Image source: NBC News
R. Kelly, the sex offender and R&B singer, began Monday with a selected and sworn jury for child pornography and obstruction procedure.
The jury is made up of four men and eight women, with six alternative judges of five women and one man.
On Monday morning, US District Judge Harry Leinenweber questioned a pool of over 100 jurors.
Kelly’s attorney Jennifer Bonjean, however, questioned the prosecutor’s choice to question security capabilities.
She says prosecutors have often beaten black jurors, calling it a disturbing pattern.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeannice Appenteng denied the allegations, noting that prosecutors no longer challenge black jurors.
“It’s just another example of an effort to violate not only the jurors’ First Amendment rights, but also Mr. Kelly’s right to a jury of his own peers,” Bonjean said.
R. Kelly and Associates
R Kelly is one of the highest-profile names to be convicted of sexual misconduct during the #MeToo movement in recent years.
The singer is backed by his former executive Derrel McDavid and collaborator Milton “June” Brown, who face obstruction of justice charges.
At the height of her career in the 1990s, Kelly worked with McDavid and Brown.
McDavid served as Kelly’s chief executive from 1991 to 2014.
He claims part of his job description was to protect “protect Kelly’s image, reputation, and assets” from active and potential criminal investigations, including lawsuits from people claiming to be victims of the singer’s sexual abuse.
Prosecutors believe Kelly and McDavid worked with others to pay victims and witnesses to “cover up evidence” and bribe them to cooperate with law enforcement.
Meanwhile, Brown worked with Kelly from 1997 to 2018.
Prosecutors say the three conspired to obtain more child pornography tapes.
“At all times relevant to the charges in this case, Derrel McDavid did only one thing: he did his job,” said McDavid’s attorney, Beau Brindley.
“It was his job to protect Robert Kelly’s image and career. To do that, he hired some of the best lawyers in the United States. Those are the only people with whom Mr. McDavid entered into any agreements relevant to this case.”
“Mr. McDavid and these lawyers did their job. THey executed it with excellence. That was not a crime then. It is not a crime now. We look forward to Mr. McDavid’s exoneration.”
The three are also accused of bribing and threatening witnesses in the 2008 Illinois case in which he was found not guilty of 14 counts of child pornography.
All three pleaded not guilty to the current federal charges.
The process is expected to take four weeks.
During the trial, prosecutors are expected to show child pornography footage showing R. Kelly having sex with underage girls.
Since the tapes are considered contraband, the public and the media are not allowed to view the tapes.
Jurors can, however, view the tapes before the trial.
Jennifer Bonjean called on Sunday for the exclusion of potential judges who watched the documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” which talks about the allegations against the singer.
Court records show that at least one of Kelly’s alleged victims should testify against him.
Jury seated in Chicago federal trial for R. Kelly and two former associates, opening statements set for Wednesday