Lawyers hope mystery man can help R. Kelly defense

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CHICAGO -- Questions linger about what, if anything, a man who made a surprise call to defense attorneys might be able to say to help R. Kelly at his child pornography trial.

Judge Vincent Gaughan abruptly adjourned Wednesday afternoon after an attorney for the R&B singer said he received a call from the potential defense witness. The judge said attorneys needed time to depose the mystery man.

Gaughan said the man could potentially impeach someone else's testimony, but he didn't elaborate.

Kelly attorney Sam Adam Sr. said the man was expected to fly to Chicago on Wednesday night from another state. Adam told the judge that, if need be, defense attorneys would interview him into the early morning hours on Thursday.

The unexpected delay came after two witnesses testified earlier on Wednesday that they could identify a female who appears on a sex tape at the center of case, bolstering prosecution arguments that she was underage at the time.

The witness list is sealed, though speculation is rife about who might testify Thursday.

Prosecutors began presenting their case last week. They have already called more than a dozen witnesses, including a former Kelly employee and a one-time backup singer, as well as several relatives and childhood friends of the alleged victim.

Kelly, 41, has pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of child pornography for allegedly videotaping himself having sex with an underage girl. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

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

Kelly's attorneys have said he is not on the tape, even noting that the singer has a mole on his back and claiming that the man on the tape does not. The alleged victim, now 23, also has denied she is on the graphic 27-minute video.

Prosecutors, who played the video in open court within hours of their opening statements last week, claim it was made between Jan. 1, 1998, and Nov. 1, 2000, when the alleged victim was as young as 13.

A high school basketball coach testified Wednesday that one of his former players is the young female who appears on the sex tape. Jacques Conway said he recognized her, in part, by a distinctive cross worn by the video's female participant. He said he had seen his former player wear the necklace.

A former middle school basketball coach who said he got to know the alleged victim through some of her friends, also testified Wednesday that she was on the tape.

Joel Rhea told jurors he recognized her "facial features, the forehead, the smile." He estimated she was around 14 or 15 when the video was made.
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