The jury selection process for R. Kelly’s trial starts Monday. There are hundreds of possible jurors who will appear in Brooklyn federal court, New York. This is despite the fact that Covid-19 cases have exploded due to the Delta variant.
Twelve jurors and six alternates will be selected, and those chosen will be the only members of the public with an in-person view of the criminal trial for Kelly, who faces racketeering and sex trafficking charges and could face decades in prison. Kelly denies the allegations.
The public and media will not be able to view the trial in person, which is unusual for one of this scale.
US District Judge Ann Donnelly, who was addressing a final pretrial hearing on Tuesday, described the unusual arrangement of the courtroom for the trial. She stated that witnesses would testify from the juror box, and jurors would be scattered among the gallery, where media and the general public usually sit.
Donnelly stated that the media and the public could only view the trial through a video feed from a separate room. They would also likely not be able to see the evidence being presented during trial.
Multiple media outlets represented by attorneys requested that at least a small number of reporters be allowed into the courtroom. Donnelly refused, citing the need for jurors to be spread out in the gallery and saying it would not be appropriate to seat jurors with members of the public, including reporters, even if there was sufficient space.
Donnelly, who said her decision to limit access was warranted by the court’s interest in “ensuring public safety during a global health pandemic,” will, however, not be asking about jurors’ vaccine status. They will be required to wear masks.
Kelly was held for over two years in a detention center in Brooklyn, while he waited to be tried. He was finally released.
Opening arguments will begin on August 18th, and the trial could last anywhere from six to eight weeks. Kelly recently hired Deveraux Cannick as a lawyer. This is partly why Kelly took a nearly seven-week break from jury selection to begin the trial.
The Brooklyn federal case is Kelly’s second time heading to trial, after he was acquitted in 2008 of child pornography charges.
In this case, Kelly is facing a multitude of charges, including racketeering charges based on acts including sexual exploitation of children, kidnapping, forced labor and sex trafficking.
According to prosecutors, Kelly is accused of leading a criminal organization that included associates who promoted Kelly’s music and “to recruit women or girls to engage in illicit sexual activity.” According to the filing, Kelly’s criminal enterprise included people who were his bodyguards, bodyguards or drivers as well as his personal assistants and his entourage.
Prosecutors claim that Kelly, or his associates, would invite women and girls backstage to concerts and after-show events, and sometimes to travel across the country to see him. Prosecutors allege that Kelly shared explicit photos and videos with several minor girls. Prosecutors claim that Kelly would sometimes keep the women and girls she had sex in her room for days without food.
His 2008 Illinois case is expected to be introduced at Kelly’s Brooklyn trial, as prosecutors will allege that Kelly attempted to influence a juror in that previous trial. According to court filings, a man named “John Doe #1,” is expected to testify that Kelly asked him to contact the juror to tell him that Kelly was a “good guy” in May 2008. Kelly was eventually acquitted.
Prosecutors claim that Kelly also abused a minor in 2006. According to a court filing, Kelly is accused of having sexual contact with a 17-year old boy. Kelly was allegedly seen at a Chicago McDonald’s where he met the boy and invited him to his music studio. At Tuesday’s hearing, Prosecutors stated that the victim will be testifying.
Thomas Farinella, an attorney for Kelly, told CNN in July after prosecutors had requested to allow several uncharged acts to be discussed at trial that it was “nothing more than a veiled effort to pile on to further shape the public’s perception in this case, ignoring that Mr. Kelly is presumed innocent until proven otherwise.”
Farinella stated that “As the trial approaches, we are looking forward for the truth prevailing.”