Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hollywood (In)justice - The Show Must Go On . . . Even When Celebrities Are Guilty

by Tina Dirmann

R. Kelly is not guilty.

Wow. Honestly, who could have seen that one coming?

Well, just about anyone, actually. As I wrote in my last blog posted May 20, exactly two weeks before the Chicago jury handed down their across-the-board acquittal on child pornography charges: "Ladies and gentlemen, I'd say get ready to see the latest celebrity charged with a crime walk away a free man!"

Oh, how I hate to use the phrase. . . . But, you know, I did. Told you so, I mean.

I'm not trying to gloat here. I'm actually sad that the inevitability of it all was so clear. Celebrity, once again, was the only piece of evidence a defense team need submit. Who cares if every other piece of evidence, including a videotape, showed Kelly having sex with a woman who looked an awful lot like his 13-year-old goddaughter?

Though I'm sure it didn't hurt that the R&B's fortune from fame allowed him access to the best defense attorneys money can buy. Even if the best they could come up with was to point out that it wasn't actually Kelly on the sex tape because a mole on the star's lower back region wasn't visible in the video. The defense put a video expert on the stand who declared that a small dot in that area--and obvious on film--was actually, get this: "digital noise," not a mole. And since there was no mole, well, it's not Kelly. Huh?

But the jurors, you know . . . They bought it.

One female juror, who asked to remain anonymous, said afterward, "At some point, we said there was a lack of evidence. There was nothing concrete enough to say it was him or her on that tape."

Even though there was the tape. With Kelly's apparent non-moled up twin on it.

I know, the "victim" in this case did deny it was her on the video. But the fact is, as any prosecutor who has worked with sex victims will tell you, it's often difficult to get them to say, publicly, they were abused. There's a lot of misplaced shame involved. And, in this case, the alleged abuser was the girl's famous, Grammy-winning, R&B star godfather. That's a lot to overcome. Perhaps the jurors, in their scant seven hours of deliberation, didn't have time to consider that fact. And apparently, they also didn't believe the girl's family members, who took the stand and swore it was, indeed, their 13-year-old relative having sex with Kelly.

A writer for the Village Voice, who ultimately lashed out at the unjust verdict, put it this way: "For entirely selfish reasons, it's natural enough to feel good when a favorite musician wriggles out of a predicament that would've kept him from making music for a long, long time."

It is? Is that why there were cheers--cheers--from courthouse clerks when the "not guilty" verdict was announced? I can't relate.

Isn't it ironic that R. Kelly's acquittal, on charges that could have brought him fifteen years in prison, by the way, comes just as HBO began airing its documentary "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired," which basically chronicles the charges brought against Polanski (pictured right) for having sex with an underage girl. Also thirteen years old, by the way. In that case, the intense media glare scared the victim so badly, she didn't want to testify.

Prosecutors in the 1978 case were willing to deal, dropping a laundry list of charges, including rape and supplying a minor with drugs and alcohol, but left unlawful intercourse with a minor. Polanski pled guilty, but fled the country, fearful that a media-adoring judge would sentence him to hard prison time. I think most people agree the judge in the case was a man driven more by reporters and public opinion than his law books.

But in the end, Polanski did engage in sex, even sodomy, with a minor. He now lives in France, where he is celebrated as one of the most brilliant filmmakers of our time. He refuses to return to the United States, where he'd be arrested. Technically, he's still a fugitive.

Still, I wonder if Polanski follows celebrity court cases in the United States today. And as he watches stars walk away from charges ranging from murder to child pornography, if he considers what would've happened if his case had been in a California court today. A media-obsessed judge would be irrelevant. All he'd need to set him free is your average, celebrity- obsessed jury.


Leah said...

I don't understand why they even bothered to try this case. The poor girl was his god daughter and was unable to rationalize what really happened to her. When my grandfather was molesting me I was her age and younger. I didn't really understand it but I sure as hell would never have done or said anything to get him in trouble. Now, it is an entirely different story. I'd kill him myself if he wasn't already dead. I think the prosecutors [and defense] were out of line to expect the victim to even testify.

Rae said...

Actually, and anyone can certainly flame me for this opinion, but I've always had a modicum of sympathy for Roman Polanski. Not that I condone what he did, because I don't, nor do I excuse it - but the guy survived the Krakow ghetto, witnessing unimaginable horror, his mother died in Auschwitz, and he came to America and, subsequently, his wife and child were gruesomely murdered. I've always thought it was possible that Polanski just snapped, and he was not, and possibly still isn't, rowing with all his oars in the water. That doesn't make his actions excusable, but, perhaps, a tad more understandable.

Don't have the same sympathy for R. Kelly, though. If he actually is guilty, his depravity certainly isn't founded in the same kind of experiences that Polanski endured.

Levi said...

Rae, I disagree with you about Polanski, he needed to get therapy and move on, not become a criminal. It doesn't make his criminal actions understandable at all.

Levi said...

The absurd defense for R. Kelly was that someone that looked like him broke into his home, and had sex with someone that looked like his god daughter.

The juries porch lights were on, but they weren't home.

Rae said...

Well, that's your opinion, Levi, and you're certainly entitled to it.

Rae said...

Rereading what I wrote, I think I didn't say very clearly what I meant.

I shouldn't have said that Polanski's actions, in regards to his crime, were understandable. They weren't and aren't. What I meant was that, given his history, I can better understand the demons that drove Polanski to those actions than I can whatever drove R. Kelly.

Roman Polanski witnessed firsthand, escaped from, and survived one of the darkest periods of mankind. And then survived another horrendous crime. It's unimaginable that it wouldn't have had a negative effect on his psyche. In that respect, Polanski was a victim.

In that same respect, R. Kelly isn't a victim. Not even close to being one. If Roman Polanski's actions are inexcusable, and they are, then R. Kelly's are three times as much.

I also have to point out that Polanski isn't an example of the current trend of 'celebrity justice'. If anything, his celebrity/notoriety worked against him, because it was that that the judge in his case was trying to take advantage of-not use as an excuse to set him free.

TxMichelle said...

It is becoming an upsetting trend that the rich and famous are not held to the same standards as us common folk.

I am shocked that the jurors fell for the old "it just looks like me" defense.

This poor girl. Now she will have to go through life knowing no one believed her. That just sucks.

Leah said...

I think they did believe her TxM and that is why he was aquitted.