With two weeks to go, the Chicago federal case against R. Kelly took another bizarre turn on Wednesday when it was revealed that the former lead prosecutor used an email account and a fake name to communicate with the author of a book on Kelly’s sex. misconduct.
But the author, Jim DeRogatis, told the Tribune that he was the one seeking information from the prosecutor – assistant US attorney Angel Krull – and that he got nowhere.
The emails were revealed in a motion filed early Wednesday by an attorney for Kelly’s co-defendant, Derrel McDavid. The motion alleged that Krull used the pseudonym “Demetrius Slovenski” and username “piedpiper312” to create a Gmail account on April 16, 2019, three months before Kelly was charged.
On the day the account was created, Krull began communicating with DeRogatis, a former Chicago Sun-Times reporter and author of the book “Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly,” according to the petition filed by attorneys Beau Brindley and Vadim. Glozman.
The emails, which prosecutors uncovered on Monday, said DeRogatis had sent Krull a copy of his book, which at the time had not been made public, according to the motion. Krull also refers to “an earlier oral conversation with Mr. DeRogatis that took place on the same day,” according to the motion.
Two weeks later, DeRogatis emailed Krull’s engraver’s account asking “if the book was of any help,” the motion read. He also provided information about a conversation he had about the ongoing criminal investigation “with a prominent ‘facilitator’ mentioned (in his book)”.
Krull left the case in 2020 when she was transferred to another district from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Sources told the Tribune that she left Chicago to be closer to an ailing relative.
“Due to the extraordinary nature of these communications, Mr. McDavid asks the court to require further discovery of the circumstances of the conversation, how it came to light and its disclosure,” the defense motion reads.
At a pre-trial conference on Wednesday morning, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeannice Appenteng said the documents were turned over “out of an abundance of caution” but had no bearing on the criminal trial, which is scheduled to begin on August 15. Appenteng said DeRogatis is not a witness and the government has “never interviewed him.”
Brindley, however, wasn’t buying it. “We are troubled by this,” he said. “We want to get more information. It’s very, very strange.”
DeRogatis told the Tribune on Wednesday that he was the one who contacted federal prosecutors in 2019, in an effort to develop sources within the bureau. Ultimately, that effort was unsuccessful, he said.
“Angel never gave me anything,” he said. “No federal prosecutor has ever done that.”
When DeRogatis contacted Krull by phone in the spring of 2019, posing as a reporter who had covered Kelly for decades, she said she couldn’t talk to him, according to DeRogatis.
“I said, ‘It’s a really complicated story, it’s been 20 years, my book is coming out,'” DeRogatis told the Tribune. Krull said she would be interested in seeing the book and gave her the “piedpiper” email address, according to DeRogatis.
“The amount of shenanigans I’ve had to deal with from sources, lawyers and others for over 20 years, was I surprised to have (received) a weird email? No “, DeRogatis said. “So I sent him the book and I said, ‘Here’s the book, I’d like to discuss. And a few weeks later, I said, ‘Has the book been useful? I’d love to chat. And I’ve never heard back. Nothing.”
DeRogatis pointed out that federal prosecutors have not contacted him about being a possible witness in the upcoming trial, and he has not provided anyone with information that has not already been reported.
U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber has asked prosecutors to file a written response to Brindley’s motion by the end of the week.
Kelly, 55, was indicted in July 2019 on charges of conspiring with McDavid and another associate, Milton “June” Brown, to fake his 2008 child pornography case in Cook County and conceal years of alleged sexual abuse on underage girls.
In June, Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his racketeering conviction in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. He is appealing the jury’s verdict and the judge’s sentence.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Leinenweber revealed that a group of 100 potential jurors would arrive at the Dirksen US Courthouse next week to complete questionnaires ahead of jury selection – an attempt to weed out ineligible or potentially biased jurors. before any questioning in court. All of the jurors who have shown up have already indicated they could sit through a lengthy trial.
Despite objections from defense attorneys, Leinenweber decided that the names, occupations, and other identifying information of the jurors would not be released to the public. Prosecutors said they fear die-hard Kelly fans will harass jurors if their identities are revealed. Defense attorneys said jurors might get the idea that they should fear for their safety, which could bias them against the defendants.
Leinenweber noted that there is, in fact, “a fairly large group of people … quite active in voicing their disagreement with (Kelly’s) treatment”, and therefore the identities of the jurors would remain hidden. But in an effort to address defense concerns, Leinenweber said he will tell jurors they are anonymous just so the media won’t contact them.
The trial is the largest to take place since the pandemic began at the federal courthouse in Chicago, where numerous COVID-19 restrictions remain in place, including masks for anyone not speaking in court, frequent COVID testing for jurors, witnesses and attorneys, and strict social distancing guidelines.
To accommodate all parties, the trial is being held in the much-requested large 25th floor courtroom. In fact, Leinenweber insisted on Wednesday that the trial could last no more than a month, since another trial is scheduled to begin in the ceremonial room at the end of September.
“We’re going to do it in four weeks, come hell or high tide,” Leinenweber said. “I have a reputation for moving a case forward.”
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Security is also being tightened in and around the courthouse to accommodate the crowds of media and Kelly supporters who are expected to attend the trial. Phones probably won’t be allowed in the courtroom at all, and court security officers should tightly monitor the use of electronic devices in an overflow room.
Kelly’s fans and critics have for years created an echo chamber of feuds on social media, and as Wednesday’s phone hearing drew to a close, some of them began to chime in.
“I love you, Robert Kelly!” one says.
“Free Kellz! Free Kellz! added another.
At least one detractor also had something to say:
“Keep this pedophile locked up!” Lock him up!