Defense witnesses were scheduled to take the stand at R. Kelly’s federal trial

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Attorneys for R. Kelly and his co-defendants will have a chance to present witnesses Thursday morning after federal prosecutors rested their case against the disgraced singer earlier this week.

But first, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber is expected to announce his rulings on the defendants’ requests to acquit them of all charges before the court even hears the case.

Motions for acquittal, filed at the close of the prosecution’s case Tuesday, are routine in criminal trials and are almost always denied. At the very least, they are intended to preserve issues for potential litigation down the road.

But U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber said before the motions were argued Wednesday that he would not rule immediately because there were many issues that he said “deserve consideration.”

Once the motions are decided, all eyes will be on the defendants: Kelly and his former associates Derrel McDavid and Milton “June” Brown. Their lawyers are scheduled to begin presenting their cases Thursday.

Kelly, 55, is charged with 13 counts of producing child pornography, conspiracy to produce child pornography and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

McDavid and Brown are accused in an alleged scheme to buy back incriminating sex tapes taken from Kelly’s collection and cover up years of alleged sexual abuse of underage girls.

Defense attorneys have so far hinted at an eclectic mix of potential witnesses, including disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti, former Chicago Sun-Times music critic Jim DeRogatis and the former lead prosecutor in the case, Angel Krull, who have exchanged emails with the star witness defense attorneys defense suggested they were inappropriate.

Attorney Jennifer Bonjean, who is representing Kelly, told the judge Wednesday that she plans to call record label executive Cathy Carroll, who, according to testimony, introduced one of Kelly’s alleged underage victims to the singer when the teenager was under imprisonment for the sake of late. 1990s. Bonjean’s cross-examination on the matter strongly disputed this timeline, arguing that Kelly actually met the accuser after she had reached the legal age of consent.

McDavid’s attorney Beau Brindley told reporters this week his team plans to call several witnesses, including a former bodyguard for private investigator Jack Palladino. Brindley claimed the witness will say McDavid was not present at a meeting between Palladino and prosecution witness Chuck Freeman regarding the recovery of an alleged videotape of Kelly having sex with a minor.

McDavid himself is expected to take the stand in his own defense, which will likely happen on Tuesday. That testimony will be “substantial,” Brindley told reporters.

McDavid’s lawyers also want to show jurors a set of documents from the now-deceased Paladino, who dealt with prosecution witness Charles Freeman about the recovery of certain videos.

While Freeman testified that he sought the videos at Kelly’s behest, McDavid’s defense aims to portray Freeman as a greedy blackmailer.

The memos they seek to admit describe McDavid’s “perpetual requests for more money” and note that — since Freeman failed the polygraph — the payment was not for the return of a tape but instead “an amount for information about various unfaithful members of R. Kelly’s ‘possession’.

In one memorable passage, Palladino describes Freeman as “a wretched feeder who whines endlessly apparently from the belief that being extremely annoying is a winning negotiating strategy.”

Kelly’s lawyers, meanwhile, have not said whether the singer will testify, but it seems highly unlikely given the nature of the allegations and exposure to cross-examination.

“We’re still talking about it,” Bonzan told reporters Wednesday in the lobby of Dirksen’s U.S. Courthouse.

Bonjean added that her client is grateful for the support he received from fans and that he had the opportunity to challenge the witnesses against him in a court of law, rather than having them tell their stories in a one-sided documentary.”

“It’s hard to hear people lie and because they think of you as this monster, you’ve lost your voice to say, ‘No, that’s a lie,'” she said.

Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday after calling about 25 witnesses for 10 days of testimony, including four women who said Kelly sexually abused them when they were minors. A fifth alleged minor victim named in the indictment was not called to testify for reasons that have not yet been clarified.

jmeisner@chicagotribune.com

mcrepeau@chicagotribune.com

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