Jurors in R. Kelly’s federal trial in Chicago began deliberating Tuesday afternoon, after hearing two days of closing arguments from prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Kelly, 55, faces a 13-count indictment on child pornography and obstruction of justice charges. Two former associates are being tried alongside him.
Jurors heard four weeks of testimony from more than 30 witnesses, and saw clips from three sex tapes that prosecutors say show Kelly sexually abusing his 14-year-old goddaughter.
Kelly and his former business manager, Derrel McDavid, are accused of fixing Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial – at which he was acquitted – by intimidating and paying off witnesses, and conspiring to cover up Kelly’s alleged sexual abuse of children by buying back incriminating videotapes. Kelly’s former assistant, Milton “June” Brown is accused of receiving child pornography for his alleged role in the scheme to cover up the sex tapes.
In her closing argument Tuesday morning, Kelly’s lead defense attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, asked jurors to set aside what jurors knew about the singer before the trial, acknowledging most of it probably wasn’t favorable, and to treat him as a “John Doe.” Bonjean said the jury must make their decision based only on the evidence they heard in the courtroom, not what they might know about Kelly through the media, or what they’ve heard about him elsewhere.
Bonjean also told the jury that much of the “unflattering evidence” they’ve heard about Kelly has nothing to do with the charges in the case, including past sexual abuse lawsuits filed against Kelly, and testimony about sex tapes involving a baseball player’s wife, and “even a man.” She said the jury can’t consider any of that evidence, because it is not connected to any of the charges.
Pointing to his 1990s ballad “I Believe I Can Fly,” Bonjean said no matter what jurors might decide, Kelly did some beautiful things when it came to making music, and he shouldn’t “be stripped of every bit of humanity he has.”
Bonjean also compared some of the prosecution’s witnesses, many of whom testified under immunity agreements with the government, to finding a cockroach in your soup. She said, if you find a cockroach in your soup, you don’t just pull the cockroach out and eat the soup, you throw out the soup.
Bonjean said the government’s case essentially rests on the word of perjurers and blackmailers who came to court to “to tell the government’s version of the truth.”
In closing arguments on Monday, prosecutors spent more than two hours detailing the 13 criminal counts against Kelly, connecting the dots heard in testimony over four weeks.
“The truth has come out. Find the defendants guilty in all counts in the indictment,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Pozolo said. “Robert Kelly abused many girls over many years … and he didn’t do it alone … the hidden side of Robert Kelly has come to light. The truth has come out.”
Pozolo also reminded the jury, in explicit detail, what they saw and heard on those tapes, all involving “Jane,” including Kelly referring to her as 14 years old and Kelly urinating on Jane’s body parts, face and mouth.
“Her abuse is forever memorialized,” Pozolo said.
During the trial, four women accused Kelly of sexually abusing them when they were girls, including the state’s star witness, who testified under the pseudonym “Jane,” who told jurors that Kelly began abusing her after becoming her godfather when she was only 14, and had sex with her hundreds of times between the ages of 14 and 18.
Kelly already has been sentenced to 30 years in prison after he was convicted last year of racketeering and sex trafficking charges in federal court in New York. If convicted of the federal charges in Chicago, he could face decades more in prison.
Read more about Tuesday’s closing arguments below
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