CHICAGO — A music writer who spent decades raising awareness about sexual misconduct allegations against R. Kelly won’t be required to testify at the R&B singer’s federal trial on child pornography and trial-fixing charges, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Lawyers for Jim DeRogatis, who in 2019 released the book “Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly,” invoked legal protections for the press in a Tuesday filing asking U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber to quash a defense subpoena that DeRogatis testify this week.
DeRogatis was a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times in the early 2000s when he anonymously received a videotape that he gave to police and that was central to Kelly’s child pornography trial in 2008 in state court. Prosecutors now allege that Kelly paid off the girl in that tape so she would not testify at that trial, in which he was acquitted.
Lawyers for Kelly’s former business manager, Derrel McDavid, who with Kelly is charged with a conspiracy to rig that trial, subpoenaed DeRogatis to testify. McDavid lawyer Beau Brindley told the judge Wednesday that his sole question for DeRogatis would be whether the physical video DeRogatis received two decades ago is the same one entered as evidence at the current trial.
Kelly’s lawyers also would have been able to question DeRogatis.
The defense previously raised questions about who handled the video evidence against Kelly, whether the footage was originals or copies, and whether the videos could have been tampered with. Knowing the chain of custody of evidence is key to establishing its authenticity.
But Leinenweber said the authenticity of the video evidence was established, including through testimony from investigators who received footage from DeRogatis and from Kelly accusers who appeared in videos prosecutor alleged the R&B star recorded.
“I don’t see any basis to call Mr. DeRogatis,” said the judge, who told the co-host of the public radio show “Sound Opinions” that he could leave the courtroom.
Kelly also faces charges of enticing minors for sex. Both McDavid and Kelly also face pornography charges.
Kelly, who is known for his smash hit “I Believe I Can Fly” and for sex-infused songs such as “Bump n’ Grind,” sold millions of albums even after abuse allegations began circulating in the 1990s. Widespread outrage emerged only after the #MeToo reckoning and the 2019 docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly.”
Prosecutors at the federal trial in Kelly’s hometown rested last week and the defense could wrap up by the end of this week. This trial follows a separate federal one in New York, where Kelly, 55, was sentenced to 30 years in June.
DeRogatis took the stand at Kelly’s 2008 state trial, but refused to answer questions, citing an Illinois law that shields reporters’ rights, as well the U.S. Constitution’s free press rights and right against self-incrimination.
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