At least 3 jurors chosen for R. Kelly trial

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

The wife of a Baptist preacher from R. Kelly's hometown, a business executive and a telecommunications company employee were the first three jurors chosen Monday for the R&B superstar's child pornography trial.

The executive, a middle-aged man, called child pornography "the lowest of the low" during questioning by the judge and attorneys. But he said he felt he could give a fair trial to the 41-year-old Kelly, who is accused of videotaping himself having sex with a girl as young as 13.

At one point, Cook County Circuit Judge Vincent Gaughan said nobody in the room condoned child pornography and Kelly appeared to nod his head in agreement.

Kelly, known for sexually charged hits like "Bump N' Grind," has pleaded not guilty. The alleged victim, now 23, says it wasn't her on the videotape.

The preacher's wife from Olympia Fields, where Kelly lives, said her religious beliefs would not affect her service as a juror. The judge reminded her that the trial involved "laws of man, not the laws of God," and she said she understood.

Potential jurors who were dismissed included a man in his 50s who prosecutors said clearly was awe-struck by Kelly's celebrity and a security guard who said Kelly would have "some explaining to do" if he was on the video.

Sixteen jurors, four of them alternates, are to be chosen for the trial. Court officials have said questioning and selection from the 150 potential jurors is expected to take about a week.

The alleged victim's denial that she is on the videotape will present prosecutors with a unique challenge once the trial is under way. And Kelly's lawyers -- including prominent Chicago attorney Ed Genson -- haven't admitted it's Kelly in the video.

Prosecutors say the videotape was made between Jan. 1, 1998, and Nov. 1 2000, and that the alleged victim was born in September 1984. Kelly was indicted on pornography charges June 5, 2002, after the tape surfaced.

If jurors find the Grammy-winning artist guilty, he could go to prison for up to 15 years.

Kelly's lawyers had argued any jury pool has been irrevocably tainted because of pretrial publicity.

But Gaughan denied a defense motion to postpone the trial, which had already been delayed for six years, suggesting jury selection could weed out any tainted jurors.

Although Kelly won a Grammy in 1997 for the gospel-like song "I Believe I Can Fly," his biggest hits are bawdy ballads like "Ignition" and his current single, "Hair Braider." He is due to release a new album in July.

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