R. Kelly, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for racketeering and sex trafficking earlier this yr, is standing trial in Chicago, in the following chapter of prosecutors’ efforts to carry him criminally accountable for allegations of sexual abuse dating back greater than three many years.
The trial, in town Mr. Kelly long called home, carries echoes from his first courtroom spectacle there in 2008, wherein a jury acquitted him of manufacturing child sexual abuse imagery.
This time, federal prosecutors are searching for to carry Mr. Kelly and his associates accountable for working to stymie the sooner trial. They’re accusing Mr. Kelly and a former worker who can also be on trial, Derrel McDavid, of arranging hush money payments and searching for to hide evidence that may have aided prosecutors once they were investigating the singer within the early 2000s.
Mr. Kelly, 55, is facing charges that he coerced five minors into sex acts, and several other charges related to producing child sexual abuse imagery. He and Mr. McDavid are also facing charges of receiving child sexual abuse imagery, during what prosecutors have described as a scheme to get better missing tapes of Mr. Kelly having sex with minors.
A 3rd man — one other former worker of Mr. Kelly’s, Milton Brown — is facing a related charge. All three men have pleaded not guilty.
The trial will likely be an emotional moment for a lot of in Chicago who’ve witnessed Mr. Kelly’s rise from a baby of town to a pop and R&B star, then his fall after he was accused of luring underage girls into his orbit.
“Chicago has at all times struggled with this because he’s local and we are inclined to go up for our locals,” said Mikki Kendall, a author who grew up in town and recalled, within the Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” seeing the adult singer approaching teenage girls at an area McDonald’s. “There are people who find themselves going to be very upset and can again attempt to insist that the women are at fault, and there are going to be people — and I’m considered one of them — who’re going to say 59,000 times: He’s a grown man preying on very young women and kids.”
The primary public disclosure of abuse allegations got here in a 1996 lawsuit, and a gentle drip of legal claims and articles followed over the following twenty years. The renewed effort to prosecute Mr. Kelly got here in 2019, after the Lifetime documentary broadcast accounts of ladies who described being abused and controlled by him, oftentimes once they were teenagers.
One yr ago, Mr. Kelly stood trial in Latest York, where a jury found him guilty of leading a decades-long scheme to recruit women and underage girls for sex. He began serving his 30-year prison term in Brooklyn before he was transferred to a federal prison in Chicago for the present trial.
On Wednesday, opening arguments began within the Chicago trial after two days of jury selection. One in all the prosecutors, Jason Julien, asserted that Mr. Kelly had repeatedly sexually abused minors and that he did so with the protection of his associates.
“The defendant, Robert Kelly, had sex with multiple children,” Mr. Julien said. “He made videos of himself having sex with children. And these two defendants, Milton Brown and Derrel McDavid, knew about it and covered it up.”
A lawyer for Mr. Kelly, Jennifer Bonjean, said that several of the prosecutors’ key witnesses weren’t to be trusted because that they had struck immunity deals with the federal government. She described the case against her client as stemming from the pressure of a social media movement, apparently referring to the #MeToo movement, and she or he sought to position Mr. Kelly as a victim fairly than a perpetrator.
“It’s entirely possible that Mr. Kelly is usually a victim of extortion and financial exploitation,” Ms. Bonjean said.
A lawyer for Mr. McDavid, Vadim Glozman, said his client was just doing his job when he hired lawyers to handle settlements related to Mr. Kelly’s sex tapes — which, Mr. Glozman argued, Mr. McDavid believed to involve adults, not minors. A lawyer for Mr. Brown, Kathleen Leon, described her client as more of an “errand boy” for Mr. Kelly who was not aware of his behavior. She said Mr. Brown thought that Mr. Kelly was being blackmailed with a fake sex tape within the early 2000s.
On Thursday, the prosecutors introduced the jury to a key witness: the lady at the middle of the 2008 trial.
What happened in 2008?
The 2008 trial was a results of a 2002 grand jury indictment of Mr. Kelly on 21 counts of kid pornography, which were later reduced to 14. The case took years to go to a jury. During that point, the singer debuted among the biggest hits of his profession, including “Ignition” and “Step within the Name of Love.”
The trial revolved around a 27-minute tape that prosecutors said showed Mr. Kelly having a sex with a teenage girl and urinating on her. The case hinged on whether the jury was convinced that the people within the tape were who the prosecutors said they were. Mr. Kelly and the young woman denied they were those on the tape, and neither testified within the trial.
A jury found Mr. Kelly not guilty on all charges, and after the decision was released, jurors said the young woman’s refusal to testify was a big barrier to convicting him.
How is that relevant to the present trial?
A portion of the trial will concentrate on charges that Mr. Kelly and his associate, Mr. McDavid, conspired to obstruct the previous federal investigation by paying off individuals with knowledge of Mr. Kelly’s abuse and searching for to suppress evidence.
Prosecutors accuse Mr. Kelly of persuading the minor within the tape to disclaim to a grand jury within the early 2000s that she had a sexual relationship with Mr. Kelly and that it was her within the 27-minute video. Based on the federal indictment, Mr. Kelly and Mr. McDavid arranged payments and purchased gifts for the minor and her parents over a roughly 15-year period to stop them from talking to law enforcement concerning the abuse.
These hush money payments were a part of a broader effort, prosecutors say, to cover evidence of Mr. Kelly’s sexual abuse from investigators.
In 2001, after state officials began investigating whether Mr. Kelly had been abusing the kid at the middle of the 2008 trial, Mr. Kelly and his associates realized that several videotapes of the singer sexually abusing minors had gone missing, in line with the indictment within the case. After that realization, Mr. Kelly and Mr. McDavid began a multiyear effort to have those videos returned, paying an unnamed person tons of of hundreds of dollars to get better them, the indictment said.
Across the time of the primary trial in Chicago, prosecutors say, the person who Mr. Kelly and Mr. McDavid hired to search out the missing videos planned a news conference concerning the existence of footage of Mr. Kelly having sex with minors. Based on the indictment, Mr. Kelly, Mr. McDavid and others paid the person $170,000 to cancel it.
The fees of receiving child sexual abuse imagery relate to the hassle to get better several missing videos of Mr. Kelly engaging in sex acts with the person at the middle of the 2008 trial.
Who has testified to date?
On Thursday, the jury heard from the lady whose testimony in 2008 was a missing piece of evidence within the case. Testifying under a pseudonym, the lady told the jury that Mr. Kelly, who had been her godfather, began sexually abusing her when she was 14 years old.
She said that in 2002, after law enforcement officials had obtained a videotape of the abuse, Mr. Kelly sent her and her parents in a foreign country to make them inaccessible to investigators. Once they returned to Chicago, the lady testified, Mr. Kelly urged her to disclaim to a grand jury that it was her on the tape and paid for a lawyer to accompany her. She said that she had falsely told the grand jury that it was not her on the videotape and that she was not sexually involved with Mr. Kelly. The lady also said that she gave Mr. Kelly’s lawyers a necklace of hers that may very well be seen on the videotape.
But lately, the lady began cooperating with investigators.
“I not desired to carry his lies,” she said on Friday under cross-examination by Jennifer Bonjean, a lawyer for Mr. Kelly.
In cross-examination, Ms. Bonjean pointed to her immunity cope with prosecutors, which prevents her from being charged with perjury, as a reason the jury should doubt her account.
The jury has heard from several other witnesses, including a clinical psychologist who focuses on the grooming of minors and Daniel Everett, a retired Chicago police detective who had investigated the infamous videotape within the early 2000s and said that the placement at which it had been shot matched Mr. Kelly’s home in Chicago.
Jurors were also shown snippets from videos wherein, prosecutors say, Mr. Kelly is sexually abusing the teenage girl at the middle of the 2008 trial.
Who is predicted to testify?
Prosecutors said jurors will hear testimony from 4 other women who say Mr. Kelly coerced them into sex acts once they were underage. Court papers suggest that in addition they have the cooperation of the mother of the lady from the 2008 case.
Judge Harry D. Leinenweber, who’s presiding over the case, ruled that any accusers called to testify will have the ability to accomplish that using pseudonyms.
A lawyer representing Mr. Kelly, Ms. Bonjean, didn’t reply to requests for comment on whether Mr. Kelly, who didn’t testify within the trial in Brooklyn, would testify in Chicago.
In a tweet on Aug. 12, Ms. Bonjean wrote that it could be difficult to search out 12 jurors who can be fair “given the media war on my client.”
“The federal government starts with an incredible advantage but we’re going to fight like hell to get a jury that may follow the law,” she wrote.
How does the trial in Chicago differ from the one in Brooklyn?
The trials are prone to be similar in that the centerpiece of the prosecutors’ case is testimony from individuals who say Mr. Kelly recruited them for sex, however the legal approaches are different.
In Brooklyn, Mr. Kelly was convicted of 1 count of racketeering based on allegations that he was the ringleader of a criminal enterprise that had carried out acts of bribery, kidnapping and compelled labor. He was also convicted of eight counts of violating the Mann Act, a sex trafficking statute.
Within the trial that began this week, which is within the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the fees are only as complex. Mr. Kelly faces five counts of coercing a minor into criminal sexual intercourse; 4 counts of doing so for the aim of manufacturing a video of the conduct; two counts of receiving child pornography; one count of conspiring to receive child pornography; and one count of conspiring to obstruct a federal investigation.
One a part of Mr. Kelly’s history that is just not prone to be addressed is his illegal marriage to the singer Aaliyah when she was 15 and Mr. Kelly was 27. The wedding was central to the case against Mr. Kelly in Brooklyn, where a witness testified that Mr. Kelly sexually abused Aaliyah when she was only 13 or 14 years old. (Aaliyah died in a 2001 plane crash.)
Mr. Kelly’s legal team asked the judge within the Chicago trial to exclude evidence related to the wedding, and prosecutors responded that they didn’t intend to introduce evidence on the topic.
Is R. Kelly facing some other criminal charges?
Yes. Mr. Kelly still faces sex crime charges in Illinois and Minnesota. After the federal trial in Chicago, those charges will likely be handled next.