The first phase of the sex trafficking trial of disgraced R&B musician R Kelly will begin with jury selection on Monday in New York City after several delays.
A Brooklyn federal court judge will question prospective jurors on whether they can be open about Kelly two years after he was accused of abusing women and girls for nearly two decades. The procedure will take place amid coronavirus pandemic precautions that restrict the press and the public from flooding courtrooms with videos.
Kelly, 54, has been incarcerated since he was charged, mostly housed in a federal jail in Chicago. He was transferred last month to the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn to face trial in a case that has further diminished his superstar status.
Last week, defense attorney Devereaux Cannick told a judge that Kelly needs to have her new clothes measured because she has gained so much weight in jail. And he asked that the court transcripts be provided free of charge because Kelly has been unable to work for two years, saying, “Your funds are exhausted.”
The Grammy-winning singer and multi-platinum salesman has denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to charges that accused him of leading a company of managers, bodyguards and other employees who helped him recruit women and girls for sex. Federal prosecutors say the group selected victims at concerts and other venues and organized a trip to see Kelly.
Defense attorneys have said Kelly’s alleged victims were groupies who appeared on his shows and made it known that they “were dying to be with him.” They only began to accuse him of abuse years later when public sentiment changed in the #MeToo era, they said.
The trial was expected to begin at the beginning of the year. But the opening statements were moved to Aug. 18 after Kelly fired his original defense team.
Jurors are expected to hear testimony from several women. A judge has ruled that only women will be referred to by their first names.
Prosecutors have said the jury will also hear evidence that Kelly planned with others to pay false identification for Aaliyah, a rising singer at age 15, so that he could marry her in a secret ceremony in 1994.
Aaliyah is identified as “Jane Doe # 1” in court documents because she was still a minor when Kelly began a sexual relationship with her and believed she had become pregnant, the documents say.
“As a result, in an effort to protect himself from criminal charges related to his illegal sexual relationship with Jane Doe # 1, Kelly made arrangements to secretly marry her to avoid being forced to testify against him in the future,” say the newspapers. .
Aaliyah, whose full name was Aaliyah Dana Haughton, worked with Kelly, who wrote and produced her 1994 debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number. He died in a plane crash in 2001 at the age of 22.
The case is only part of the legal danger facing the singer, born Robert Sylvester Kelly. He also pleaded not guilty to the abuse-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota.
Kelly won multiple Grammy Awards for I Believe I Can Fly, a 1996 song that became an inspirational hymn played at school graduations, weddings, announcements, and elsewhere.
Almost a decade later, he began releasing what eventually became 22 musical chapters of Trapped in the Closet, a drama that tells a story of sexual deception and became a cult classic.
But Kelly has been haunted for decades by complaints and accusations about his sexual behavior, including a 2002 child abuse case in Chicago. He was acquitted in that case in 2008.
Scrutiny has intensified again amid the #MeToo movement in recent years, with several women going public with their allegations against the singer. The pressure intensified with the release of the Lifetime documentary Surviving R Kelly in 2019.
Criminal charges soon followed.