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Judge will allow cameras in court for R. Kelly sex case

R. Kelly walks into the Daley Center Wednesday afternoon, March 6, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

R. Kelly walks into the Daley Center Wednesday afternoon, March 6, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The television-watching public will be able to see inside the courtroom as R&B star R. Kelly’s sex abuse cases work their way through the system, a Cook County judge ruled Friday.

Judge Lawrence Flood made his ruling after a brief hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, and also acknowledged that two of Kelly’s alleged victims, identified by their initials, “R.L.” and “H.W.,” had objected to being filmed or photographed. State Supreme Court policy governing the use of cameras in the courtroom states that crime victims’ testimony cannot be recorded without their consent, Flood noted.

Kelly did not attend the hearing, but his lawyer said the singer had no objection to the presence of cameras.

“Mr. Kelly wants everyone to know what is going on in an open and transparent process,” defense attorney Steve Greenberg said.

Greenberg said he hoped for “gavel to gavel” coverage of the case, which he said could mitigate the damage to the singer’s reputation that reached a fever pitch after the airing of the “Surviving R. Kelly” Lifetime documentary series.

“People are going to be able to see what’s going on without all the rumors and innuendos,” Greenberg told reporters.

Cameras in the courtroom have become the norm for high-profile cases in the Cook County courts in the years since the system began a pilot program in in 2014, although individual judges have authority to set rules for the coverage in their courtroom, if media outlets request access.

There were no cameras allowed in Cook County courtrooms when Kelly went to trial on child pornography charges in 2008, a blockbuster case that took six years to go to trial.

“H.W.”, one of the women who didn’t want to be on camera, met Kelly in 1998, when the R&B star’s manager approached her at a restaurant where she was celebrating her 16th birthday with family, according to prosecutors. Though the woman’s mother told the manager that her daughter was just 16, and took the business card with Kelly’s phone number, the girl later found the number, called Kelly, and allegedly had sexual encounters with the singer several times over a span about a year.

The same woman has filed a civil lawsuit against Kelly in Cook County, alleging she was a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of the singer, and her complaint adds some detail the account related by prosecutors at Kelly’s bond hearing last month.

In the civil complaint, the woman said that she was walking down a Chicago sidewalk in May 1998 when Kelly pulled up alongside her in his car and talked with her briefly. An “associate” of Kelly met the girl and her family at a restaurant, and gave her Kelly’s number, saying the star wanted her to come to his studio to shoot a music video. The lawsuit states that the woman “broke through her repressed memory and became conscious of her sexual activity” with Kelly when talking with a therapist in 2015.

In her handwritten request to Flood, H.W. wrote that the the presence of cameras in the courtroom will “trigger” her and make it more difficult for her to testify. She also notes that Kelly’s defense team has “attempted to publicly shame” victims in his criminal cases.

“I have no interest in being a media spectacle,” she wrote.

The victim identified as “R.L.” was recorded on video having sex with Kelly in the singer’s mansion in Olympia Fields sometime between 1998 and 2001, whet he girl would have been around 14 years old, prosecutors said. On the tape, both Kelly and the victim repeatedly say that the girl is only 14, prosecutors said.