R. Kelly's trial in Chicago: What happened the first week, including emotional testimony

·6 min read

R. Kelly's second federal trial began this week in his hometown of Chicago as the R&B singer once again faces several sex-crimes charges.

Kelly is already sentenced to 30 years in prison after his New York federal trial ended in June. A conviction in Chicago could add decades to his sentence.

Court opened Monday with jury selection finalized Tuesday and opening statements read Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday, jurors heard from a woman who has been central to Kelly’s legal troubles for more than two decades.

Who is involved in the Chicago case?

  • Kelly, 55, faces 13 charges which include producing child pornography, enticing a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

  • Two of Kelly's associates, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, are co-defendants in the trial and accused to have aided Kelly in the alleged crimes.

  • All defendants have denied any wrongdoing.

Here are the biggest happenings from the first week of the trial.

R. Kelly's trial in Chicago, explained: Why the convicted sex offender is back in court

R. Kelly is facing federal charges in Chicago just months after he was sentenced to 30 years in prison for racketeering and sex trafficking in New York.
R. Kelly is facing federal charges in Chicago just months after he was sentenced to 30 years in prison for racketeering and sex trafficking in New York.

Woman testifies she was in the videotape from 2008 trial

Kelly is accused of conspiring to rig the 2008 Chicago trial which centered on a child pornography charge involving a sex tape of Kelly with an underage girl. The disgraced Grammy winner was acquitted of the charges. Some jurors from the 2008 trial said they had no choice but to acquit Kelly because the girl didn’t testify.

The now 37-year-old woman, who is going by the pseudonym "Jane," testified in court Aug. 18 saying she was the underage girl in the videotape and that the singer sexually abused her "hundreds" of times before she turned 18.

When the prosecutor asked how old she was at the time of the video, she said, "14."

Prosecutors allege that Kelly obstructed justice in the 2008 trial by intimidating and paying off the girl to ensure she didn’t testify at the time.

On the stand Thursday, Jane conceded that she lied to a state grand jury in 2002 when she said that it was not her in the video. She said she lied in order to "protect" Kelly and also because she felt "ashamed."

R. Kelly Chicago trial: Jane Doe testifies singer had sex with her 'hundreds' of times before she turned 18

'Jane' says she didn't want to 'carry his lies'

Jane returned to the stand Aug. 19 to answer questions from Kelly's lead attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, who sought to cast Kelly in a more favorable light.

During the cross-examination, Jane claimed to have agonized several years ago about whether to cooperate with federal investigators who were looking into child abuse allegations involving the singer.

She ultimately did because she didn't want to "carry his lies," she told jurors.

Under questioning, Jane said her relationship with Kelly lasted 12 years and continued for two years after his 2008 trial, until she was 26. Bonjean asked if, “after you broke up, you cared about him and he cared about you?” Jane said that was true.

She said she repeatedly tried to contact Kelly in 2019 for advice as she pondered whether to speak to authorities at length about him for the first time. She told jurors: “I felt comfortable enough to reach out to him because I was afraid.”

She said she decided shortly thereafter to speak to investigators.

Lawyers play sexually explicit videotape for jury

Jane testified for over four hours Aug. 18, saying it was she and Kelly in a videotape, which the government says Kelly made in a log cabin-themed room at his North Side Chicago home around 2000, that was the focus of the 2008 trial, at which he was acquitted.

It was one of three videos that prosecutors played excerpts of on Aug. 19 that they said showed Kelly sexually abusing an underage Jane. Before the videos were played on monitors in front of each juror’s chair, court officials set up high opaque screens around the jury that blocked journalists and spectators from seeing the videos and jurors’ reactions to them.

The sound was audible throughout the courtroom, though, and in one video the girl is heard repeatedly calling the man “daddy.” At one point she asks, “Daddy, do you still love me?” The man is also heard giving her sexually explicit instructions.

Earlier, prosecutors suggested that any viewing of the videos by the public could run afoul of child pornography laws, and they asked Judge Harry Leinenweber to send reporters and spectators out of the courtroom while jurors watched them. The judge rejected the request.

Jane has testified that she met Kelly through an aunt who worked with him, and that she asked Kelly to be her godfather when she was 13. She told jurors she was 15 when they first had intercourse.

R. Kelly's lawyers defend singer as prosecutors paint him a 'monster'

During opening statements Aug. 17, prosecutors told jurors that R. Kelly kept an ugly side of his life hidden as he escaped poverty in Chicago and rose to pop music stardom.

Assistant Attorney Jason Julien sought to give jurors a sense of the scale of Kelly's alleged exploitation, saying he "repeatedly" had sex with girls who were just 14, 15 and 16 years old — "multiple girls, hundreds of times."

Kelly's attorney Bonjean implored jurors during her opening statement to not accept the prosecution's portrayal of her client as a "monster" and to remember he is a "human being."

"It is true that Mr. Kelly is imperfect," she said. "On his journey from poverty to stardom, he stumbled along the way." But, she said, she was confident jurors would ultimately find him not guilty.

At one point on Aug. 17, prosecutors played about a minute of "I Believe I Can Fly" as they sought to establish how popular Kelly was in the '90s heading into the 2000s.

R. Kelly's attorney accuses prosecutors of rejecting Black jurors

A jury was selected Tuesday but not without contention between the defense and prosecutors.

Kelly's attorney Bonjean accused prosecutors of seeking to strike Black jurors “to deny Mr. Kelly a jury of his peers.”

Prosecutors noted multiple African Americans had already made it onto the jury before the defense objected, and they argued their reasons for wanting to strike some had nothing to do with race. In one case, they said one older man appeared to have a hard time staying awake.

Leinenweber partially agreed with the defense, blocking prosecutors from striking three Black jurors. About half the 12 jurors impaneled were identified as Black by the judge, prosecutor and defense attorneys.

More: R. Kelly attorney accuses prosecutors of trying to strike Black people from jury in trial-fixing case

Contributing: Maria Puente, USA TODAY; Michael Tarm and Don Babwin, The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: R Kelly Chicago trial: Key accuser testifies, more from Week 1