R Kelly’s federal trial over allegations he rigged his 2008 child pornography trial and lured girls for sex is about the R&B singer’s ‘dark’ and ‘hidden’ side, a prosecutor told jurors on Wednesday .
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Julien said during his opening statements that much of the world knows Kelly from her hit song I Believe I Can Fly.
Mr Julien said it was “Kelly’s public side”, then added that “Kelly had another side – a hidden side, a dark side”.
“This lawsuit is about the dark side of Kelly,” Mr. Julien said.
Kelly is charged in federal court in his hometown of Chicago with luring minors for sex, producing child pornography and rigging his 2008 pornography trial in which he was acquitted .
Julien sought to give jurors an idea of the extent of Kelly’s alleged exploitation, claiming he had “repeatedly” had sex with girls who were as young as 14, 15 and 16 – “several girls, hundreds of times”.
The prosecution and Kelly’s legal team told the judge earlier in the week that they would like about an hour each to brief jurors on the type of evidence they can expect to see and hear.
The evidence stage of the federal trial is expected to last about a month.
Lawyers for two of Kelly’s co-defendants will also address jurors before the government begins calling witnesses later Wednesday. Prosecutors did not say who they would call first.
The jury was called on Tuesday, with prosecutors and defense attorneys squabbling near the end of the process over whether the government was improperly trying to exclude some black people from the jury.
Kelly, who is black, is accused of enticing minors to have sex, producing child pornography and rigging his 2008 state child pornography trial in which he was acquitted .
As parties have begun to exercise peremptory challenges — in which they can remove a fixed number of potential jurors from the class — Kelly’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, accused prosecutors of seeking to exclude black people from the jury “to refuse to Mr. Kelly a jury of his peers”.
Prosecutors noted that many African Americans had served on the jury before the defense objected, and argued that their reasons for wanting to punch some had nothing to do with race.
In one case, they said an older man seemed to have trouble staying awake.
Judge Harry Leinenweber partially agreed with the defense, barring prosecutors from removing three black people from the jury and reinstating them.
About half of the 12 named jurors were identified as black by the judge, prosecutor and defense attorneys. Six alternates were also selected.
Some of the selected jurors had watched at least part of a six-part documentary series, Surviving R Kelly, about the sexual abuse allegations against the Grammy-winning singer.
Watching it was not an automatic disqualification as long as a potential juror could assure Judge Leinenweber that he could still be impartial.
Among the 12 jurors selected was a retired real estate agent who had a son who was a prosecutor and another son who was a defense attorney. Another juror was a librarian.
Among those fired were a woman who said she had an unfavorable view of police and judges and a man who said he didn’t think the Internal Revenue Service should exist.
One of the main focuses of the trial will be whether Kelly threatened and paid off a girl he allegedly filmed himself having sex with when he was around 30 and no older. 14 years old.
This is the allegation that underlies 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 had not testified.
The woman, now in her 30s and referred to in court documents only as Minor 1, will be the government’s star witness.
When she testifies, prosecutors explained in court Monday that they will not use her real name or call her Minor 1. Instead, they will call her by a single alias, Jane.
Kelly, 55, was previously sentenced by a federal judge in New York to 30 years in prison for a 2021 conviction for using his fame to sexually abuse other young fans.
Kelly, who rose from poverty in Chicago’s South End to become a star singer, songwriter and producer, will be around 80 before qualifying for early release on the basis of his sentence in New York, against which he calls.
Kelly faces four counts of inciting minors for sex, one each for four other accusers. They too are expected to testify.
Two of Kelly’s associates, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, are co-accused at the Chicago trial.
McDavid is accused of helping Kelly fix the 2008 lawsuit, while Brown is accused of receiving child pornography. Like Kelly, they also denied wrongdoing.
Minor 1 should prove she was on video having sex with Kelly.
The recording was central to the month-long trial in 2008 and was played for jurors almost every day.
Prosecutors say Kelly threatened and sought to pay Minor 1 and her parents not to testify in 2008. Neither of them did.