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R. Kelly Defense Gets Boost

Detectives illegally seized photographs allegedly showing Rhythm and Blues singer R. Kelly having sex with an underage girl and prosecutors cannot use them to try him on child pornography charges, a judge ruled Thursday.

Circuit Judge Dennis Maloney agreed with Kelly's lawyers that Polk County sheriff's detectives did not have enough evidence to justify a search of Kelly's home when they asked a judge for a warrant in June 2002. The photographs were on a digital camera that was wrapped in a towel inside a duffel bag.

Prosecutors said they would wait for Maloney's written order to decide whether to appeal. Assistant State Attorney Chip Thulberry said if there is no appeal, prosecutors would drop the 12 counts of child pornography against the singer, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly.

Kelly's Chicago-based lawyer, Ed Genson, called the singer, who was not at the hearing, and told him the evidence was being thrown out.

"I told him, `Congratulations.' He was very pleased," Genson said.

Kelly also faces 14 counts of child pornography charges in Chicago and has pleaded innocent. Those charges are not affected by Maloney's ruling. Last month, seven of the original 21 child pornography charges against Kelly in Chicago were dismissed.

Ron Toward, a member of Kelly's defense team, told Maloney the search warrant affidavit submitted by Polk County Detective Robert Mateo lacked the evidence needed to form a legal basis for a search of Kelly's home.

Deputies had earlier found marijuana in a home Kelly rented for three business associates. They then sought a warrant to search the house where Kelly was staying nearby to look for drugs.

During an initial search for drugs, Mateo said he observed video cameras and an "unusual" amount of adult pornography in a cabinet in a room marked "Private." The detective then sought a second search warrant to look for child pornography.

The next day, Mateo was granted the warrant by Polk Circuit Court Judge Mary Catherine Green. Mateo returned to Kelly's home and wrote in a report that he examined one of the video cameras and scanned the images, finding several pictures of two women performing sex acts and other photos of Kelly in a sex act.

Toward said the affidavit Mateo submitted wasn't adequate because it was based on unspecified information from Chicago authorities and no link was established between the discovery of marijuana and the presence of cameras and child pornography.

Thulberry later defended the detective's actions in seeking the warrant. "I don't think the sheriff's office could have done anything differently in the case," he said.

Kelly's hits include "I Believe I Can Fly," "Bump 'n' Grind," "Feelin' on Yo Booty" and "Your Body's Callin'."