When Will R. Kelly Have His Day in Court?

He has the No. 1 album out this week, but don't forget R. Kelly is still a man accused of being more than just a flirt. ESSENCE investigates.

R. Kelly has a long list of reasons why he should be grateful. First, his latest album, "Double Up", took the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart this week propelled by the bounce-heavy single, "I'm A Flirt." Second, he's still attending red carpet soirees, collaborating with other artists and traveling at his leisure seemingly without any restrictions. Third, the 40-year-old crooner has been able to avoid having a trial date set for the 14 counts of child pornography charges brought against him in 2002 after the discovery of the now infamous tape, which allegedly shows Kelly engaging in sexual acts with a then possibly 14-year-old girl.

After five years of touring, making videos and doing what he does best, is it time for Kelly to have his day in court?

For John Gorman, the spokesman for the Cook County State's Attorney Office, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, he told ESSENCE that Kelly's lawyers have yet to invoke a rule that demands his right to a speedy trial. That means, according to Gorman, the case could have gone to trial months after Kelly was indicted.

Instead, he said Kelly's attorneys filed about 30 motions, which have only delayed the process. The singer's next court date is scheduled for July 20, a possible day of reckoning when Kelly will find out if his case will finally go to trial.

"We are as ready for trial as we were when we charged the case back in 2002," says Gorman. "The evidence hasn't changed. We won't speculate on what's going to happen with the case, but it's not often that you have a videotape of the crime."

Messages left for Kelly's attorneys were not returned.
Some experts speculate that Kelly's lawyers have used legal manipulation to keep him out of court. By the time this case goes to trial, the alleged victim will probably be of legal age and might even be more reluctant to move forward with her testimony. Experts contend that witnesses tend to forget details when a long period of time elapses, which would make it more difficult for her to convince a jury of everything that supposedly happened so many years ago. The reported victim has denied she was the person in the tape.

Judge Greg Mathis of the nationally syndicated TV court show, "Judge Mathis", agrees that Kelly's legal team might be doing its best shell-game act to keep him out of jail.

"Like many wealthy defendants, I believe that he is fortunate enough to have lawyers who have the skill and power to extend the trial based on a variety of reasons, primarily attributed to legal maneuvering," Mathis said. "By the time this case goes to trial, they might both be suffering from dementia and unable to remember anything."

Kelly has professed his innocence all along. His wife, Andrea, told ESSENCE in an exclusive interview that she believed her husband was innocent. Kelly's lawyers have claimed the tape is digitally enhanced.

Still, one thing is clear, the charges haven't stopped the Grammy winner from selling albums or being celebrated by fans.

But experts such as Mathis say the R&B crooner's lawyers can only stall for so long before the time comes to argue the facts in front of a judge or jury. Yes, Kelly has a lot to be grateful for, but for how long?

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