R. Kelly federal trial: Attorneys deliver opening statements

Entertainment
R Kelly

FILE – R. Kelly appears during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago, Sept. 17, 2019. Federal authorities are pushing back Saturday, July 2, 2022, on R. Kelly’s claims that he was placed on suicide watch as a form of punishment after a judge sentenced him to 30 years behind bars for using his fame to sexually abuse young girls. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool, File)

(NewsNation) — R. Kelly’s federal child pornography and obstruction trial opened Wednesday with prosecutors and defense attorneys delivering opening statements to a jury seated in Chicago, Kelly’s hometown.

“Going back to the 1990s, much of the world knew Kelly solely by his hit songs, including the chart-topping inspirational anthem ‘I Believe I Can Fly’,” U.S. Assistant Attorney Jason Julien said in his statement. “Kelly had another side … a hidden side, a dark side,” he added. “This trial is about Kelly’s hidden side.”

Kelly, 55, whose legal name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is accused of enticing minors for sex, producing child pornography and fixing his state child pornography trial in 2008.

Julien described Kelly manipulating and controlling girls — even beating them if they didn’t comply with strict rules that included calling him “daddy.”

Julien said he “repeatedly” had sex with girls who were just 14, 15 and 16 years old — “multiple girls, hundreds of times.”

He told jurors that the evidence includes at least three videos showing Kelly having sex with underage girls.

“We’re not going to play hours of child pornography and make you watch it,” the prosecutor said, explaining they would see excerpts. He added: “The videos are difficult to watch. But it is important to watch … to understand what happened.”

Kelly’s lead attorney implored jurors not to accept the prosecution’s portrayal of him as “a monster.”

Defense attorney Jennifer Bonjean told jurors that Kelly, in part because of intellectual challenges that included illiteracy, was forced to rely on others as his career took off and that he was sometimes led astray by those in his circle of associates.

“Mr. Kelly can also be a victim,” she said.

The Grammy-winning songwriter was acquitted in his 2008 state child pornography case, and the federal trial is likely to rehash many of the same issues. The big difference this time is that Kelly’s accuser is expected to testify against him.

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

Prosecutors say Kelly threatened and sought to pay off the girl, with whom he allegedly videotaped himself having sex when he was about 30 and she was no older than 14.

Kelly faces four counts of enticement of minors for sex — one each for four other accusers. They, too, are expected to testify.

Two Kelly associates, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, are co-defendants at the trial and have denied any wrongdoing.

Kelly has already been sentenced by a New York federal judge to a 30-year prison term for a 2021 conviction on charges that he used his fame to sexually abuse other young fans.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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