Why did the highly-publicized child pornography prosecution of R&B star R. Kelly end in an acquittal? Says the Chicago Tribune: It’s hard to win a conviction when the alleged victim not only denies it but also doesn’t show up in court. “Child exploitation cases are usually difficult to defend,” said Paul DerOhannesian, a New York lawyer. “But the lack of a [complaining] victim here was a major weakness that drained the case of emotion.” Kelly joined a line of celebrity defendants who have won their criminal cases, among them O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, and Kobe Bryant. The cases were different, but a common thread was the ability to spare no expense in mounting a defense.
The case revolved around a videotape that Kelly was accused of making of himself having sex with a teenage goddaughter. Prosecutors claimed the tape may have been made as long as 10 years ago, when the girl was 13. The inability to put her on the stand was a crucial blow to prosecutors, said lawyer Jake Rubinstein, a former member of the Cook County state’s attorney’s sex crimes unit. “You did not have a victim testifying that she was a victim,” Rubinstein said. “It’s all but impossible to convict some one of a sex crime with an uncooperative victim. Probably the first thing that the jury would comment on when they went back into the room was, ‘the girl’s not part of this.’ ” Rob Robertson, a former prosecutor who has tried more than 100 sex cases, said it was clear from the start that the case would be difficult. Kelly’s high profile made it difficult for prosecutors to back away, Robertson said. “When you have someone who has some potential influence, you don’t want the public to feel like this guy is getting a break because he’s famous, that this guy is getting a break because he is R. Kelly,” he said. “You want to keep the commitment to the public that you are prosecuting everyone equally.”