R. Kelly’s federal trial in Chicago that begins Monday is in many ways a rehash of his 2008 state child pornography trial, in which jurors acquitted the singer for producing a video of himself while that he was around 30 having sex with a girl under 14.
There is one big difference: This time, prosecutors say, she will testify.
Kelly, 55, is appearing in federal court in Chicago already sentenced by a federal judge in New York to 30 years in prison for a 2021 conviction for abusing her fame to sexually abuse other young fans.
Among the most serious charges the Grammy Award winner faces in his federal trial are conspiracy to obstruct justice by rigging the 2008 trial, including paying and threatening the girl for make sure she doesn’t testify.
The testimony of the woman, now in her thirties and referred to in the documents only as “Minor 1”, will be decisive. The charges against Kelly also include four counts of incitement to sex with minors – one count each for four other accusers. All are also called to testify.
Even one or two convictions in Chicago could add decades to Kelly’s sentence in New York, which he is appealing. With New York’s sentence alone, Kelly will be around 80 years old before qualifying for early release.
Federal trial prosecutors plan to play the same VHS tape that was “Exhibit #1” in the 2008 trial. While it was the only video in evidence 14 years ago, at least three other videos will be entered into evidence at the federal trial.
Prosecutors say Kelly shot the Minor 1 video in a log cabin-themed room in her North Side Chicago home between 1998 and 2000, when she was just 13. We hear the girl call the man “dad”. Federal prosecutors say she and Kelly had sex hundreds of times over the years in her homes, recording studios and tour buses.
Before the 2008 trial, Kelly carried a sports bag full of sex tapes everywhere he went for years, but some of the tapes later disappeared, according to court documents. In the 2000s, counterfeit copies of some videos appeared on street corners across the United States.
Kelly, who rose from Chicago’s South End poverty to become a star singer, songwriter and producer, knew a 2008 conviction would effectively end his life as he knew it.
On June 13, 2008, Kelly closed her eyes and bowed her head as jurors returned from deliberations. As a court official read the jury’s decision and it became clear that Kelly would be acquitted on all counts, tears rolled down his cheeks and he repeatedly said, “Thank you, Jesus.”
Two of Kelly’s associates, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, are co-accused in Chicago. McDavid is accused of helping Kelly fix the 2008 lawsuit, while Brown is accused of receiving child pornography. Like Kelly, they also denied any wrongdoing.
Dual criminality rules prohibit prosecuting someone for the same crimes for which they were acquitted earlier. But that shouldn’t apply to the Chicago federal trial, as prosecutors allege different crimes related to Minor 1, including obstruction of justice for rigging the 2008 trial.
Minor 1 first met Kelly in the late 1990s when she was in middle school. She had followed Kelly’s recording studio to Chicago with her aunt, a professional singer working with Kelly’s music. Shortly after this meeting, Minor 1 told his parents that Kelly was going to be his godfather.
In the early 2000s, the aunt showed the parents a copy of a video she said showed their daughter having sex with Kelly. When they confronted Kelly, he told them, “You are either with me or against me,” a government filing reads.
The parents took it as a threat.
“Minor 1’s mother did not want to oppose Kelly’s power, money and influence by not following what he said,” the filing adds.
Kelly told the parents and minor 1 that they had to leave Chicago, paying to go to the Bahamas and Cancun, Mexico. Upon their return, prosecutors said Kelly sought to isolate Minor 1, moving her to different hotels.
When called before a state grand jury reviewing the video, Minor 1, her father and mother denied it was her. Prosecutors say a lawyer for Kelly attended their testimony and told Kelly what they said.
Prosecutors at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office opted to pursue the charges and take the case to court in 2008 despite what they knew would be a major hurdle: their inability to call the daughter of the video to testify.
Chicago-born singer R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Wednesday after being convicted of sex trafficking in New York, and backlash is pouring in from both those who support the artist and those who were victimized of his crimes. NBC 5’s Alex Maragos has more details.
Any confidence Kelly might have had to beat similar charges a second time was likely shattered when he learned that Minor 1 was now cooperating with the government. With more resources, federal prosecutors also have conviction rates of over 90% compared to around 65% for their state counterparts.
In 2008, his lawyers argued that the man in the VHS video who appeared to be Kelly was not Kelly. They showed jurors that Kelly had a large mole on her back, then played clips of the video in which no moles were visible on the man.
One of Kelly’s attorneys, Sam Adam Jr., told jurors at closings that no mole on the man’s back meant one thing: “It’s not him. And if it isn’t him, you can’t condemn him.
Some 2008 jurors told reporters after the trial that they weren’t convinced the woman in the video was the one state prosecutors had said.
That shouldn’t be a problem at the Chicago federal trial. Prosecutors say the girl and her parents will testify.
It’s unclear what defense Kelly’s legal team will present this time.
The defense is likely to say Kelly’s accusers are misrepresenting the facts. Kelly was more blunt in a 2019 interview with “CBS This Morning’s” Gayle King, saying of women, “They all lie.”