Lawyers in R. Kelly trial ask judge to limit viewing of videotape

BY CARLOS SADOVI,Chicago Tribune

Prosecutors and defense lawyers in the upcoming trial of R. Kelly on Thursday asked a judge to bar the public from viewing a videotape allegedly showing the singer having sex with an underage girl.

At a hearing in the Cook County Criminal Court building, both sides asked Judge Vincent Gaughan to only allow jurors, lawyers on both sides and the judge himself to view the tape during Kelly’s trial.

In a motion filed by prosecutors, Assistant Cook County State’s Attys. Suana Boliker and Robert Heilingoetter argued that because the girl was a minor Gaughan should bar its dissemination in court. Kelly’s lawyers also recently filed a similar motion.

They argued that the video is so graphic and lewd it would embarrass the girl.

"Various portions of the video depict lewd exhibition of the victim’s unclothed genitals and breasts. The state alleges that the victim was as young as 13 years old at the time the video was made allegedly by the defendant. As such, it falls directly under the definition of child pornography," the filing states. The judge said he would have to consider the public nature of the trial and media coverage in making his decision on the tape.

"This is a very grave issue. I have to look at the whole concept of the right of a public trial," Gaughan said. "Certainly, the press . . . is very important."

Defense lawyers and prosecutors responded that they would allow members of the press to view the videotape during the trial.

Guaghan put off a ruling and ordered lawyers to return for a June 8 court date. He would like to hear proposals on how to have the tape played.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys suggested that they, the jury and Gaughan could wear headphones and a video monitor could be turned away from spectators when the tape is played in court.

Kelly, who attended Thursday’s hearing, is facing a 14-count indictment that alleges he had sex with a juvenile girl and videotaped the encounter at his apartment. He has pleaded not guilty.

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