Jury selection begins in R Kelly trial

CHICAGO (AP) — Jury selection has begun for the federal trial of R. Kelly in his hometown of Chicago, where the R&B singer faces charges of rigging his 2008 child pornography trial by threatening and paying a girl with the who was allegedly filmed having sex when he was in his 30s and she was no older than 14.

The jury acquitted Kelly of all charges in that 2008 trial, with some jurors explaining later that they felt they had no choice because the girl did not testify. The woman, now in her 30s and referred to in the files as “Minor 1,” will be the government’s main witness in the upcoming federal trial.

Kelly, 55, will arrive at this trial in Chicago after being sentenced in New York by a federal judge to 30 years in prison, after being convicted in 2021 of charges of using his fame to sexually abuse young female fans.

Kelly, dressed in a gray suit and tie, was seated next to his attorney Jennifer Bonjean as the trial began Monday. Bonjean introduced himself, and he also introduced Kelly and other attorneys representing him. Kelly wore a mask, like everyone else in court, out of coronavirus precautions.

Before more than 20 potential jurors were brought to court, the judge said they hope to choose 12 jurors and six alternates on Monday and Tuesday from a pool of 125 pre-selected jurors. Once the jury is selected, the panel will hear opening statements from prosecutors and the defense before the first witness is called.

Kelly, who grew up poor on the south side of Chicago to become a star singer, songwriter and producer, faces multiple charges in the federal trial. These include four counts of enticing minors to have sex, one for each of his accusers. They will also testify.

Before potential jurors arrived, Bonjean asked the judge to exclude anyone who had seen the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” which reviewed old allegations against Kelly and presented new ones. About 12.8 million people watched the six-episode series that premiered in January 2019.

The judge denied that motion, but said the jury will be questioned about the show.

If convicted in Chicago, it would add decades to Kelly’s sentence in New York, which he has appealed. With the New York sentence alone, Kelly would have 80 years before qualifying for possible early release.

Two of Kelly’s associates, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, are also charged in the Chicago trial. McDavid faces charges of helping Kelly fix the 2008 trial, while Brown is accused of receiving child pornography. Like Kelly, they have also denied any criminal activity.

Two state cases are also pending. One is a multi-count sexual assault case in Chicago’s Cook County Circuit Court. The other is a Minnesota soliciting case. No dates have been set for any of those trials.

Minor 1 is expected to testify that she appears in the video having sex with Kelly. The video was at the crux of the month-long 2008 trial and was shown to jurors nearly every day.

Minor 1 met Kelly in the late 1990s when she was in high school. She went to Kelly’s recording studio with her aunt, a professional singer who worked with him. Shortly after, the minor told her parents that Kelly would be her godfather.

Prosecutors argue that Kelly threatened and then sought to pay Child 1 and her parents not to testify at the 2008 trial. Neither of them did.

Under US law, prosecutors cannot charge someone with the same crime for which they were previously acquitted. But this does not apply in the federal trial in Chicago because prosecutors allege different crimes related to Minor 1, including obstruction of justice.


Michael Tarm is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mtarm

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