.

“Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus,” Kelly whispered as each not guilty verdict was read.

[…]The relatively short deliberations after four weeks of testimony led many to believe Kelly would be convicted. Moments before the verdict was announced, the star’s downcast attorney Sam Adam Jr. turned to Kelly, shaking his hand and somberly telling him, “We did everything we could.”

But an overcome Kelly dropped his head and began sobbing as the first “not guilty” was read shortly after 2 p.m. Friday, keeping it bowed for several minutes as he was cleared on each of the remaining counts.

Sitting next to him, Adam exclaimed “Yes!,” dropping his jaw in shock and hugging Kelly, who dabbed the tears streaming down his face with a baby blue handkerchief.

From the Chicago Tribune:

“All of us felt the grayness of the case,” said one white male juror.Most thought it was probably R. Kelly in the video, said one 54-year-old male black juror. Many thought the girl in the video was underage. But there remained a doubt that she was the victim alleged by prosecutors, the juror said.

The jury spent time looking at facial profiles, still shots and comparing them to the alleged victim’s face. And the young woman’s silence all but ruled out a guilty verdict, the juror said.

“The victim didn’t show up,” he said. “Her parents didn’t. The family that did was split.”

Jun 13, 2008
Posted by: Hitsville

The acquittal: The jurors speak

kelly upside downFrom the Sun-Times:

The jurors, who deliberated for about three hours Thursday and part of today before reaching their verdict, said the closest they came to finding Kelly guilty was a seven to five vote to acquit before a final 12-0 tally.

Jurors who spoke to the media at the Cook County courthouse at 26th and California after today’s verdict said that no juror caved just because they were tired of being sequestered and wanted to go home.

“All of us wanted to go home, but we knew — like the judge said the first day — we had to do our duty,” said one female juror, who declined to be identified by name.

One juror who initially voted to convict R. Kelly said he was convinced the man seen on a sex tape, which prosecutors said was Kelly with his underage goddaughter, was indeed Kelly. But after discussions about the defense arguments that prosecutors had not proven the girl’s identity, the juror decided that prosecutors had not proven Kelly’s guilt in the child porn case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Reporters told the jurors some details the jurors were not allowed to hear in court — that Kelly had married aspiring actress Aaliyah Haughton when she was 15 years old; that three girls had filed lawsuits against him claiming he lured them into sexual relationships when they were underage; and that other girls had threatened similar suits but settled out of court.

Asked by reporters if that evidence would have changed their minds, one male juror said “I would have had to work harder [to vote for acquittal].’’

Added a female juror, “If they had presented it, who knows what we would have done.’’