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Reporter forced to testify in R. Kelly case is a no-show in court today

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
An arrest warrant will not be issued for Chicago Sun-Times reporter Jim DeRogatis after he failed to appear to testify…

An arrest warrant will not be issued for Chicago Sun-Times reporter Jim DeRogatis after he failed to appear to testify in R. Kelly’s child-pornography trial. But the judge ordered DeRogatis to appear in court Wednesday or face contempt charges.

Derogatis reportedly called the court to say he would not be coming to his scheduled 10 a.m. appearance, despite the judge’s order. Sun-Times attorney Damon Dunn argued that DeRogatis never received the subpoena. In addition, he said that the judge cannot hold the reporter in contempt for failure to appear, since DeRogatis is in the process of appealing the subpoena.

Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan ruled Friday that the pop music critic may not invoke a reporter’s privilege against compelled testimony, and must comply with the subpoena. Gaughan said Dunn filed his notice of appeal with the wrong court, therefore it cannot be considered pending. 

In 2002, DeRogatis broke the story of a sex tape that was said to depict a man identified as Kelly engaging in sexual acts with a 13 year-old-girl, after an anonymous source left the tape in his mailbox. DeRogatis later turned a copy of the tape over to police.

The singer pleaded not guilty to child pornography charges, and Kelly’s attorneys said that DeRogatis’ testimony is crucial to the defense, arguing that the reporter harbors an “extreme bias” toward the singer and may have fabricated or manipulated the tape between the time he received it and when he handed it over to police.

Defense attorneys also maintain that DeRogatis’ testimony could discredit Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards, a witness for the prosecution and relative of the victim who identified the child on the tape.

Gaughan said he interpreted the Illinois reporter’s privilege as not protecting DeRogatis from being questioned about his interview with Edwards, since she was not the source of the tape, and DeRogatis is a material witness to a crime. He also ruled that DeRogatis must hand over any notes he has from his interview with Edwards in 2002.

Gaughan did, however, set some parameters for Kelly’s attorneys. The defense will not be allowed to ask Derogatis for his sources or whether he made copies of the sex tape at issue in the case.

Dunn said DeRogatis is protected by the First Amendment and that Gaughan’s ruling will discourage sources with important information from contacting the media.