R. Kelly Chicago Trial: Opening Statements Ongoing

Federal prosecutors told jurors that Grammy-winning R&B superstar R. Kelly had “a hidden side, a dark side” as his child pornography and obstruction of justice in Chicago took off in earnest on Wednesday.

Kelly attorney Jennifer Bonjean then objected that the FBI’s case is based on expected testimony from witnesses she described as criminals with immunity deals. She even questioned whether the alleged victim of Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial will take the stand and testify that she appeared in an infamous video with Kelly.

“For the past 22 years, she has adamantly denied that it was her on that video,” Bonjean said.

Also, two former Kelly employees, Derrel McDavid and Milton “June” Brown, are on trial. During the opening statement for McDavid, attorney Vadim Glozman promised that McDavid would testify.

McDavid, along with Kelly, is charged with manipulating Kelly’s 2008 trial, which ended in his acquittal. Glozman urged the jurors that McDavid believed the central videotape was a fraud in that case. He said McDavid worked with esteemed professionals, including the late Chicago criminal defense attorney Edward Genson, to defend Kelly.

“Derrel McDavid has done an excellent job,” Glozman said, adding that “being successful in your endeavors is not a crime.”

Opening statements on behalf of Brown are expected after a lunch break. They play in the ceremonial courtroom on the 25th floor of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago’s Loop. When Bonjean finished her opening statement, she patted Kelly on the back and whispered in his ear, smiling at her client.

“The defendant, Robert Kelly, had sex with multiple children,” US assistant attorney Jason Julien told the jury as the opening statements began. “He made videotapes of him having sex with children. And these two defendants, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, knew about it.”

The prosecutor continued with the alleged efforts of Kelly, McDavid and Brown to thwart Kelly’s 2008 trial in Cook County, as well as to prevent videos of Kelly having sex with minors from becoming public.

Julien used pseudonyms to refer to alleged victims – Jane, Tracy, Nia, Brittany and Pinky, saying “they’re going to tell you what happened to them.” The prosecutor also said jurors will see three videos raised in the case and prosecutors will present evidence of a fourth.

“The videos are hard to watch,” Julien said. “But it’s important for all of you to watch those videos to understand what happened.”

Bonjean used her opening statement to accuse prosecutors of waiting more than two decades to bring a case “into a mafia justice climate” built around hashtags, documentaries and social media movements.

She also told the judges that the video judges will not see “does not exist and never existed”.

When the opening statements are made, government investigators are expected to take the stand as the first witnesses to the trial.

Before the opening statements began, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber announced that a juror had called to say she had leg problems and was unable to sit or walk. The judge removed the black woman from the jury and replaced her with an alternate, a white woman.

Kelly, convicted last year of trafficking minors for sex and racketeering in a New York federal court, is now charged with sexually abusing underage girls and conspiracy to settle his 2008 trial in Cook County.

The same alleged victim of that 2008 trial is one of five women who could take the stand to testify against Kelly. That woman, identified in prosecutors’ files as Minor 1, refused to testify against Kelly in 2008, but she and her mother are expected to take the stand this time.

The allegations against Kelly date back to the 1990s, when the multi-platinum-selling artist’s musical career was at its peak.

McDavid, along with Kelly, is charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, and Brown, along with McDavid and Kelly, is charged with a child pornography conspiracy.

The crowd of supporters who attended Kelly’s 2008 trial in Chicago were absent from two days of jury selection this week. Courtroom security was tight, even for the federal building, and COVID restrictions mean limited courtroom seating and an overflow area with a live video feed.

In his New York case, 55-year-old Kelly was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to 30 years in prison in June.

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