By all acccounts, R. Kelly seemed bored and distracted during his child-porn trial until the moment when the infamous sex video was shown to the jury. At that point, according to eyewitnesses, he looked startled and anxious.
I imagine that it was much like that moment during Bill Clinton’s 1998 grand-jury testimony when he was asked about his kinky cigar game with Monica Lewinsky. For just a fraction of a second, horror and shock flashed in his eyes, as if he’d been confronted with a secret he’d kept from himself and couldn’t bear to hear.
For six years, Kelly avoided trial with a slick parade of stalling techniques: “Chipped my pinkie nail today, can’t make trial this year”; “Grieving for my pet clown fish, can’t leave the house for at least six months”; “Belong to a little-known sect that prohibits me from entering courtrooms during odd-numbered years.”
Ultimately, the avoidance maneuvers proved unnecessary. On Friday, June 13, a jury found him not-guilty on all 14 counts, and Kelly reacted by whispering, “Thank you Jesus” over and over. In a matter of only a few months, Jesus has helped Kanye West go multi-platinum, Kansas defeat Memphis in the NCAA finals, and an alleged pedophile thumb his nose at the American judicial system. This savior works harder than Danger Mouse!
There were at least a few bumps on the road to reasonable-doubt vindication for RK, however. His defense team fought to keep the jury from privately revisiting the graphic sex video during their deliberations, arguing that it could sway their opinion of the defendant.
The defense’s position was understandable. After all, some jurors might not understand that it’s perfectly healthy for a God-fearing guy to work off some music-biz stress by bringing a middle-schooler to his house and going pee-pee all over her while demanding that she call him “Daddy.”
Kelly’s team didn’t have to prove anything, they just had to muddy the evidential waters enough to enable him to walk. Jurors subsequently stated that they were convinced that the man with the black mole on his back in the video was Kelly, but they had questions about the identity of the girl.
That’s not exactly the most reassuring vote of confidence, and celebrity-media types couldn’t help but wonder how the fallout from the case would affect Kelly’s career. Of course, the answer is that it will have no impact at all, just as the last six years of pre-trial conjecture has had no impact. If anything, Kelly has only grown in stature as a kitschy auteur in recent years with the Trapped in the Closet video epic, which seemed to play off his rep as a deranged sex addict.
It may be galling to see his fans so easily excuse his behavior, but no more galling than it was to see Chuck Berry fans overlook his documented history of secretly videotaping women while they used the restroom of his St. Louis restaurant. Pop music knows no shame, and R. Kelly is living proof.