A sex tape that prosecutors say shows R. Kelly having sex with an underage girl has sharply divided the alleged victim’s family into those who think it’s her and those who don’t, a relative told jurors.
When prosecutors asked Leroy Edwards Jr. during cross-examination whether the family “has pretty much split in half as a result of this incident,” he answered softly, “Yes.”
Edwards was one of three family members to testify Wednesday as the defense began presenting its case in the R&B superstar’s child pornography trial. All three insisted the female in the video is not their relative. Four relatives testified earlier for the prosecution that it is.
Asked Wednesday whether the female in the video at the center of the case was her relative, Shonna Edwards responded, “It definitely wasn’t her.”
The 27-year-old said she saw the tape for the first time several days ago in a lawyer’s office, telling jurors that the female’s body in the tape was too developed to be her relative at that time.
Prosecutors, who rested their case on Monday, allege the girl was as young as 13 when the tape was made.
Shonna Edwards said she met Kelly frequently in the 1990s when she sang in an R&B music group with her relative, and she added that the man in the sex tape “did not appear” to be Kelly.
Kelly, 41, is charged with 14 counts of child pornography for allegedly videotaping himself having sex with an underage girl. He has pleaded not guilty and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Both he and the alleged victim deny they’re on the graphic, 27-minute tape.
The singer, dressed in a honey-brown suit and bright flower-pattern tie, appeared attentive as he sat behind the defense table Wednesday, sometimes even nodding his head in agreement during the testimony for the defense.
During cross-examination, prosecutors displayed two photos on a split screen — one of the female in the tape and one of the alleged victim — and asked Shonna Edwards if it was at least possible they were the same person.
“Not at all,” she said without hesitating.
Another relative, Charlotte Edwards, provided similar testimony on Wednesday.
The defense sought to discredit the testimony of a star prosecution witness, Lisa Van Allen, who told jurors Monday that she engaged in three-way sex with Kelly and the alleged victim.
A law clerk for the defense team, Jason Wallace, told jurors that Van Allen’s fiance, Yul Brown, sought $300,000 from Kelly in exchange for her silence.
“Lisa doesn’t have to testify in court if things are made right,” Wallace quoted Brown as saying during a meeting with a Kelly attorney in Georgia last month, according to Wallace.
Van Allen was at the meeting in a hotel lobby, Wallace said, but Brown did all the speaking. Wallace said Van Allen kept nodding her head in agreement.
Under cross-examination, prosecutor Robert Heilingoetter accused the defense of “trying to create an illusion of impropriety” around Van Allen’s testimony.
Earlier Wednesday, a Chicago Sun-Times reporter declined to answer questions at the trial.
After he was sworn in, Jim DeRogatis cited an Illinois law that
governs reporters’ rights and the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution in refusing to answer questions.
DeRogatis received the sex tape through the mail in early 2002 and then turned it over to authorities. Prosecutors charged Kelly later that year based on the tape.
DeRogatis read his statement off an index card more than a dozen times in response to questions, including to whether he once made a copy of the sex tape. Defense attorneys have said that copying the tape would have been a crime.
After DeRogatis spent 10 minutes on the stand, Judge Vincent Gaughan said the First Amendment and other reporters’ privileges don’t apply in this case. But he ruled that DeRogatis doesn’t have to testify based on his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.