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Jury watches video again as lawyers wrap up closing arguments in child porn case

R. Kelly arrives at court in June 2008. | Sun-Times file

Mixing biblical quotes with blistering sarcasm, defense lawyer Sam Adam Jr. told jurors that in order to find R. Kelly guilty of child pornography, they must decide his alleged victim was a “whore.”

Adam squared off against prosecutors Robert Heilingoetter and Shauna Boliker in closing arguments Thursday, with prosecutors insisting they had proved Kelly videotaped himself having sex with an underage girl. Kelly, 41, has pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of child pornography.

“The world is watching,” Adam said of the high-profile case, which took six years to come to trial.

Jurors began deliberating at 2:30 p.m., after closing arguments finished. They worked for more than three hours until, at 5:50 p.m., Judge Vincent Gaughan sent them to a hotel for the evening.

Deliberations are to resume today at 8:30 a.m.

Much of the arguments concerned the character of the allegedly underage girl on the tape. Prosecutors contend she is a girl from Oak Park whose aunt, Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards, identified her and Kelly on the tape. Kelly considered the Oak Park girl his “goddaughter.”

But the defense claims the girl is not the female on the tape. Now 23, she did not testify. Pointing out that the girl on the tape is seen taking money before sex, Adam argued that convicting Kelly would mean savaging his goddaughter’s character.

“You are going to have to call [the alleged victim], 14 times, individually and collectively, a whore,” Adam said.

Arguing for the prosecution team, Heilingoetter cited Stephanie Edwards’ testimony that her niece had once been a happy-go-lucky, “jolly” girl. But on the sex tape, “she had become something else,” he said.

“Sweet, nice, lovely people are not insulated from being victims,” Heilingoetter said.

Because of their close relationship, Kelly knew she was underage when he made the sex tape, Heilingoetter said. Prosecutors allege the girl was 13 to 16, and most of their witnesses placed her age on the tape at 14.

For the second time in the trial, the jury watched the 27-minute video. As it played — the couple engages in oral sex and intercourse, the girl urinates on the floor and the man urinates on her — Heilingoetter cited counts from the indictment.

“Adjustment of the camera. More production,” he said during a camera close-up, trying to show Kelly “produced” the tape.

During one graphic portion, a male juror, 68, who is a Romanian immigrant looked away from the screen.

Adam attacked every major point in the prosecution’s case, painting Stephanie Edwards and Lisa Van Allen as liars after money. Van Allen testified she had three-way sex with Kelly and the alleged victim. She said Kelly had a duffel bag of homemade sex tapes he carried everywhere.

“Like some kind of porno Santa Claus, he’s running around with a bag of porno tapes wherever he goes,” Adam said mockingly.

Adam questioned why the prosecution had not called the alleged victim to testify — and said she had told a grand jury she was not on the tape. Gaughan instructed jurors to disregard the grand jury comment.

To emphasize his point, Adam told the jurors to “look in the crowd right now. Is [the alleged victim] here or not?” Some of the jurors scanned the spectators.

Adam admitted the defense could have called her. But, he said, “We refuse to mess that girl’s life up anymore.”

Sweat dripping from his face, Adam put up a photo of Kelly’s back with a dark mole on it next to a frame from the tape in which no mole is visible on the male’s back. “If that mole is gone, it’s not Kelly,” Adam said.

Of the relatives who testified for the prosecution, Adam said that “any solid man in the family, any solid woman, would have gone over there and broken [Kelly’s] legs” if they really believed their family member was on the tape.

At times, Adam seemed to tailor his argument to individual jurors. He quoted Proverbs and Corinthians — a possible appeal to a pastor’s wife or a man who is a self-described Christian.

In rebuttal, Boliker told jurors: “You know what’s on that tape. You know it’s vile. You know it’s disgusting. And you know it’s Robert Kelly.”

“How dare he call her a prostitute,” she said.