Jury gets R. Kelly’s child pornography and trial-fixing case

Sep 13, 2022, 2:29 AM | Updated: 9:20 pm
FILE - Musician R. Kelly, center, leaves the Daley Center after a hearing in his child support case...

FILE - Musician R. Kelly, center, leaves the Daley Center after a hearing in his child support case on May 8, 2019, in Chicago. Closing arguments are scheduled Monday, Sept. 12, 2022 for R. Kelly and two co-defendants in the R&B singer's trial on federal charges of trial-fixing, child pornography and enticing minors for sex, with jury deliberations to follow. (AP Photo/Matt Marton, File)

(AP Photo/Matt Marton, File)

CHICAGO (AP) — Jurors began deliberating Tuesday at R. Kelly’s federal trial in Chicago, sorting through a month of evidence and arguments on charges accusing the singer of producing child pornography, enticing minors for sex and rigging his 2008 child porn trial.

Standing at a podium a few feet in front of jurors, Kelly attorney Jennifer Bonjean told jurors in her closing earlier Tuesday that key government witnesses were admitted liars who testified with immunity to ensure they couldn’t be charged.

At times sounding indignant and raising her voice, Bonjean likened their testimony and other evidence to a cockroach and the government’s case to a bowl of soup.

If a cockroach falls into soup, she said, “you don’t just pull out the cockroach and eat the rest of the soup. You throw out the whole soup,” said told jurors. She said of the prosecution’s case: “There are just too many cockroaches.”

As Bonjean spoke, Kelly, wearing a gray suit and black mask, looked calm at a nearby defense table. As a prosecutor spoke later and repeatedly looked toward Kelly, he often averted his eyes. Later, when the prosecutor described him abusing minors, he shook his head.

Jurors withdrew to start deliberating early Tuesday afternoon, heading home without reaching a verdict several hours later. They were set to pick up where they left off Wednesday morning.

Kelly, 55, was sentenced in June to 30 years in prison during a separate federal trial in New York where he was convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking. Convictions on just a few of the 13 counts Kelly faces at his current trial could add years to his imprisonment.

Delivering the government’s rebuttal after Bonjean’s closing, prosecutor Jeannice Appenteng told jurors to remember the girls and women Kelly allegedly abused.

“When you are in the quiet of the jury room, consider the evidence in light of who is at the center of this case. Kelly’s victims: Jane, Nia, Pauline, Tracy and Brittany,” Appenteng said, referring to five Kelly accusers named in charging documents by their pseudonyms or first names.

Four of them testified. Brittany did not.

The prosecutor also pointed to testimony that as Kelly’s fame boomed in the mid-1990s, 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.

Earlier, Bonjean implored jurors not to withdraw to the jury room with an impression of Kelly informed by media coverage of him in recent years or by prosecutors at the trial.

“They throw around labels like sex predator,” she said about prosecutors. “Labels and sweeping generalizations are distractions meant for you to lose your humanity for this man.”

She described Kelly as a flawed genius who was functionally illiterate since childhood and was ill-equipped to navigate his celebrity and fortune. She said having been abused as a child also deeply affected him.

Bonjean said some witnesses who testified with immunity hadn’t come to the courthouse in Chicago, Kelly’s hometown, to tell the unvarnished truth.

“They came in here to tell the government’s version of the truth,” she said.

Among others, Bonjean cited Kelly ex-girlfriend Lisa Van Allen, who testified about how she stole a sex tape from a Kelly gym bag in the early 2000s. She also pointed to former Kelly merchandizing agent Charles Freeman, who testified that he asked Kelly for $1 million in exchange for returning another, potentially incriminating, video. Both testified with immunity.

During her closing Monday, prosecutor Elizabeth Pozolo told jurors that weeks of evidence proved the singer parlayed his fame to sexually abuse minors and record the abuse on video. She described Kelly as a secret sexual predator.

“Robert Kelly abused many girls over many years,” Pozolo said, referring to Kelly’s full name. “He committed horrible crimes against children. … All these years later, the hidden side of Robert Kelly has come out.”

Bonjean twice called for a mistrial Monday, complaining that closing arguments by attorneys for Kelly co-defendants Derrell McDavid and Milton Brown 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,” she said. Judge Harry Leinenweber denied the requests.

Known for his smash hit “I Believe I Can Fly” and for sex-infused songs such as “Bump n’ Grind,” Kelly sold millions of albums even after allegations of sexual misconduct began circulating in the 1990s. Widespread outrage emerged after the #MeToo reckoning and the 2019 Lifetime docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly.”

Kelly and McDavid, the singer’s former business manager, are accused of fixing Kelly’s 2008 trial on state child porn charges by intimidating and paying off witnesses.

Kelly faces 13 counts, including four counts of producing child porn, one count of conspiring to obstruct justice by rigging the 2008 trial, one count of conspiring to receive child porn, two counts of actually receiving it and five counts of enticing minors for sex.

McDavid is charged with four counts, including two counts of receiving child porn, one of conspiring to do so and one count of conspiring to obstruct justice by rigging the 2008 trial.

Brown faces a single count of conspiring to receive child porn.

Pozolo focused much of her closing argument on the government’s star witness, an accuser who went by “Jane” and who said Kelly sexually abused her hundreds of times starting when she was 14.

“He performed degrading acts upon her for his own sick pleasure,” Pozolo said.

She reminded jurors of graphic video footage they had watched, which Jane testified depicted Kelly, at around age 30, abusing her when she was 14. The videos shown included one at the heart Kelly’s 2008 trial. Jurors said later they had no choice but to acquit Kelly because Jane didn’t testify.

“Who uses a 14-year-old child to film a video like this?” she said. “This man. Robert Kelly.”

Before the 2008 trial, Pozolo said, Kelly and his associates scrambled to recover multiple sex videos that had gone missing from a collection he often carried around in a large gym bag.

By doing so, she said, Kelly associates sought “to cover up the fact that … R. Kelly, the R&B superstar, is actually a sexual predator.”

In his closing, an attorney for McDavid 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 … behind a reasonable doubt?” Beau Brindley asked. “They did not.”

Pozolo balked at the idea that McDavid had no inkling in the 2000s that the abuse allegations might be credible after helping to recover missing recordings and handing bags of cash to people who returned videos McDavid knew could destroy Kelly.

___

Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mtarm and find AP’s full coverage of the R. Kelly trial at https://apnews.com/hub/r-kelly

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A sign at Twitter headquarters is shown in San Francisco, Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Chi...
Associated Press

Twitter ends enforcement of COVID misinformation policy

Twitter will no longer enforce its policy against COVID-19 misinformation, raising concerns among public health experts and social media researchers that the change could have serious consequences if it discourages vaccination and other efforts to combat the still-spreading virus. Eagle-eyed users spotted the change Monday night, noting that a one-sentence update had been made to […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

MLB sells share of BAMTech to Walt Disney Co. for $900M

NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball has sold its remaining share of a streaming service technology company to the Walt Disney Co. for $900 million. The sale was disclosed Tuesday in Walt Disney Co.’s annual filing report through the SEC. MLB received the $900 million in exchange for the 15% stake it still had […]
20 hours ago
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, the manned spaceship Shenzhou-15, atop the Long March...
Associated Press

Chinese spaceship with 3 aboard docks with space station

BEIJING (AP) — Three Chinese astronauts docked early Wednesday with their country’s space station, where they will overlap for several days with the three-member crew already onboard and expand the facility to its maximum size. Docking with the Tiangong station came at 5:42 a.m. Wednesday, about 6 1/2 hours after the Shenzhou-15 spaceship blasted off […]
20 hours ago
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks at a memorial set up outside Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., on...
Associated Press

Colorado governor visits gay club shooting memorial

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday visited the memorial outside a gay club where five people were killed last week, solemnly walking along a line of flowers, crosses and signs bearing the photos and names of the victims outside the building with the club’s owners. When he reached the end, […]
20 hours ago
The Kid Laroi appears at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards in Las Vegas on April 3, 2022, left, and Jus...
Associated Press

Apple Music reveals top music in 2022 and listener charts

NEW YORK (AP) — “Stay,” the smash hit by The Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber topped Apple Music’s global song chart in 2022 as the giant music streamer released its end-of-year lists and provided listeners with data on their own most listened-to tunes. “Stay,” which stayed atop the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks this […]
20 hours ago
FILE - An SUV rests inside an Apple store behind a large hole in the glass front of the store on No...
Associated Press

Lawsuits claim negligence in Massachusetts Apple store crash

BOSTON (AP) — The family of a man who was badly hurt when an SUV crashed into an Apple store in Massachusetts, killing one person and injuring 20, sued the company, the driver and the property owners Tuesday in one of the first lawsuits filed over the crash. Matthew Timberger, of Falmouth, suffered broken bones […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Jury gets R. Kelly’s child pornography and trial-fixing case