Opening statements begin at R Kelly's Chicago trial

Opening statements begin at R Kelly's Chicago trial

Opening statements begin at R Kelly’s Chicago trial: Disgraced singer, 55, who is already serving 30-year sentence, is accused of filming himself having sex with girl, 14 – and then rigging his 2008 child pornography trial by intimidating the victim

  • Opening statements begin Wednesday at Dirksen US Courthouse in Chicago
  • Singer R Kelly, 55, is accused of enticing minors for sex, of producing child pornography and of fixing his 2008 state child pornography trial 
  • Prosecutors claim the R&B singer paid off a minor and her family to not testify at the trial more than a decade ago, allowing him to be free of charges 
  • The sex tape was played for jurors in 2008 and now the young girl in the video will participate in the upcoming trial as a witness 
  • Kelly was transferred to a jail in Chicago in July from Brooklyn, just two weeks after he was sentenced in NYC to 30 years for racketeering and sex trafficking 

Opening statements will begin today at disgraced singer R Kelly’s trial in Chicago as he faces accusations that he filmed himself having sex with a 14-year-old girl and then rigged his 2008 child pornography trial by intimating the victim.

The R&B star, who is already serving a 30-year prison sentence, is accused of conspiring with two associates to rig the child pornography case in Cook County 14 years ago – as well as hiding a slew of sexual assault allegations against minors. 

Kelly, 55, also allegedly threatened and paid off a girl who says he filmed them having sex when she was about 14-years-old. 

The jury was enrolled on Tuesday at the Dirksen US Courthouse in Kelly’s hometown Chicago.

It comes after Kelly was jailed for racketeering and sex trafficking in June, after being found guilty of sexual abuse which spanned over decades. He was being held at a Brooklyn jail and was recently transferred to Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center. 

Lawyers for two of Kelly co-defendants will address jurors before the government begins calling witnesses later on Wednesday. Prosecutors have not said who they will call first.

The trial is expected to last about a month. 

Opening statements begin Wednesday in R. Kelly’s Chicago trial at at Dirksen US Courthouse in Chicago on charges that he fixed a 2008 child pornography case. Above, Kelly pictured during his sentencing on June 29

PICTURED: Derrel McDavid (left) arriving with Kelly at the Cook County Criminal Courts building for the 2008 trial

Disgraced R&B star R Kelly was transferred in July from the federal jail in Brooklyn to the Metropolitan Correctional Center. He is pictured above leaving the Leighton Criminal Court Building in 2019

This trial is centered around the accusations that Kelly enticed minors for sex, produced child pornography and fixed his 2008 state child pornography trial – at which he was acquitted.

As the sides began exercising peremptory challenges earlier this week – in which they can remove a fixed number of potential jurors from the pool – Kelly lawyer Jennifer Bonjean accused prosecutors of seeking to strike black people from the jury ‘to deny Mr Kelly a jury of his peers’.

Prosecutors noted many African American people had already made it on to the jury before the defense objected, and they argued their reasons for wanting to strike some had nothing to do with race.

In one case, they said an older man appeared to have a hard time staying awake.

Judge Harry Leinenweber partially agreed with the defense, disallowing prosecutors from striking three black people from the jury, and restoring them.

About half the 12 jurors impaneled were identified as black by the judge, prosecutor and defense attorneys. Six alternates were also selected.

R Kelly’s defense lawyers Ashley Cohen, left, and Jennifer Bonjean walk into court on Monday

The jury was impaneled on Tuesday at the Dirksen US Courthouse (above) to discuss the singers charges 2008 child pornography trial when he allegedly threatened and paid off minor he allegedly filmed having sex with a 14-year-old girl

Allegations that Kelly abused young girls began circulating publicly in the 1990s. He was sued in 1997 by a woman who alleged sexual battery and sexual harassment while she was a minor.

Kelly was convicted after the jury heard how he used his entourage of managers and aides to meet girls and keep them obedient, an operation prosecutors said amounted to a criminal enterprise.

Several accusers testified that Kelly subjected them to perverse and sadistic whims when they were underage.

The accusers alleged they were ordered to sign nondisclosure forms and were subjected to threats and punishments such as violent spankings if they broke what one referred to as ‘Rob’s rules.’

Some said they believed the videotapes he shot of them having sex would be used against them if they exposed what was happening.

Jurors in the 2008 child pornography trial acquitted Kelly, with some later explaining that they felt they had no choice because the girl did not give evidence

Derrel McDavid (above), will appear as a defendant in the upcoming trial. McDavid, Kelly’s former manager, is accused of assisting Kelly in rigging the 2008 trial

Some of the jurors selected had watched at least part of a six-part documentary series, Surviving R Kelly, about sex abuse allegations against the Grammy award-winning singer.

Watching it was not an automatic disqualification as long as a would-be juror could assure Judge Leinenweber they could still be impartial.

Among the 12 jurors selected was a retired estate agent who had one son who was a prosecutor and another son who was a defense lawyer. Another juror was a librarian.

One central focus of the trial this month will be on whether Kelly threatened and paid off a girl with who he allegedly videotaped himself having sex with.

Kelly was about 30, and the girl was no older than 14.

That is the allegation underpinning another of the charges against Kelly, conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Jurors in the 2008 child pornography trial acquitted Kelly, with some later explaining that they felt they had no choice because the girl did not give evidence.

The woman, now in her 30s and referred to in court filings only as Minor 1, will be the government’s star witness.

When she gives evidence, prosecutors explained in court Monday, that they will not use her real name and will not refer to her as Minor 1. Instead, they will call her by a single pseudonym, Jane.

Prosecutors say that Kelly threatened the girl and her family around 2008 to avoid them appearing in court. PICTURED: Kelly at Brooklyn’s Federal District Court at the start of his NY trial

Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center (pictured) where the disgraced singer was held after sentenced to 30 years in prison

What was R Kelly found guilty of at his NY trial?

R Kelly stood trial Brooklyn federal court last year after he was accused of being the ringleader of a sex ring involving women and underage girls and boys.

The charges were first brought in a five-count superseding indictment in Brooklyn federal court in July 2019.

In March 2020, he was slapped with additional charges upgrading the case to a nine-count indictment.

The charges relate to allegations involving six alleged victims – five women named as Jane Does in the indictment and the singer Aaliyah. These charges are:


The racketeering charge includes 14 underlying acts including: one act of bribery, three acts of sexual exploitation of a child, one act of kidnapping, three acts of forced labor and six acts of violating the Mann Act.

Racketeering charges are used where there is an ‘enterprise’, mob or mafia running organized crime operations.

In this case, Kelly is accused of running a racketeering ‘enterprise’ for two decades made up of his ‘inner circle’ of managers, bodyguards and other employees who would help him recruit women, girls and boys for him to sexually exploit and traffic them around the US.


The Mann Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to traffic people across state lines for prostitution or illegal sexual activity.

Four of these charges relate to an incident involving Jane Doe #5 in 2015 while the other four involve Jane Doe #6 in separate incidents in May 2017 and February 2018.

Three of these charges involve Kelly allegedly exposing the two women to herpes without informing them.

The disgraced singer was handed a 30-year sentence earlier this year on charges that he used his fame to sexually abuse other young fans. 

Kelly spent more than a year being held at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center. Immediately following his sentencing, he was placed on suicide watch. 

The US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn filed court papers saying Kelly remained on suicide watch ‘for his own safety,’ following a psychological assessment.

Kelly’s attorney, Bonjean, filed a lawsuit alleging prison officials placed Kelly on suicide watch ‘solely for punitive purposes and because of his status as a high-profile inmate.’

Bonjean argued the measure was in violation of Kelly’s Eighth Amendment rights as he had no thoughts of harming himself. The suicide watch was eventually lifted.

He was convicted of sex-trafficking and racketeering charges last September, following a six-week trial that amplified the accusations.

He has denied wrongdoing.

The ‘I Believe I Can Fly Singer’ committed the heinous acts for decades before he was convicted.

Kelly declined to speak at his sentences, after the court heard accusations from angered victims about how the singer preyed on them.

During the sentencing, the judge said Kelly created ‘a trail of broken lives,’ adding that ‘the most seasoned investigators will not forget the horrors your victims endured.

‘These crimes were calculated and carefully planned and regularly executed for almost 25 years,’ she said. ‘You taught them that love is enslavement and violence.’

Lizzette Martinez, one of the victims at the June hearing, said she doesn’t think Kelly’s sentence is enough ‘but [was] pleased with it.’

Martinez, who described herself to the reporters as an ‘up-and-coming singer, a girl full of life’ before she met R Kelly and became ‘a sex slave.’

The sentence caps a slow-motion fall for Kelly, who was adored by legions of fans and sold millions of albums even after allegations about his abuse of young girls began circulating publicly in the 1990s.

Widespread outrage over Kelly’s sexual misconduct didn’t come until the #MeToo reckoning, reaching a crescendo after the release of the docuseries ‘Surviving R. Kelly.’

Kelly’s lawyers argued he should get no more than 10 years in prison because he had a traumatic childhood ‘involving severe, prolonged childhood sexual abuse, poverty, and violence.’

As an adult with ‘literacy deficiencies,’ the star was ‘repeatedly defrauded and financially abused, often by the people he paid to protect him,’ his lawyers said.

Lizzette Martinez, one of the victims who spoke at the sentencing, said she was a ‘girl full of life’ before she met R Kelly and became ‘a sex slave.’ She added that she doesn’t think Kelly’s 30-year sentence is enough ‘but I’m pleased with it’ 

Kelly, who rose from poverty on Chicago’s South Side to become a star singer, songwriter and producer, will be about 80 before qualifying for early release based on his sentence imposed in New York, against which he is appealing.

He faces four counts of enticement of minors for sex, one each for four other accusers. They, too, are expected to give evidence.

Two Kelly associates, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, are co-defendants at the Chicago trial this month.

McDavid is accused of helping Kelly fix the 2008 trial, while Brown is charged with receiving child pornography. Like Kelly, they also have denied wrongdoing.

Minor 1 is expected to give evidence that she was on video having sex with Kelly.

The recording was at the heart of the month-long 2008 trial and was played for jurors almost every day.

Prosecutors say Kelly threatened and sought to pay off Minor 1 and her parents so they would not give evidence in 2008. None of them did.

Allegations that Kelly abused young girls began circulating publicly in the 1990s. He was sued in 1997 by a woman who alleged sexual battery and sexual harassment while she was a minor

Attorney Jennifer Bonjean comforts R Kelly at his sentencing hearing for federal sex trafficking at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn on June 29

According to testimony, Kelly gave several accusers herpes without disclosing he had an STD, coerced a teenage boy to join him for sex with a naked girl who emerged from underneath a boxing ring in his garage, and shot a shaming video of one victim showing her smearing feces on her face as punishment for breaking his rules.

Evidence was also presented about a fraudulent marriage scheme hatched to protect Kelly after he feared he had impregnated R&B phenom Aaliyah in 1994 when she was just 15.

Witnesses said they were married in matching jogging suits using a license falsely listing her age as 18; he was 27 at the time.

Aaliyah worked with Kelly, who wrote and produced her 1994 debut album, ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number.’ She died in a plane crash in 2001 at age 22.

The abuse continued for years while Kelly continued to sell millions of albums.

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