In R. Kelly’s hometown of Chicago, a federal jury was selected on Tuesday to resolve a number of accusations brought against the R&B singer, with prosecutors and defense lawyers sparring over whether the government had unlawfully tried to keep some Black people off the jury.
Black man Kelly is charged with soliciting youngsters for sex, creating child pornography, and rigging a 2008 state child pornography trial in which he was found not guilty.
Before the defense objected, several African Americans had already been selected for the jury, according to the prosecution, and they said their motivation for seeking to have some of them dismissed had nothing to do with race. In one instance, they reported that an older guy seemed to have trouble remaining up.
Judge Harry Leinenweber partially sided with the defense, preventing the prosecution from removing and then replacing three Black jurors. The court, the prosecution, and the defense attorneys recognized around half of the 12 jurors as being Black.
A few of the chosen jurors had seen at least a portion of the six-part documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” which dealt with the sex abuse claims made against the Grammy-winning musician. As long as a prospective juror could reassure Judge Leinenweber that they could still be impartial after seeing it, watching it was not a disqualifying factor.
One of the 12 jurors chosen was a retired real estate agent who had sons who worked as prosecutors and defense lawyers. A librarian served as another juror.
On Wednesday morning, the prosecution will make its opening remarks before calling its first witness.
The judge ultimately disqualified almost half of the more than 100 prospective jurors who were interviewed over two days in a sizable courtroom on the 25th floor of downtown Chicago.
Women who claimed to have negative opinions of law enforcement and courts, a woman who claimed to have taken martial arts lessons with Kelly’s children in the past, and a man who claimed that the IRS shouldn’t exist were among those who were disqualified.
Whenever a prospective juror showed even the slightest misgivings, Leinenweber had a tendency to reject them. He disqualified a juror who claimed that large gatherings give him anxiety and a U.S. postal worker who was concerned that mail delivery would be delayed without her.
Kelly watched the proceedings from a defense table while donning a surgical mask over his lips and nose. He appeared to occasionally be observing potential jurors as they responded to the judge’s questions on Tuesday. Kelly was dressed in a gray suit.
Several Kelly supporters on court spectator benches performed heart gestures with their hands and pointed them at Kelly during a break around lunch. He smiled and nodded as if he noticed something across the courtroom.
Kelly was found not guilty by a jury in the 2008 child pornography case; some jurors afterwards stated that they felt they had little choice because the girl did not testify. The lady, who is now in her 30s and is only known as “Minor 1” in court documents, will serve as the government’s star witness during the four-week federal trial.
Prosecutors said in court on Monday that they will not mention her true name or refer to her as Minor 1 when she testifies. They will simply refer to her as “Jane” instead. When Kelly is accused of videotaping or seducing some of his accusers, Kelly’s attorneys said they might challenge whether or not those accusers were minors at the time.
Kelly, 55, has already been given a 30-year prison term by a federal judge in New York for a conviction in 2021 on allegations that he used his stardom to sexually abuse other teenage admirers.
According to his sentence from New York, which he is appealing, Kelly, who came from poverty on Chicago’s South Side to become a famous singer, songwriter, and producer, will be approximately 80 when he becomes eligible for early release. Producing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in jail for even a single conviction.
Kelly is charged with four counts of enticing children for sex, one for each of her four accusers. They are also required to give a testimony.
Minor 1 is anticipated to confirm that Kelly and she were caught on camera having sex. The recording was played for the jury practically every day during the trial’s month-long 2008 duration.
According to the government’s pretrial court filings, Minor 1 first encountered Kelly in the late 1990s while she was a junior in high school. According to the government, she had accompanied her aunt, a professional singer who collaborated with Kelly, to Kelly’s Chicago recording studio. Minor 1 informed her parents that Kelly would be her godfather shortly after that.