Cameras permitted in R. Kelly trial
Cameras will be allowed in the courtroom during the trial and pretrial hearings in R. Kelly’s sexual abuse case, but the R&B singer’s accusers can’t be photographed or filmed without their consent, a judge ruled Friday.
The Grammy-winning singer didn’t attend the brief hearing in Cook County Circuit Court, but his attorney took a similar position to the lawyer for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett earlier this week and welcomed cameras in the courtroom.
“Mr. Kelly wants this to be an open and transparent process,” said attorney Steve Greenberg. “So far there have been rumors, there have been allegations [...] but with cameras in the courtroom, everyone will see what really happens.”
The judge in Smollett’s case, who also sits on the Cook County Circuit Court, has yet to decide whether to allow cameras during the actor’s trial on charges accusing him of lying to the police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. With neither side objecting to them, though, it’s almost certain that the judge will allow them.
As for Kelly’s case, Associate Judge Lawrence Flood said cameras will be allowed going forward, beginning with the next hearing on March 22. He also said two of Kelly’s accusers have already indicated that they don’t want to be photographed, filmed, or have their voices recorded in court.
Kelly, 52, has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse pertaining to four women, including three who were minors at the time the abuse allegedly occurred. The abuse in question is alleged to have occurred over roughly a decade, starting in the late ’90s.
Kelly, meanwhile, has been trailed for decades by allegations that he victimized women and girls, though he was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008 related to a tape that prosecutors said showed him having sex with a girl as young as 13. The singer maintains that he is innocent and has said he has never had sex with a minor.
Although Smollett’s and Kelly’s lawyers say their clients welcome the cameras, some caution that it may not a good idea.
Prominent New York defense attorney Joe Tacopina said he’d be worried that the cameras might affect how the trial proceeds, particularly when it comes to the judge.
“A judge who knows his every ruling is going to be watched on television is not going to want to look like he’s soft on crime,” he said. “That could work against the defense.”
Chicago lawyer Joe Lopez said that in Kelly’s case, allowing the trial to play out on television could affect the singer’s ability to earn a living no matter what the outcome if what unfolds turns off fans.
“The allegations are going to come out in the newspaper, true, but a lot of his audience are young kids and they watch TV and don’t read the newspaper,” he said.
Phil Turner, a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, said the risks that the public might turn against Smollett are just as great.
He said that if the two brothers who have admitted that Smollett hired them to carry out the attack testify and come off as believable and sincere, it could make it easier for the public to dismiss what Smollett says if he takes the stand.