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R. Kelly convicted on child pornography charges in second federal trial verdict

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 9/15/2022 Maria Puente, USA TODAY

R. Kelly, the once high-flying R&B star-turned-convicted sex offender, was convicted Wednesday by a federal jury in Chicago of another set of sex crimes, including several child pornography charges

Kelly, 55, was found guilty on three counts of child pornography and three counts of child enticement but was acquitted of a fourth pornography count, as well as a conspiracy to obstruct justice charge accusing him of fixing his state child pornography trial in 2008.

Kelly was also found not guilty on all three counts of conspiring to receive child pornography and for two further enticement charges.

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His two co-defendants, associates Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, were found not guilty on all charges. Jurors acquitted McDavid, a longtime Kelly business manager, who was accused of conspiring with Kelly to rig the 2008 trial. Brown, a Kelly associate for years, was acquitted of receiving child pornography.

The decision comes after a federal judge in New York sentenced Kelly to 30 years in prison in June for racketeering and sex trafficking. Based on that sentence, he won’t be eligible for release until he is around 80.

The legal challenges for Kelly are not yet over. Two further trials are pending; one in Minnesota and another in state court in Chicago.

The verdict followed a four-week trial and jurors deliberated for 11 hours over two days. Kelly faced 13 charges, filed in 2019, including producing child pornography, enticing a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

In Chicago, a conviction of just one count of child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, while receipt of child pornography carries a mandatory minimum of five years. 

R. Kelly's trial in Chicago, explained: Why the convicted sex offender is back in court

Already facing three decades in prison from a guilty verdict in September 2021, Kelly could face decades more following Wednesday's conviction, prosecutors have previously said. 

Judge Harry Leinenweber did not set a sentencing date Wednesday. He could order that Kelly serve whatever sentence he imposes simultaneously with the New York sentence or only after that one is fully served. The latter would, for practical purposes, mean a life sentence.

Kelly's first trial was in the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn in the summer of 2021. After six weeks of graphic testimony from dozens of accusers and witnesses, a jury deliberated two days before finding Kelly guilty on all nine counts of sex trafficking and racketeering. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison on June 29, 2022.

Before beginning his New York sentence, he had to face this second trial, in the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago. He's been in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago where he has spent most of his time since his arrest in 2019.

Prosecutors rested their case on Aug. 30 after presenting two weeks of testimony, including from four Kelly accusers, in their effort to prove the singer enticed underage girls for sex, produced child pornography and successfully rigged his 2008 state trial.

A fifth accuser, who prosecutors had said would testify, never did. They didn't explain why.

The key witness of the prosecutors' case, a 37-year-old woman who used the pseudonym "Jane," testified early that Kelly sexually abused her hundreds of times starting in 1998 when she was 14 and Kelly was around 30.

R. Kelly New York verdict:R&B star found guilty on all counts in sex trafficking trial

In this courtroom sketch, a woman who went by the pseudonym “Jane” testified in R. Kelly's sex-crimes trial in federal court, Aug. 19, 2022, in Chicago. © Cheryl Cook, AP In this courtroom sketch, a woman who went by the pseudonym “Jane” testified in R. Kelly's sex-crimes trial in federal court, Aug. 19, 2022, in Chicago.

She also testified that Kelly and his associates threatened and paid off her and her parents to lie to a grand jury before the 2008 Cook County trial. Kelly was eventually acquitted in that case, which involved a video that allegedly showed Kelly abusing underage Jane. After acquitting Kelly, jurors said they had no choice because the girl did not take the witness stand at that trial.

During prosecutors' closing arguments, Kelly was described as a superstar who parlayed his fame to sexually abuse minors and record it on video.

Prosecutor Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Pozolo focused much of her closing argument Jane's testimony. 

"He took advantage of Jane's youth," Pozolo said about Kelly. "He repeatedly abused her. He performed degrading acts upon her for his own sick pleasure."

R. Kelly trial closing arguments:Singer's lawyer says prosecution's case relies on 'perjurers'

Pozolo said the fact that Jane and three other Kelly accusers had so much to lose by testifying should give jurors confidence that they told the truth on the stand.

"They opened up old wounds to tell you what happened to them and who did it to them," she said.

On Tuesday, Kelly's lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, delivered her closing argument, saying that many key government witnesses, including some of the women who accused Kelly of sexually abusing them, testified with immunity to ensure they wouldn't be charged with previously lying to authorities.

Bonjean said they hadn't come to court to tell the unvarnished truth. "They came in here," she said, "to tell the government's version of the truth."

She reminded jurors that she told them during her opening statement that the government would rely on "perjurers, blackmailers and extortionists," and said prosecutors had done just that.

In rebuttal, prosecutor Jeannice Appenteng cited testimony showing that as Kelly's fame boomed around 1995, his staff and associates increasingly geared everything they did to what Kelly wanted.

"And ladies and gentlemen, what R. Kelly wanted was to have sex with young girls," she said.

In some ways, this trial was a do-over of the 2008 trial. A single video, which prosecutors said showed Kelly sexually abusing a girl of around 14, was at the heart of that trial. The same video is evidence at the current trial, and Jane, who did not testify at the 2008 trial, testified she was the person in that video and that Kelly made the recording. 

Kelly's defense team began presenting their case on Sept. 1; Kelly did not take the witness stand. Among other arguments, the defense sought to raise doubts about the ages of a few accusers, saying at least one may have been 17, the age of consent in Illinois, at the time Kelly pursued her for sex. 

The defense concluded their case on Friday after the main defense witness, Kelly co-defendant and former business manager Derrell McDavid, ended three days of testimony. He was the only one of the three defendants to testify in his own behalf.

Both Kelly and McDavid faced child pornography charges in the case. A third co-defendant, Kelly associate Milton Brown, was accused of receiving child pornography.

At times while testifying, McDavid sounded like a prosecution witness: He said he believed Kelly's denials about sexually abusing minors in the 2000s but altered his view during the current trial.

When he expressed doubts about Kelly's denials of sexually abusing minors, his lawyer, Beau Brindley, asked if he was in "a different position" to assess allegations against Kelly after sitting through testimony by four Kelly accusers.

"Yes, I am," McDavid said. "The last (few) weeks … I've learned a lot … that I had no idea about in 2008," he added.

In his closing, Brindley said prosecutors had to show that his client actually knew about any abuse of Jane by Kelly in the 2000s — not just that it was likely he knew.

"Did they prove he knew (about the alleged abuse) then behind a reasonable doubt?" Brindley asked. "They did not."

Bonjean twice called for a mistrial Monday, complaining that closing arguments by attorneys for Kelly co-defendants were grounded in the presumption that "the world now knows Mr. Kelly is a sex predator."

"The presumption of innocence has been abolished for him," Bonjean said about Kelly, meaning he was unable to get a fair trial. Judge Leinenweber denied the requests.

Also Monday, the judge replaced one juror with an alternate after the panelist reported having a panic attack while listening to closing arguments.

Contributing: Michael Tarm and Joey Cappelletti, The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: R. Kelly convicted on child pornography charges in second federal trial verdict



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