R&B singer R. Kelly has been convicted on charges that he produced child pornography, but acquitted on other obstruction counts, following a monthlong trial in Chicago’s federal court building.
A 12-person jury convicted the music superstar on multiple child pornography-related charges, finding he sexually abused his 14-year-old goddaughter “Jane” and other minors in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But Kelly and his co-defendants, Derrel McDavid and Milton “June” Brown, were acquitted on charges they covered up that abuse by concealing illicit video tapes showing him with “Jane.”
Kelly, 55, was charged in 2019 over allegations that he sexually abused multiple minors and recorded some of those acts on video.
The jury found Kelly and both codefendants not guilty on charges alleging they’d conspired to receive child pornography. Jurors also acquitted Kelly and McDavid of attempting to rig the singer’s 2008 trial on child pornography charges in Cook County.
In all, Kelly was found guilty on three child pornography-related counts and three child enticement charges. He was acquitted on seven other counts, including a fourth child pornography count.
In a news conference after the verdict was read, U.S. Attorney John Lausch said prosecutors were “pleased” that Kelly was finally being held accountable for the abuse of his 14-year-old goddaughter.
For the counts on which Kelly was convicted, he faces a combined 10 to 90 years in prison, Lausch said.
During the trial, four separate accusers testified under pseudonyms — including “Jane,” as well as “Pauline,” “Tracy” and “Nia” — that Kelly had coerced them into illicit sexual activity when they were underage. Another alleged victim, referred to as “Brittany,” never testified.
“Jane,” the government’s key witness, told jurors that she indeed was the 14-year-old girl with Kelly in the three separate sex videos shown to jurors at trial. Prosecutors also alleged Kelly recorded a fourth tape with “Jane” and his ex-girlfriend Lisa Van Allen, but that tape was never shown to jurors in this case and Kelly was acquitted on the one charge related to that video.
Allegations that Kelly was abusing “Jane” were at the center of the singer’s 2008 child pornography trial in Cook County, but “Jane” did not testify in that case and Kelly was ultimately acquitted.
“Jane” admitted that she lied about her relationship with Kelly to investigators from the Department of Children and Family Services and the Chicago Police Department, stating that she was ashamed to be on those tapes and scared of what could happen to her or Kelly if that information went public.
“Again, I just, it was embedded in me that this could never come out,” she testified last month. “Jane” estimated that Kelly sexually abused her “hundreds” of times while she was underage.
Prosecutors also alleged that McDavid, who was Kelly's former business manager, and Brown, who was one of the singer's assistants, were part of a conspiracy to recover and conceal tapes of Kelly with “Jane” that had been taken from Kelly’s possession.
Charles Freeman, a former Kelly merchandiser, testified he signed a contract with McDavid and private investigator Jack Palladino in August 2001 that would pay him $140,000 to get one tape he said had made its way to Atlanta. He claimed he was actually promised $1 million if he successfully recovered the tape.
McDavid, who was the lone defendant to testify, claimed Freeman was never hired to get any tape, and that Freeman actually already had a sex tape of Kelly and two adults the he was using to extort Kelly.
During Kelly’s 2008 trial, Freeman said he planned a news conference to announce that he had the videos, but Kelly allegedly paid him off to cancel it. McDavid testified they didn’t believe that Freeman actually had any illicit videos, but paid him to keep him from lying about Kelly while they believed they had the 2008 trial won.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, alleged Brown had been seen carrying gym bags they said contained these illicit sex tapes for Kelly, and went out of the country with “Jane” and her parents. His defense team contends he was simply a low-level assistant doing what his boss asked of him, and never knew anything about Kelly’s alleged abuse.
Kelly has already been convicted and sentenced to 30 years in federal prison following a trial last year in New York on separate charges of sex trafficking and racketeering.
After the verdict, Kelly’s attorney Jennifer Bonjean said “credibility was everything,” and jurors did not believe government witnesses Freeman and Van Allen when they said they worked with the defendants to recover and conceal some of these illicit videos.
“We won more counts than we lost,” Bonjean told reporters inside the Dirksen Federal Building.
She said that while Kelly is used to “bad news” — referring to his existing 30-year prison sentence stemming from his sex trafficking and racketeering convictions in New York last year — but added that the singer had a “sense of relief” after the verdict that this case was now behind him.
Bonjean also believes there are issues she can bring up to appeal the charges Kelly was convicted on Wednesday.
Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson | [email protected] | (773) 509-5431