By Stacy St.
Clair | Tribune reporter
A Cook County jury on Friday acquitted R&B superstar R. Kelly of child pornography charges, marking the end of a high-profile trial rich in courtroom drama and celebrity intrigue.
The 41-year-old singer, whose real name is Robert Kelly, long denied charges that he videotaped himself engaging in a variety of sex acts with his then-underage goddaughter. Authorities said the female in the video could have been as young as 13 at the time.
The jury of nine men and three women deliberated for 7 ½ hours before finding Kelly not guilty on all 14 counts.
The verdict ends a bizarre case that had languished for nearly six years. During almost four weeks of testimony, the jury heard about three-person sexual encounters and watched a sex tape in which the male participant is seen urinating on a female. Celebrities on trial Photos Neither the alleged victim, now 23, nor her parents testified during the trial. All three denied her involvement in the tape to a grand jury in 2002.
Without their cooperation, the prosecution used other witnesses to describe the relationship Kelly shared with his goddaughter--an aspiring rapper who witnesses said became a member of his entourage while in junior high school. She often visited him at his downtown recording studio or watched him play basketball at a West Side gym, they testified.
Only one witness testified to having direct knowledge of an inappropriate relationship between Kelly and the alleged victim. Lisa Van Allen told the jury she engaged in a series of sexual encounters with the singer and his goddaughter when the girl was a minor.
The defense tried to undermine Van Allen's testimony by accusing her of concocting the story to extort money from Kelly. Van Allen, who lives in Georgia, called prosecutors with information about the case shortly after her fiance was arrested on guns and weapons charges.
Kelly's attorneys contended the young woman in the tape is not the alleged victim but a prostitute. They called three family members of the alleged victim who testified that they saw no resemblance between their relative and the female in the video.
Kelly also did not testify. Without testimony from him or his alleged victim, the singer's attorneys built their case around a caterpillar-shape mole along his spine. They argued that the man in the recording has an unblemished back, meaning Kelly couldn't be the man in the video.
If you don't see the mole, the defense told the jury, then Kelly cannot be convicted.
Kelly's attorneys also suggested the 27-minute tape had been doctored, going so far as to say someone could have edited the singer's head onto another man's body. A prosecution expert testified such editing trickery would take 44 years and still would be obvious to viewers.
The drawn-out legal battle has not slowed Kelly's music career. He has released five albums and a greatest-hits collection since he was indicted in 2002. He also has completed several concert tours.