Jury Selection Begins Monday in R. Kelly’s Child Pornography Trial in Chicago

In this Sept. 17, 2019, file photo, R. Kelly appears during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool, File)In this Sept. 17, 2019, file photo, R. Kelly appears during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool, File)

Already faced with a decades-long prison sentence, R&B superstar R. Kelly will again stand trial, this time in Chicago, on a litany of charges including child pornography and obstruction of justice.

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Jury selection begins Monday morning at the Dirksen Federal Building downtown, where the 55-year-old Chicago native will stand trial, nearly a year after a New York jury convicted him of sex trafficking and other charges.

Kelly was initially charged in a 2019 indictment that alleged he sexually abused five separate minors and recorded some of those acts on video. A superseding indictment filed the following year added a sixth alleged victim.

Two former employees of the singer’s music business, Derrel McDavid and Milton “June” Brown, are also charged with conspiring to conceal evidence to obstruct law enforcement during the investigation that preceded Kelly’s 2008 child porn trial in Cook County.

According to prosecutors, Kelly and McDavid paid an acquaintance hundreds of thousands of dollars beginning in 2001 to collect those videos and cover up their existence. When that acquaintance later planned to hold a news conference to announce he had the videos, Kelly, McDavid and others allegedly paid him approximately $170,000 to cancel the event.

Prosecutors further allege Kelly and McDavid paid one of the minors and another individual to help recover and return the videos.

Kelly was acquitted in the 2008 case and had escaped consequences despite years of allegations, until his conviction last year.

In sentencing Kelly to 30 years in prison following his conviction in New York, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly reportedly told Kelly that while “sex was certainly a weapon that you used, this is not a case about sex. It’s a case about violence, cruelty and control.”

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, and he later faced criminal child pornography charges related to a different girl in Chicago.

The New York jury convicted him after hearing that he used his entourage of managers and aides to meet girls and keep them obedient, an operation that prosecutors said amounted to a criminal enterprise.

Kelly intends to appeal those convictions and maintains that he’s innocent.

The identities of jurors who are selected to hear Kelly’s latest trial will remain confidential, following a ruling earlier this month from U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber. Federal prosecutors had pushed for that decision, stating that Kelly’s various legal cases “have given rise to threats of violence directed at prosecutors and witnesses.”

In making their argument, prosecutors cited the recent indictment of Christopher Gunn, who was arrested in June amid allegations he’d threatened the lives of three people involved in Kelly’s New York case after he expressed a desire to “storm” the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn.

“In sum, this case has generated extraordinary media attention, and such attention is likely to lead to third-party attempts to contact and influence jurors — and the anticipation of such contacts — making it difficult for jurors to follow the Court’s instructions (particularly instructions barring outside research and discussion of the case), and to evaluate the evidence impartially,” assistant U.S. attorneys wrote in an Aug. 2 motion. “The risk of outside influence is neither hypothetical nor speculative here; it has already come to fruition during pretrial proceedings.”

The upcoming trial is expected to last a month.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected] | (773) 509-5431

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