R. Kelly will face federal trial in Chicago for child pornography and obstruction of justice

CHICAGO — Nearly two months after being convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison in New York for federal racketeering and sex trafficking charges, disgraced musician R. Kelly is set to return to court for a second federal trial, this both on charges of child pornography and obstruction of justice, in his hometown of Chicago.

Jury selection is due to begin Monday in a case that stems from complaints from several women who allege Kelly, 55, lured them into sexual acts when they were underage. At least two are expected to testify, according to court documents.

This trial should bring up the charges brought against Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, 14 years ago in a state trial for child pornography in which he was ultimately acquitted.

Federal prosecutors in Illinois allege Kelly obstructed justice in that 2008 Cook County criminal trial, which involved a videotape of Kelly allegedly sexually abusing a minor.

The singer will stand trial alongside his former business manager, Derrel McDavid, and business associate, Milton ‘June’ Brown, who are both charged with conspiring with Kelly to intimidate and bribe witnesses and conceal evidence during the trial. of 2008, according to federal charges. against them.

Kelly has refuse any wrongdoing.

Neither Kelly’s attorneys nor prosecutors responded to NBC News’ requests for comment.

Mary Higgins Judge, an attorney representing Brown, declined to comment. Brown has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Beau Brindley, an attorney for McDavid, said in a statement that during the time relevant to the charges in the case, he “did only one thing: he did his job.

“It was his job to protect Robert Kelly’s image and his career. To do that, he hired some of the best lawyers in the United States,” Brindley said. has entered into relevant agreements for this case. Mr. McDavid and these attorneys have done their job. They have executed it with excellence. It was not a crime then. It is not a crime now. We look forward to Mr. McDavid’s exoneration.

How will the case of Illinois be different from that of New York?

The lawsuit is part of a series of federal and state cases against Kelly in three states: New York, Illinois and Minnesota.

He was was sentenced last year and sentenced to 30 years to jail in June in federal court in New York on nine counts of racketeering and sex trafficking. The jurors in that case found that Kelly had set up a criminal enterprise that allowed him to recruit and transport underage girls for sexual purposes. A lawyer for Kelly said he would appeal.

While the New York case, according to evidence and testimony presented in court, centered on accusations of racketeering and allegations that Kelly, his bodyguards, drivers, managers and others developed a A decades-long scheme that culminated in the sexual abuse of young fans, Illinois The lawsuit will focus on conduct during previous court proceedings and videotapes allegedly made by Kelly that constituted child pornography.

In many ways, this case will be a rerun of the 2008 trial, which lacked several key elements, said Micheal Leonard, a Chicago trial attorney who briefly worked on Kelly’s 2020 defense team for the acts of New York and Illinois prosecution. before retiring last year.

“This case is more focused on things that happened in the past, especially with respect to prior legal proceedings in state court in Illinois,” he said. “The government has a theory in this case that there was a cover-up or interference in his old trial and state court years and years ago, which is quite different from what they were doing in New York.”

In 2008, Kelly was judged in Cook County for child pornography. The trial centered on a 26-minute videotape sent anonymously to the Chicago Sun-Times in 2002 which allegedly showed Kelly performing sexual acts with an underage girl. NBC News has not viewed the videotape.

However, the girl who allegedly appeared in the tape refused to testify at that trial, which jurors said made difficult for them to convict Kelly.

The same video is again at issue, with federal prosecutors now saying Kelly and his co-defendants ‘agreed to pay money and charged money on Kelly’s behalf to victims, witnesses and others. to make sure they wouldn’t cooperate with law enforcement.” and conceal and conceal evidence, including videos, relating to Kelly’s sexual contact and sexual acts with minors,” according to court records. Kelly denied any wrongdoing. His attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.

Court filings also allege that McDavid and Brown “agreed to intimidate, threaten, pressure, persuade, and attempt to persuade” the underage girls and their families at Kelly’s request.

Leonard said the testimony of the alleged victim in this case, who is expected to testify this time around, will be central to this case.

“Now you have a person saying, ‘Hey, I was really the victim back then,'” he said.

Lawsuit follows years of allegations against Kelly

Activists have long called for Kelly to face charges related to the long history of sexual abuse allegations against him.

Kenyette Tisha Barnes, who co-founded the #MuteRKelly social media campaign, a grassroots effort to pressure major music streaming services to remove Kelly’s discography from their platforms, said she believes that Illinois’ lawsuit is significant because it “exemplifies the flagrant and recklessness of its crimes spanning decades and states. For survivors to heal, we must ensure that every survivor has their day in court.”

She hopes the city of Chicago can also “begin to heal…as the people of Chicago who have been systematically silenced have their day.”

“R. Kelly was an architect of Chicago’s cultural scene for three decades. Yes, he influenced the music and culture of South Chicago, which is predominantly African American. But there are other artists who have also had an impact, but they are not sexual predators,” she said.

The #MuteRKelly movement won a partial victory when YouTube removed its official artist channels in October 2021.

Jim DeRogatis, 57, was one of the first reporters to begin reporting on sexual abuse allegations against R. Kelly in 2000, first for the Chicago Sun-Times and later for BuzzFeed News.

DeRogatis said he thought it was important that R. Kelly be brought to justice in Chicago.

He said he hopes this lawsuit will force a “Chicago account,” because “every system in Chicago has failed dozens of young black girls for years” and “apart from the Chicago Sun-Times, the media have ignored this story for too long”.

He expressed dismay at R. Kelly’s continued popularity in some circles as well as among pro-R people. Kelly’s Social Media Activity and Beyond: “The social media hate I’m getting is nothing compared to what R. Kelly’s victims are feeling, but it’s still unprecedented and very disturbing.”

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