Music Reporter Jim DeRogatis Successfully Quashes Court Subpoena In Latest R. Kelly Criminal Trial

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Photo Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast / CC by 3.0

Jim DeRogatis, the music reporter who broke the case against R. Kelly more than two decades ago, has convinced the court that he shouldn’t be made to testify in the artist’s ongoing federal trial.  

57-year-old Jim DeRogatis, who teaches several courses at Columbia College Chicago, just recently avoided testifying in the case, having filed an emergency motion (with attorneys associated with his current employer, The New Yorker) to quash the subpoena. The latter came specifically from R. Kelly co-defendant (and former business manager) Derrel McDavid and his counsel.

“Because Mr. DeRogatis’ role has been as an investigative reporter, compelled testimony also is invasive as to his newsgathering methods and cumulative of the actual sources and their source materials,” the reporter and critic said in opposing the call to testify.

“Finally, because multiple witnesses testified from their direct knowledge on the facts material to the case, this Court should exercise discretion to quash the subpoena on the reporter,” the Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly author’s filing reads.

McDavid took the stand today in the latest criminal trial involving R. Kelly, whose sexual misconduct McDavid is alleged to have aided in conspiring to cover up. But immediately prior to McDavid’s testimony – the aforesaid emergency motion is dated yesterday – the presiding judge determined that DeRogatis didn’t have to testify.

“McDavid’s attorneys said they only wanted to ask him [DeRogatis] whether the video he received and gave to police was the same one in evidence at Kelly’s trial,” according to CBS Chicago, which indicated also the judge’s view that such a “testimony would not serve any purpose.”

This video refers to a tape, allegedly showing R. Kelly engaged in sexual activities with a minor, that was anonymously sent to DeRogatis. After reporting on the footage (and, even before that, the allegations against R. Kelly), DeRogatis was called by the defense to testify during R. Kelly’s 2008 child-pornography trial, prompting him (DeRogatis) to plead the Fifth. (R. Kelly, who received a 30-year sentence on sex-trafficking charges in late June of 2022, was ultimately acquitted in the 2008 case.)

“I think it [the R. Kelly sex tape] came via Nation of Islam,” DeRogatis said of his theory of the video’s origins during a Duke University event. “Because R. Kelly’s manager was Barry Hankerson [Aaliyah’s uncle], who was old-school black mafia. … He’d come to Chicago, have lunch with [Louis] Farrakhan and dinner with Jesse Jackson. He had connections. And I believe he heard about this tape on the street, and he said, ‘Steer it to this guy.’”

Responding to today’s subpoena ruling, DeRogatis penned on social media: “A good day for the First Amendment. And anything I could possibly have been asked I’ve already reported.” Included with the message is the cover image of his aforementioned Soulless book.