A federal jury on Wednesday convicted R. Kelly of multiple child pornography and sex abuse charges in his hometown of Chicago, dealing another legal blow to a singer who used to be one of the biggest R&B stars in the world.
Kelly, 55, was found guilty of three counts of child pornography and three counts of child enticing.
But the jury acquitted him of a fourth pornography charge as well as one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and accused him of fixing the state pornography trial in 2008. He was found not guilty on all three counts of conspiring to receive child pornography and on two more allurements costs.
Kelly’s lawyer said the mixed verdict showed government lawyers were sitting on a case that was “overloaded”.
“They charged counts that they couldn’t win,” attorney Jennifer Bonjean said, according to the report.
But she praised the jury for their careful deliberations.
“They did their job and looked at each count separately,” Bonjean said. “Obviously we’re not celebrating a win, but are glad the jury looked at every count.”
The attorney told reporters that her team was considering an appeal, but would not go into details about that strategy, CBS Chicago reported.
“He still has a lot of battles to fight,” she said.
U.S. Attorney John Lausch said he praised the verdict.
“Mr. Kelly engaged in sexual acts with several girls under the age of 18, and he recorded some of those sexual acts on video,” Lausch said, according to CBS Chicago. “We are pleased that Robert Kelly is being held accountable for his reprehensible conduct.”
Kelly’s two co-defendants were found not guilty of all charges.
Jurors wrote several questions to the judge Wednesday, at least one indicating the panelists struggled with some of the case’s legal complexities.
One asked if they had to find Kelly both enticed and coerced minors, or that he either enticed or coerced them. Over objections from Kelly’s attorney, the judge said they just need to find one.
During the trial, prosecutors tried to paint a picture of Kelly as a master manipulator who used his fame and wealth to ensnare star-studded fans, some of them minors, for sexual assault and then discard them.
Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, was desperate to find child pornography videos he made and was lugging around in a gym bag, witnesses said. They said he offered up to $1 million to recover missing videos before his 2008 trial, knowing they would put him in legal jeopardy. The conspiracy to cover up his abuse ran from 2000 to 2020, prosecutors said.
Kelly associates Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown were co-defendants at the trial in Chicago. Jurors acquitted McDavid, a longtime Kelly business executive, who was accused of conspiring with Kelly to rig the trial in 2008. Brown, a Kelly associate for years, was acquitted of receiving child pornography.
Kelly faced 13 counts. A conviction of just one count of child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, while receiving child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. Judges can order previously convicted defendants in separate cases to serve their new sentence at the same time as or only after the first term has been fully served. Federal inmates must serve at least 85% of their sentence.
During closing arguments Tuesday, Bonjean compared the government’s testimony and evidence to a cockroach and its case to a bowl of soup.
If a cockroach falls into soup, she said, “you don’t just pull the cockroach out and eat the rest of the soup. You throw out the whole soup,” she told jurors.
“There are just too many cockroaches,” she said of the prosecution’s case.
The three defendants called only a handful of witnesses over the course of four days. Co-defendant McDavid, who was on the stand for three days, may have hurt Kelly’s hopes of an acquittal by saying he now doubts Kelly was being truthful when he denied abusing anyone after hearing the superstar’s accusers testify.
In her closing rebuttal, prosecutor Jeannice Appenteng cited testimony that Kelly’s inner circle increasingly focused on doing what Kelly wanted as his fame blossomed in the mid-1990s.
“And ladies and gentlemen, what R. Kelly wanted was to have sex with young girls,” she said.
Four Kelly accusers testified, all referred to by pseudonyms or their first names: Jane, Nia, Pauline and. Some cried when describing the abuse, but otherwise spoke calmly and with confidence. A fifth accuser, Brittany, did not testify.
Seated nearby in a suit and face mask, Kelly often averted his eyes and looked down as his accusers spoke.
A few dozen die-hard Kelly fans regularly attended the trial. On at least one occasion during a break, several people made the hand sign of a heart at Kelly. He smiled back.
Jane, 37, was the government’s star witness and central to the trial, which accused Kelly of using threats and payoffs to get her to lie to a grand jury before his trial in 2008 and to ensure she and her parents would not testify.
A single video, which prosecutors said showed Kelly abusing a girl aged about 14, was the focus of the trial.
for two days in late August, Jane paused, pulled on a necklace and dabbed at her eyes with a tissue as she said publicly for the first time that the girl in the video was her 14-year-old self and that the man was Kelly, who would have been around 30.
Some jurors in the 2008 trial said they had to acquit Kelly because the girl in the video did not testify. During the federal trial in Chicago, Jane said she lied to a state grand jury in 2002 when she said it wasn’t her in the video, and said part of the reason she lied was that she cared about Kelly and didn’t want to get him in trouble.
Jane told jurors she was 15 when they first had sex. When asked how many times they had sex before she turned 18, she quietly replied, “Countless times. … Hundreds.”
Jane, who belonged to a teenage singing group, first met Kelly in the late 1990s when she was in secondary school. She had visited Kelly’s recording studio in Chicago with her aunt, a professional singer. Soon after that meeting, Jane told her parents that Kelly was going to be her godfather.
Jane testified that when her parents confronted Kelly in the early 2000s, he fell to his knees and begged their forgiveness. She said she begged her parents not to take action against Kelly because she loved him.
Defense attorneys suggested a desire for money and fame drove some government witnesses to impeach Kelly, and they accused several people of trying to blackmail him. They also suggested that at least one of his accusers was 17 — the age of consent in Illinois — when Kelly began pursuing her for sex.
Bonjean implored jurors not to accept the prosecution’s portrayal of her client as “a monster,” saying Kelly was forced to rely on others because of intellectual challenges and was sometimes led astray.
“Mr. Kelly may also be a victim,” she said in her opening statement.
Prosecutors played jurors excerpts from three videos that Jane said featured her. Court officials set up opaque screens around the jurors so reporters and spectators could not see the videos or the jurors’ reactions.
But the sound was audible. In a video, the girl is heard repeatedly calling the man “dad”. At one point she asks, “Daddy, do you still love me?” The man gives her sexual instructions.
Prosecutors have said Kelly shot the video that was also evidence in the 2008 trial in a log cabin-themed room in his North Side Chicago home around 1998.
Another accuser, Pauline, said Jane introduced her to Kelly when they were 14-year-old middle school classmates in 1998. At Kelly’s home in Chicago later that year, Pauline described her shock when she said she first walked in on Kelly and a naked Jane. She said Kelly told her that everyone has secrets. “This is our secret,” she said.
Pauline told jurors she still cares about Kelly. But as a 37-year-old mother, she said she now has a different perspective.
“If anybody did anything to my kids,” she said, “I killed them. Period.”