By MICHAEL TARM, AP Legal Affairs Editor
CHICAGO (AP) — A music writer who has spent decades raising awareness about sexual misconduct allegations against R. Kelly is trying to force him to testify in the R&B singer’s federal trial on child pornography and faking charges of trial, according to a Tuesday court filing.
Lawyers for Jim DeRogatis, who in 2019 published his book “Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly,” invoked constitutional and other protections for the press when asking Judge Harry Leinenweber to rule that DeRogatis did not have to testify .
DeRogatis was a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times in the early 2000s when he anonymously received a video he gave to police that aided in Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial in state court. The video evidence recorded during this 2008 trial is also part of the ongoing trial.
Lawyers for former Kelly business manager Derrel McDavid, who along with Kelly is charged with conspiring to rig that 2008 child pornography trial, have subpoenaed DeRogatis as a witness. Kelly’s attorneys could also question DeRogatis if he speaks up.
Kelly, who was acquitted in the 2008 state trial, is also charged with inciting minors to have sex during the federal trial in the Grammy winner’s hometown. McDavid and Kelly also face pornography charges.
The trial was scheduled to resume on Wednesday – after the Labor Day holiday and after the courthouse unexpectedly closed on Tuesday due to “operational issues”. Leinenweber is expected to decide Wednesday morning whether DeRogatis, who co-hosts the public radio show “Sound Opinions,” will testify.
Prosecutors rested last week and the defense could conclude by the end of this week. The trial follows a separate federal trial in New York, where Kelly, 55, was sentenced to 30 years in June.
It’s unclear what defense attorneys in Kelly’s current trial would ask DeRogatis. But in filings and public statements, they have raised chain of custody questions over how the video evidence got into the hands of police. They also say there were indications that DeRogatis had shared a draft of his book on Kelly with prosecutors.
Tuesday’s filing, also submitted on behalf of The New Yorker magazine, for which DeRogatis writes, highlights decisions by a Chicago-based US appeals court that forcing journalists to testify in cases they covered should be done rarely and only when there are no alternatives to introducing the same information.
The filing says a Chicago police detective previously testified for the prosecution to explain the chain of custody of video evidence. He says another key government witness, using the pseudonym “Jane”, also testified that she and Kelly were the people in several video clips.
Calling Kelly’s outspoken critic to testify could constitute “harassment or intimidation,” given that there are other ways to prove the same facts, according to the filing. He also cites reports that a window in the DeRogatis family home was knocked down after the Sun-Times reported on Kelly.
Four years ago, Kelly released a song called “I Admit,” in which he sought to call out the writer, singing, “To Jim DeRogatis, whatever your name is / You tried to destroy me for 25 whole years .” Kelly described himself as “so falsely accused” but added, “I admit I’ve made mistakes/And I have imperfect manners.”
DeRogatis spoke at Kelly’s 2008 trial but declined to answer questions, citing an Illinois law that protects the rights of journalists, as well as the rights of the free press in the US Constitution and the right against self-incrimination.
Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mtarm and find full AP coverage of the R. Kelly trial at https://apnews.com/hub/r-kelly
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