R. Kelly and two of his business associates meticulously worked for years to keep the R&B superstar’s “dark side” hidden from the public, while he sexually abused multiple underage girls, taped that abuse and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep those videos covered up, federal prosecutors alleged in a Chicago courtroom Wednesday.
Opening statements got underway at the Dirksen Federal Building on Wednesday in Kelly’s second federal trial, where he stands accused of multiple child pornography-related charges, as well as conspiracy to obstruct justice and enticing a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity.
During those statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Julien explained how Kelly engaged in criminal sexual activity with five underage girls “hundreds” of times in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He then alleged Kelly, along with his former employees and current co-defendants Derrel McDavid and Milton “June” Brown, paid out huge sums of money to keep those videos under wraps.
“The defendant Robert Kelly had sex with multiple children,” Julien said. “He made video tapes of himself having sex with children ... (Kelly) had a hidden side, a dark side that he, along with the help of McDavid and Brown, did not allow the world to see.”
According to Julien, Kelly recorded himself sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl — identified using the pseudonym “Jane” — in four separate videos, portions of which will be shown to jurors during this trial.
“The videos are difficult to watch,” he said, “but it’s important for you all to watch those videos to understand what happened.”
According to Julien, “Jane” was in a musical group when she met Kelly in 1996 or 1997, and believed that getting closer to him could help boost her career. But before he long, he began pursuing her sexually, Julien said.
He allegedly recorded himself sexually abusing “Jane” on VHS tapes in which he instructed her how to move, act and speak, and repeatedly referred to various parts of her body as being “14-years-old.”
When he was eventually investigated and prosecuted on those allegations in 2008, Kelly allegedly hid “Jane” away from law enforcement and prevented her from testifying in that case. Kelly was ultimately acquitted.
According to prosecutors, one of those tapes allegedly shows Kelly engaged in sexual acts with “Jane” and an 18-year-old referred to only as “Lisa,” who knew that encounter was recorded and later took a VHS from Kelly’s home which included on it that sexual activity, as well as two other videos of Kelly with “Jane.”
“Lisa” mailed that tape to a friend in Kansas City for safekeeping, but eventually told Kelly once she learned that friend had planned to sell the tape and release it to the public, Julien said.
“Lisa” and her friend later met with McDavid and Brown in Chicago to turn that video over, Julien said, where McDavid allegedly forced both of them to take lie detector tests to ensure they didn’t make any copies. With the tape recovered, Brown allegedly hugged “Lisa’s” friend and told him that he’d brought the “golden egg.”
Kelly is also accused of having sex with four other underage girls, all between the ages of 14 and 16.
In her own opening statements, Kelly’s attorney Jennifer Bonjean argued it’s not “Jane” in those videos, and said that “Jane” herself has denied being in the videos for the last 22 years when questioned by prosecutors, social workers, police officers and while under oath before a grand jury.
“You’re gonna have to decide whether these video clips are authentic,” she said.
She claimed prosecutors are attempting a “shock and awe” strategy by showing jurors portions of the videos.
Bonjean also noted “Jane” and her mother are only testifying in this case under immunity deals with prosecutors. She argued the government’s case comes down to the word of "liars, extortionists" and who themselves possibly engaged in sextrafficking based on the prosecution’s evidence.
Attorneys for Kelly’s co-defendants, however, seemingly pointed the finger at Kelly, claiming he kept them in the dark about what those videos truly contained.
McDavid’s attorney Vadim Glozman said his client — who is charged with conspiracy to receive child pornography, receiving child pornography and conspiracy to obstruct justice — believed the video of Kelly and “Jane” was a fraud, and was only acting on the behest of Kelly’s previous legal team to try and recover the tape ahead of the singer’s 2008 trial.
He claimed Kelly, along with “Jane” and her parents, all lied about the girl’s involvement in the video, so McDavid legitimately believed Kelly was innocent, and all the steps McDavid took to recover that video were only done to ensure Kelly had the best possible defense at trial.
Kathleen Leon, who represents Brown, said her client had “no knowledge” of the "secrets (Kelly) held close and hidden from the world,” claiming Brown didn't know of any conspiracy or that "Jane" was a minor.
She claimed Kelly kept his numerous employees “siloed off” from one another and that Brown likely didn’t know anything more about Kelly’s alleged criminal activities than did the general public.
“He had … no knowledge of who his employer really was,” Leon said.
The 12-person jury hearing Kelly’s case was finalized Tuesday afternoon following two days of voir dire. Scores of prospective jurors were questioned about their knowledge of Kelly, his past criminal cases and a Lifetime docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly,” which detailed years of allegations against him.
Many jurors who expressed even the slightest doubt at their ability to remain impartial were quickly excused. Bonjean on Wednesday implored the selected jurors to keep their emotions in check while hearing the evidence.
“He is entitled to a non-biased jury,” she said. “That’s a tall order, but you all said you could do it.”
This is a developing story. Check back for details.