CHICAGO (AP) — R. Kelly’s federal trial in Chicago, which begins Monday, is in many ways a repeat of his 2008 state child pornography trial, in which a jury acquitted the singer on charges of producing a video of himself , when he was around 30 having sex with a girl no older than 14.
There is one big difference: this time, prosecutors say, she will testify.
Kelly, 55, goes before a federal court in Chicago already convicted by a New York federal judge to a 30-year prison sentence for a conviction in 2021 Amid charges, he used his fame to sexually abuse fellow young fans.
Among the most serious charges the Grammy winner faces at his federal trial is conspiracy to obstruct justice by tampering with the 2008 trial, including paying the girl and threatening to make sure she doesn’t testify.
The testimony of the woman, who is now in her 30s and is referred to on the files only as “Minor 1,” will be crucial. The charges against Kelly also include four counts of seducing a minor into sex – one count each for four other accusers. Everyone should testify.
Even just one or two convictions in Chicago could add decades to Kelly’s sentence in New York, which he is appealing. With the New York verdict alone, Kelly will be in her 80s before she qualifies for early release.
Prosecutors in the federal case plan to play the same VHS tape that was “Exhibit #1” at the 2008 trial. While it was the only video evidence 14 years ago, at least three other videos are being used as evidence in the federal case.
Prosecutors say Kelly filmed the video of Minor 1 in a log cabin room at his home on Chicago’s North Side between 1998 and 2000, when she was just 13 years old. The girl can be heard calling the man “Daddy”. Federal prosecutors say she and Kelly had sex at his homes, recording studios and tour buses hundreds of times over the years.
For years prior to the 2008 trial, Kelly carried a holdall full of sex tapes with him everywhere, but some videos were later lost, according to court records. In the 2000s, pirated copies of some videos began to appear on street corners in the United States
Kelly who rose from poverty on Chicago’s South Side Becoming a singer-songwriter-producer knew that a conviction in 2008 would effectively end his life as he knew it.
On June 13, 2008, Kelly shut her eyes tight and bowed her head as the jury returned from deliberations. When a court official read the jury’s decision and it became clear that Kelly would be acquitted of all charges, tears rolled down his cheeks and he kept saying, “Thank you, Jesus.”
Two Kelly associates, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, are co-defendants in Chicago. McDavid is accused of helping Kelly fix the 2008 trial, while Brown is accused of receiving child pornography. Like Kelly, they have denied any wrongdoing.
The double jeopardy rules prohibit prosecuting anyone for the same crimes of which they were previously acquitted. But that shouldn’t apply to the federal trial in Chicago, as prosecutors charge various crimes involving Minor 1, including obstructing justice for the 2008 trial’s establishment.
Minor 1 first met Kelly in the late 1990s when she was in junior high school. She had come to Kelly’s recording studio in Chicago along with her aunt, a professional singer who worked with Kelly’s music. Shortly after this meeting, Minor 1 told her parents that Kelly would be her godfather.
In the early 2000s, the aunt showed parents a copy of a video she believed showed her daughter having sex with Kelly. When they confronted Kelly, he told them, “You are with me or against me,” according to a government filing.
The parents took it as a threat.
“Child 1’s mother did not want to go against Kelly’s power, money and influence by disobeying what he said,” the filing continues.
Kelly told the parents and Minor 1 that they needed to leave Chicago and paid for them to travel to the Bahamas and Cancun, Mexico. When they got back, prosecutors said, Kelly attempted to isolate Minor 1 by taking them to different hotels.
When Minor 1, her father and mother, were called before a state grand jury viewing the video, they denied she was in it. Prosecutors say an attorney for Kelly attended her testimony and told Kelly what they said.
Prosecutors at the Cook County State Attorney’s Office chose to press charges and take the case to court in 2008, despite knowing there was a major hurdle: her inability to call the girl in the video to testify.
Any confidence Kelly might have had in beating similar charges a second time was likely dashed when he learned Minor 1 was now working with the government. With more resources, federal prosecutors can also boast conviction rates of more than 90%, compared to about 65% for their state-level counterparts.
In 2008, his attorneys argued that the man in the VHS video, who appeared to be very Kelly, was not Kelly. They showed the jury that Kelly had a large mole on his back and then played segments of the video where there was no mole on the man.
One of Kelly’s attorneys, Sam Adam Jr., told jurors during the closure that no mole on the man’s back means one thing: “It’s not him. And if he isn’t, you can’t judge.”
Some 2008 jurors told reporters after the trial that they were not convinced the woman in the video was who prosecutors said she was.
That shouldn’t be an issue at the federal trial in Chicago. Prosecutors say both the girl and her parents will testify.
It is not clear what defense Kelly’s legal team will present this time.
The defense is likely to say that Kelly’s prosecutors misrepresented the facts. Kelly was more outspoken in a 2019 interview with Gayle King of CBS This Morning, saying of the women, “All of them lie.”
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