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R. Kelly loses bid for new Chicago federal trial, faces sentencing next week on sex crime charges

CBS Chicago 2/16/2023 CBS Chicago Team

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A federal judge has rejected disgraced singer R. Kelly's bid for a new trial in Chicago, one week before he is set to be sentenced on charges of child pornography and enticing minors to engage in sex.

Kelly's defense team claimed two government witnesses misled the jury during last year's federal trial in Chicago.

The singer's attorneys argued the prosecution's star witness, "Jane," lied under oath when she testified she had not decided whether she would seek restitution from the singer.

Jane accused Kelly of sexually abusing her hundreds of times after becoming her godfather when she was only 14 years old. Prosecutors showed the jury three videos that they said showed Kelly having sex with Jane, including one that showed him telling her to lay on the floor while he urinated on her.

She also testified at trial that she was aware she could seek restitution from Kelly if he were convicted, but said she was "undecided" about whether she would.

However Kelly's lawyers claim "Jane" had already hired a legal team seeking a $13 million payout if Kelly was found guilty.

"Jane's testimony was not truthful when she claimed she was 'undecided' about whether she would seek restitution from the Defendant. She knew full well she was seeking restitution in an extraordinary amount if Defendant was convicted. The government knew it too," defense attorney Jennifer Bonjean wrote in the motion for a new trial.

U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber rejected that argument.

"Simply because Jane and her attorney considered the possibility of restitution, does not mean she lied during her testimony. Jane's testimony was that she was undecided. Her testimony was not that she was not intending to pursue restitution," he wrote in his ruling refusing Kelly's request for a new trial.

Kelly's attorneys also had argued a government expert witness misled the jury about how much he was paid for his work on the case.

Dr. Darrel Turner, a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist, testified about how sex offenders "groom" child victims to keep sexual abuse secret.

Turner testified that federal prosecutors paid him $250 per hour for his work, but Bonjean's motion claimed his contract reflected an hourly rate of $450 per hour. Turner also testified he worked on the case for two hours before testifying, but Bonjean wrote that an invoice showed he charged the feds for 6.5 hours of trial preparation.

Bonjean argued prosecutors knew Turner's testimony regarding how much he was paid for his work was false, and didn't correct it. She claimed that entitles Kelly to a new trial.

"Had the jurors known that Dr. Turner actively misled them, the jurors would likely have rejected his testimony outright," Bonjean wrote.

Leinenweber dismissed that argument as well, stating "it is not clear to the Court how the false testimony about Dr. Turner's rates bears on Kelly's guilt."

"Dr. Turner testified generally about grooming and victim behavior. Dr. Turner did not express a conclusion about whether any of those practices and behaviors were present in this case. While Dr. Turner's testimony may have provided helpful background information to the jury, he never tied that information back to Kelly. As such, there was sufficient evidence to sustain Kelly's convictions, even without Dr. Turner's testimony," Leinenweber wrote.

Last September, a federal jury in Chicago convicted Kelly of six counts accusing him of sexually abusing Jane and other girls on video. The same jury acquitted him of seven other charges, including obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to receive child pornography, accusing him and two associates of rigging his 2008 child pornography trial in Cook County. His two associates, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, were acquitted of related charges.

Kelly is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 23, and faces between 10 and 90 years in prison. He already has been sentenced to 30 years in prison on a racketeering and sex trafficking conviction following a separate federal trial in New York.

Last week, Kelly's defense team asked Leinenweber to sentence him to about 11 years in prison in the Chicago case, and to have that sentence served concurrently with his 30-year sentence out of New York.

Prosecutors have yet to file their sentencing recommendation, but are expected to argue that his sentence for the Chicago case be served on top of the 30 years he's already facing.

Last month, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx dropped four separate indictments accusing Kelly of sexual abuse and assault, noting the singer already already faces spending most if not all of the rest of his life in prison.

Those charges dated back as far as 1998. Nine of the counts against Kelly specified the victim was between 13 and 16. One count did not specify any ages. In the one case in which the victim was not identified as a minor, Kelly was accused of forcing sexual contact on the victim by use of force or the threat of force.

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