R. Kelly’s Federal Trial Begins in Chicago With Jury Selection

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R. Kelly’s Federal Trial Begins in Chicago With Jury Selection

The judge denied a request from Kelly’s attorney to exclude potential jurors who had seen Surviving R. Kelly

R. Kelly appears during a hearing in 2019

R. Kelly appears during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago, Illinois, September 17, 2019 (Photo by Antonio Perez)

R. Kelly’s federal trial began today (August 15) in Chicago. Kelly is on trial for child pornography and obstruction charges in an Illinois federal court following his indictment in July 2019. The trial was originally set to start on April 27, 2020, but was delayed due the COVID-19 pandemic, and due to Kelly’s separate trial in a Brooklyn, New York federal court.

The first day of Kelly’s trial centered on jury selection; 60 potential jurors were questioned about the singer and the charges against him. Much of the questioning focused on the 2019 Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly and whether or not the jurors had seen the limited series. Kelly’s attorney requested that U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber automatically exclude anyone who watched the six-part series; the request was denied. The court adjourned with the jury pool reduced to 34. 

Kelly’s Illinois trial comes 14 years after his first trial in an Illinois federal court, in which he was acquitted of 14 counts of child pornography. In the 2008 trial, Kelly was accused of filming a sex tape with an underage woman, but the jury found that the woman’s identity was not conclusive after the woman believed to appear in the video refused to testify in court.

More than a decade later, prosecutors claim that Kelly and two former employees, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, paid off victims and witnesses in the 2008 trial. Kelly and his former employees have pleaded not guilty to these allegations. The R&B musician is also facing other sex crime charges in Illinois, as well as accusations of prostitution with a minor in Minnesota.

Kelly’s second Chicago trial follows his trial in a Brooklyn, New York federal court, where he was found guilty of racketeering and sex trafficking. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison in June 2022. He later sued the Metropolitan Detention Center Brooklyn—where he’s been incarcerated since June 2022—for placing him under suicide watch as a punitive measure. He was removed from suicide watch following the lawsuit.


If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault, we encourage you to reach out for support:

RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline
http://www.rainn.org 
1 800 656 HOPE (4673)

Crisis Text Line
http://www.facebook.com/crisistextline (chat support)
SMS: Text “HERE” to 741-741

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