On Wednesday, a Cook County jury found disgraced singer R. Kelly guilty of multiple counts of child pornography related to a 1998 video in which he is seen sexually abusing his then-14-year-old goddaughter. However, the jury found him not guilty of charges that he and two others had conspired to hide the tapes and impede the legal process.
Kelly, 55, was convicted on three counts of child pornography and three counts of enticing minors for sex, but was found not guilty on seven other charges, including obstruction of justice and conspiracy to receive child pornography. The maximum sentence for each count of child pornography is 20 years in prison, and the maximum sentence for each count of enticement is 10 years in prison.
Derrell McDavid and Milton “June” Brown, who were on trial together, were found not guilty of all charges.
The jury deliberated for about 11 hours spread out over two days before reaching a decision.
Kelly, who filmed himself having sex with his underage goddaughter and later had her testify against him under the alias “Jane,” was found guilty on three of four counts of producing child pornography. The jury was shown excerpts from all three of these videos during the trial. A fourth count of child pornography was dropped after jurors saw no evidence of a tape that Jane and prosecutors claimed showed Kelly in a threesome with Jane and his ex-girlfriend Lisa Van Allen. That, the prosecution claimed, was due to Kelly and his team’s effective cover-up of the incident.
After a lengthy trial in Cook County, Illinois, in 2008 for child pornography, Kelly and McDavid, his former business manager, were found not guilty of a conspiracy to obstruct justice charge that accused them of covering up incriminating sex tapes, threatening Jane and her parents, and paying them off to keep their daughter’s abuse a secret.
In addition, the conspiracy to receive child pornography charge against Kelly, McDavid, and Brown was dismissed. The charge stated that the defendants attempted to retrieve and conceal three sex tapes featuring Jane. Kelly and McDavid were found not guilty on two counts of receiving child pornography, which involved allegations that they attempted to retrieve and conceal additional videos of Jane. To a large extent, the government’s case on those charges relied on the testimony of Charles Freeman and Lisa Van Allen, whom Kelly’s defense attorneys characterized as liars with an agenda to extort Kelly financially.
Kelly was found guilty of enticing minors to engage in sexual activity on three of five counts, but was found not guilty on two other counts. Jurors found him guilty of enticement in the case involving Jane and two other accusers who testified under the pseudonyms “Nia” and “Pauline,” but found him not guilty in the case involving “Tracy” and “Brittany.”
Jane, who was only 14 when Kelly became her godfather, had accused him of sexually abusing her hundreds of times. The prosecution played three videos to the jury, all of which they claimed showed Kelly and Jane engaging in sexual activity, including one in which Kelly orders Jane to lie on the floor so that he can urinate on her.
Nia testified she met Kelly in 1996 when she was 15 years old and that they had two sexual encounters, the first in a hotel room during his concert tour in Minnesota and the second in his Chicago recording studio later that year.
Pauline testified that when she was 14, Jane introduced her to Kelly, and the three quickly began having threesomes, before Pauline began her own sexual relationship with Kelly alone when she was 15. Between the ages of 14 and 16, she had an estimated 80 or so sex encounters with Kelly and 60 threesomes with Kelly and Jane.
After meeting Kelly in 1999 while working as an unofficial intern for an executive at Epic Records, Tracy testified that Kelly “forced himself” on her at a hotel in downtown Chicago when she was only 16 years old. She claimed that the two engaged in sexual activity after she turned 17. Attorneys for the defense pointed to a lawsuit she filed against Kelly in the past, in which she claimed they met and began having sex in 2000, when she was only 17 years old, as evidence that her story isn’t entirely credible.
Although Jane and Pauline testified to having threesomes with Kelly and Brittany when they were just girls, defense attorneys seized on the fact Brittany did not testify herself, asking jurors in closing arguments, “Where is Brittany!”
At the outset of deliberations, Kelly’s lead defense attorney urged the jury to disregard any preexisting opinions they may have had about the singer and to instead view him as if he were a “John Doe.” Bonjean emphasized that the jury’s decision must be based solely on the evidence presented in court, and not on anything the members may already know about Kelly from the media or other sources.
Bonjean argued that no matter the verdict, Kelly should not “be stripped of every bit of humanity he has” because of his musical accomplishments.
However, in the prosecution’s rebuttal argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeannice Appenteng said the evidence was clear that Kelly sexually abused girls, and his co-defendants helped him cover it up.
“What R. Kelly wanted was to have sex with young girls,” Appenteng said.
Appenteng said when the jury reflects on the case, they should consider who is at the center of it: Kelly’s victims. She said they were children when Kelly began sexual relationships with them, and the jury should find him guilty.
“The defendants are guilty of each count in the indictment. Hold them accountable,” Appenteng said.
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.
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,” and 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.
Jane has denied for years that Kelly abused her but now says Kelly intimidated her and her family and paid them off to keep his abuse secret. She now says she was the person in the video at the center of Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial in Cook County and has told the jury Kelly recorded her on other videos shown in court.
McDavid was the only defendant to testify at the trial, spending three days on the witness stand repeatedly telling jurors that he believed Kelly when he denied sexually abusing girls in the early 2000s, but said he began to have doubts about Kelly’s innocence after learning new things during the ongoing federal trial.
Kelly has already 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.
Kelly also is still awaiting trial in Cook County in sexual assault and sexual abuse cases involving four women, three of whom were girls at the time of the abuse. He also faces charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution in Minnesota.