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Sun-Times reporter takes the 5th — Won’t have to answer questions on sex tape

Attorney Damon Dunn and Sun-Times music writer Jim DeRogatis as they arrive at the Criminal Courts building at 26th & California where DeRogatis was to appear as a defense witness in the R. Kelly child porn trial. | Sun-Times file

Chicago Sun-Times pop music critic Jim DeRogatis will not have to testify in the R. Kelly trial because he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, Judge Vincent Gaughan ruled Wednesday.

But Gaughan ordered DeRogatis to turn over his notes from interviews about a sex videotape he received anonymously in 2002. DeRogatis turned that tape over to police, resulting in criminal charges against Kelly.

DeRogatis took the stand Wednesday after a heated legal battle over whether he would have to testify. He invoked the Fifth Amendment and other rights 15 times.

“I respectfully decline to answer the question on the advice of counsel, on the grounds that to do so would contravene the reporter’s privilege, the special witness doctrine, my rights under the Illinois Constitution, and the First and Fifth Amendments of the United States Constitution,” DeRogatis said repeatedly.

Kelly’s lawyers have suggested the videotape was doctored — part of a scheme to extort money from the singer. Kelly defense lawyer Marc Martin asked DeRogatis whether he made “any changes or alterations” to the tape, or if he had any copies.

Each time, DeRogatis declined to answer, invoking his rights.

Sun-Times lawyers contended Illinois’ “shield law” protected DeRogatis from having to testify about sources. On Friday, Gaughan said that while DeRogatis did not have to divulge his sources, he could be asked what he did with the tape after receiving it.

Sun-Times lawyer Damon Dunn said DeRogatis could conceivably be charged with a crime for briefly possessing the tape, or for interviewing sources that had it — making it necessary for the critic to plead the Fifth.