R. Kelly accused of improper witness contact by prosecutor

With a little over a week until jury selection, R Kelly’s federal trial in Chicago is shaping up to be a hot-blooded, bare-knuckle legal dispute.

A barrage of last-minute filings from lawyers representing Kelly and his two co-defendants has shown little hesitation in bringing the new feud to the forefront — a far more aggressive approach than the legal team, which last year opened its doors in New York. Kelly was defended in the trial.

At issue in recent motions: A prosecutor’s alleged “secret, covert, and wholly inappropriate” communications with potential witnesses. A request for more information about a minor victim that was public was then quickly sealed. A longtime Chicago journalist who has been summoned as a potential witness.

Meanwhile, about 100 potential jurors will be presented at the Dirksen US Courthouse in about a week.

Kelly, 55, was convicted in July 2019 of conspiring with her former business manager, Darrell McDavid, and another associate, Milton “June” Brown, in Cook County for misappropriating her 2008 child pornography case and alleged underage sexual abuse. was accused of concealing the years of Girls. The trial is scheduled to begin on August 15 and is likely to last for at least a month.

McDavid’s attorneys filed paperwork early Friday with new allegations about Assistant U.S. Attorney Angel Krul, who was one of the lead prosecutors in the case until 2020, when she was transferred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s second district. Sources told the Tribune that he left Chicago to be closer to an ailing relative.

Prosecutors have requested until Tuesday to respond to the charges.

McDavid’s lawyers allege that Krull had inappropriate communication with a central witness in the case: the victim at the center of several child-pornography tapes that are expected to be played for a jury at the trial. The victim, now an adult, is expected to testify that she was the underage girl in the video, and that she lied to investigators about it at the behest of Kelly and her associates.

Krul had saved the woman’s number under the name “Boss Baby” in his contacts and texted her about meeting outside work hours. According to McDavid’s lawyers, the woman sent a Krul selfie showing her pregnancy, to which Krul replied that she was “beautiful” and “shiny.”

Lawyers alleged that the behavior was “extremely familiar and strangely personal that does not conform to the professional standards of the US Attorney’s Office.” There were also meetings and phone calls between the two women that were not remembered in the report, with McDavid alleging that a lapse in the process could amount to a constitutional violation.

Meanwhile, the Chicago journalist who helped break news of Kelly’s alleged sexual misconduct more than two decades ago has been summoned as a potential trial witness, according to McDavid’s lawyers. Jim Derogatis also communicated with Krull in the early stages of the case, although Krull used an email with the pseudonym “Demetrius Slovenski” for some reason.

Derogatis previously told the Tribune that he first reached out to Krul, in an unsuccessful attempt to cultivate him as a source. Earlier this week, prosecutors in court were adamant that DeRogatis was not being treated as a potential government witness. McDavid’s attorneys confirmed in a court filing Friday that DeRogatis has been summoned to testify at trial, possibly by McDavid’s attorneys.

Derogatis, then music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, obtained a sex tape from an unknown sender at the center of Kelly’s 2002 case. After six years R. He was also called to the stand at Kelly’s first trial; He declined to answer questions, citing the privileges of journalists and the First and Fifth Amendments.

Meanwhile, Kelly’s lawyers filed paperwork Friday alleging that prosecutors sealed off a motion to clerks that would paint one of his witnesses in an unpleasant light. According to Friday’s filing, the defense motion, still under seal, requested more information about possible illegal activity by one of the victims in the case.

Prosecutors responded that they were obliged to keep the filing private because it “refers to a minor victim who is not publicly known and whose identity can be determined” by the information in motion. He told Kelly’s lawyers that he believed it should be filed under seal, and warned that if it was filed publicly, they would take it back under seal unless until a judge resolves it. When Kelly’s lawyers filed it publicly, prosecutors worked “within minutes” to remove it from the public docket, according to their response.

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Kelly’s Chicago trial comes after his conviction in federal court in Brooklyn. In June, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison for racketeering. He is appealing both the jury’s decision and the judge’s sentence.

At the hearing on Wednesday, Judge Harry Leinenweber revealed that a pool of 100 potential jurors will arrive at the Dirksen US Courthouse next week to fill out questionnaires prior to jury selection — excluding ineligible or potentially biased jurors before any in-court questioning. attempt to remove , All incoming jurors have already indicated that they will be able to sit down for a longer hearing.

Upon objections from defense attorneys, Leinenweber ruled that the jurors’ names, occupations and other identifying information would not be disclosed to the public. Prosecutors said they were concerned that staunch fans of Kelly would upset jurors if their identities were revealed; Defense lawyers said jurors could get the idea that they should fear for their own safety, which could prejudice them against defendants.

Leinenweber said that there is, in fact, “a large group of people … quite active in expressing disagreement with (Kelly’s) treatment,” and so the identities of the jurors will remain hidden. But in an effort to allay the defense’s concerns, Leninweber said he would tell jurors they are anonymous so that the media would not contact them.

The trial is the largest to take place at Chicago’s federal courthouse since the start of the pandemic, where several COVID-19 restrictions are in place, including masks for anyone not speaking in court, repeated COVID tests for jury, witnesses and attorneys and strict. Social distancing guidelines.

The trial is being held in the large ceremonial courtroom on the 25th floor, to accommodate all parties, which has been in high demand. In fact, Leinenweber was adamant on Wednesday that the test could take no longer than a month, with another trial expected to begin in the formal chamber in late September.

“We’re going to have it done in hell or high water in four weeks,” Leinenweber said. “I have a reputation for taking a case along.”

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