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Mystery Man Call Adjourns R. Kelly Trial

CHICAGO — R. Kelly’s child pornography trial abruptly adjourned Wednesday after a lawyer for the R&B singer said he received a call from a mystery man who claimed to have information that could help the defense.

Judge Vincent Gaughan said attorneys needed time to depose the man, who could impeach someone else’s testimony, but he didn’t elaborate. Kelly attorney Sam Adam Sr. said the man was flying to Chicago Wednesday night from another state.

“We never knew about this witness until approximately 9 o’clock this morning, when the witness called us,” Adam told the judge. If need be, Adam said defense attorneys would interview the man into the early morning hours Thursday.

The unexpected delay came after two witnesses testified earlier Wednesday that they could identify a female who appears on a sex tape at the center of case, bolstering prosecution arguments that she was under age at the time.

But after recessing for a planned hourlong lunch, Gaughan called attorneys back into the courtroom 15 minutes later, briefly discussing the matter without jurors present, then adjourning. In previous days, testimony usually ran into the early evening.

“I have no idea what’s going on,” Gaughan said in court. “It might be the impeachment of the witness (for prosecutors).” Testimony would resume Thursday morning, he said.

The witness list is sealed, though speculation is rife about who might testify next.

Prosecutors began presenting their case last week. They have already called more than a dozen witnesses, including a former Kelly employee and a one-time backup singer, as well as several relatives and childhood friends of the alleged victim.

Kelly, 41, has pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of child pornography for allegedly videotaping himself having sex with an underage girl. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Although Kelly won a Grammy in 1997 for the gospellike song I Believe I Can Fly, his biggest hits are raunchy ballads like Ignition and his current single, Hair Braider. He is scheduled to release a new album in July.

Kelly’s lawyers maintain he is not on the tape, noting that the singer has a mole on his back and claiming that the man on the tape does not. The alleged victim, now 23, also has denied she is on the graphic 27-minute video.

Prosecutors, who played the video in open court within hours of their opening statements last week, claim it was made between Jan. 1, 1998, and Nov. 1, 2000, when the alleged victim was as young as 13.

A high school basketball coach testified Wednesday that one of his former players is the young female who appears on the sex tape. Jacques Conway said he recognized her, in part, by a distinctive cross worn by the video’s female participant. He said he had seen his former player wear the necklace.

Kelly attorney Sam Adam Jr. asked Conway if he could conceive of the alleged victim as the kind of person who would “sell her body for money,” referring to how the man on the videotape is seen handing money to the female participant.

“No,” Conway responded.

A former middle school basketball coach who said he got to know the alleged victim through some of her friends, also testified Wednesday that she was on the tape. Joel Rhea told jurors he recognized her “facial features, the forehead, the smile.” He estimated she was 14 or 15 when the video was made.

Under cross-examination, defense attorney Marc Martin questioned Rhea about how he could have known the alleged victim well enough to identify her years later, noting she was just one of several hundred students he knew.

Rhea said the girl’s forehead was especially distinctive.

“Everyone gave her a hard time because she had a big forehead,” Rhea responded. “We would joke about her forehead, that she had a big forehead.”

“You were joking about a seventh-grade girl having a big forehead?” Martin snapped back, sounding incredulous.

“The kids were,” Rhea said.


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