Chicago, Ill. — A federal prosecutor made an initial attempt at shedding light on R. Kelly’s “dark side” during opening statements for the disgraced artist’s federal sex crimes and child pornography trial in Chicago on Wednesday, Aug. 17.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Julien told jurors that the superstar singer “had another side, a hidden side, a dark side, that he … did not allow the world to see.” Julien also accused Kelly’s co-defendants, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown of knowing about Kelly’s alleged actions, and helping him keep that “dark side” private.
Julien went on to preview the case prosecutors will try to build against Kelly throughout the trial. He claimed the singer “had sex with multiple children” and that he “made videotapes of himself having sex with children,” including his own goddaughter, identified as “Jane.” Jurors will be shown parts of three videos that allegedly show Kelly and Jane, and in two of them, Kelly allegedly refers to Jane’s “14-year-old” anatomy.
At one point, Julien noted that Kelly had gone to “extraordinary lengths” to protect himself after investigators began looking into the allegations of sexual misconduct against him. He later claimed there was a fourth videotape allegedly containing child pornography. And while the jury would not be shown portions of it because Kelly and his associates were allegedly able to cover it up, Julien said they would hear testimony from witnesses who can speak to its existence.
Kelly is facing multiple charges of coercing five minors into sex acts, and several charges related to producing child pornography. He, McDavid, and Brown were also charged with receiving child pornography as part of an alleged effort to recover missing tapes that allegedly show Kelly engaged in sex acts with minors. Kelly and McDavid are also facing obstruction of justice charges tied to allegations that they paid off people who knew about Kelly’s alleged abuse, and tried to impede the 2008 child pornography investigation into Kelly. All three men have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.
Kelly, who appeared in a dark suit on Wednesday, has been met with increasingly more supporters each day of the trial. On the third day, one fan who sported an R. Kelly tattoo shouted out his name as the day concluded and blew him a kiss. A court marshal warned the public gallery that outbursts, as has occurred over the last three days with some making audible exclamations, would not be tolerated.
The defense teams for the three on trial appeared as a united front in their opening statements about prosecutors’ witnesses, whom they painted as blackmailers and liars who are testifying in exchange for immunity. However, they diverged when it came to McDavid and Brown’s teams distancing their clients from knowledge of Kelly’s alleged sexual acts with underage girls depicted on the tapes.
Kelly’s defense attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, attempted to rebut the prosecution’s case in her opening statement, saying it “really does hinge on the testimony of liars, extortionists, people who engaged in the business of trafficking pornography.” Though Bonjean acknowledged that “Mr. Kelly is imperfect… It is important when the government wants to paint him as a monster that you remember we are talking about a human being. We implore you to keep those emotions in check.”
The third day of the trial also included opening statements on behalf of defendant McDavid from one of his lawyers, Vadim Glozman, who claimed to the court that Kelly’s former business manager believed — as others did at the time — that the tape central to the 2008 case (and part of the current case) was “fake.” McDavid, Glozman said, was just doing his job when he hired a team of attorneys and investigators whom he deferred to, all of whom did their work “with excellence.’ None would risk their reputations to obstruct justice to hide or possess child pornography, Glozman said. “He has absolutely nothing to hide. He will tell you in his own words.”
Kathleen Leon, an attorney for Brown, said in their brief opening statement that he was not a “right-hand man” that prosecutors might make him out to be, and instead was just like many of Kelly’s low-level staffers, who were “kept in the dark” about inner-workings. “Milton followed the rules. He kept his head down.” Leon claimed that Brown also thought the video was “fake” at the time.
Following opening statements, the prosecution called three witnesses. Clinical and forensic psychologist Dr. Darrel Turner detailed his knowledge about grooming and how young victims of sexual assault are impacted. The Recording Academy’s Ann Meckelborg, who is custodian of records for the Grammy Awards, discussed Kelly’s three wins for “I Believe I Can Fly” and his performance during the 1998 broadcast.
Retired Chicago detective Daniel Everett took the stand as the third and final witness on Wednesday. He said he first investigated Kelly following an anonymous claim detailing allegations of child abuse of a minor from “a known celebrity.” The minor was allegedly Jane, who Everett said he’d interviewed along with her parents at a shoe store in the suburbs. Jane said Kelly was her godfather and claimed he did not abuse her. Her parents backed that claim, and Everett filed a report saying it was “unfounded.”
In February 2002, Everett received a tape from reporter Jim DeRogatis, then at Chicago Sun-Times, that allegedly depicted Kelly having sex with Jane — the footage central to the 2008 case and also a focus in the current proceedings. Everett recognized Jane from his 2000 investigation. Shortly after, he and other law enforcement searched Kelly’s home, where Everett recognized “several similar settings” depicted in the tape. It was “very obvious this was where it took place,” he added. He said he attempted to interview Jane and her family, but was unable to connect with them.
On Thursday, Everett will return to the stand for cross-examination.
Kelly’s trial in Chicago began just over a month after he was sentenced to 30 years in prison after being found guilty on all counts of racketeering and sex trafficking against him for a federal case in Brooklyn last year.
This story was updated on Aug. 17 at 8:40 p.m. from the original Aug. 17 2:49 p.m. publish time to include in-court reporting of opening statements and witness testimony.