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Investigative journalist opposes call to testify in ongoing R Kelly trial

By | Published on Wednesday 7 September 2022

R Kelly

The journalist who has been reporting on the R Kelly sexual abuse allegations since 2000, Jim DeRogatis, filed a motion yesterday seeking to quash a subpoena from the defence in the musician’s current trial that orders him to testify.

It was Chicago-based DeRogatis who, in the early 2000s, was sent a copy of the tape that seemed to show Kelly sexually abusing a fourteen year old girl, named as ‘Jane’ in the current trial. At that point the journalist had already reported on allegations that Kelly was using his fame to meet and sexually abuse underage girls.

DeRogatis handed the tape over to Chicago police instigating the first criminal investigation into Kelly’s alleged abuse of women and teenagers. That investigation ultimately led to the 2008 trial where Kelly was acquitted, in no small part because Jane denied that it was her on the tape and refused to cooperate with prosecutors.

Kelly’s current trial has focused a lot on the alleged sexual abuse of Jane – who is now cooperating with prosecutors and says that it is her seen on that tape. Also in the spotlight are alleged efforts by Kelly and his team to subvert the 2000s criminal investigation and trial, and to retrieve various leaked videos that allegedly showed the musician sexually abusing minors.

It’s charges relating to that alleged cover-up which are being battled by Kelly’s co-defendants in this case, Derrel McDavid and Milton ‘June’ Brown. And it’s McDavid’s lawyers who want DeRogatis to testify.

McDavid’s team are keen to question and scrutinise the authenticity and distribution of the leaked videos, including the one sent to DeRogatis, seemingly as part of their general bid to prove McDavid was not aware at the time that the tapes Kelly was keen to reclaim in the 2000s contained footage of alleged crimes being committed.

The McDavid team have also accused the former lead prosecutor on this case, Angel Krull, of improperly communicating with the journalist via a Gmail account back in 2019. Although, according to the Chicago Tribune, DeRogatis says that was simply him seeking to cultivate sources for his ongoing reporting on this story, and “Angel never gave me a damn thing – no federal prosecutor ever did”.

DeRogatis was called to testify in the 2008 trial, but declined to answer questions by citing First and Fifth Amendment protections under the US Constitution. He shouldn’t have to answer questions in court this time either, his lawyers argue, because multiple other witnesses have already testified about the “veracity of the videotape”, making his proposed testimony unnecessary.

Meanwhile, “because Mr DeRogatis’ role has been as an investigative reporter, compelled testimony … is invasive as to his news gathering methods and cumulative of the actual sources and their source materials”.

It remains to be seen what the judge overseeing the case reckons to those arguments. The Kelly trial is due to resume later today after the courthouse where it is taking place was closed yesterday due to “system failures”.