R. Kelly convicted on multiple counts of child pornography, acquitted of fixing 2008 trial
Disgraced R&B singer faces 2 more trials for sexual misconduct
A federal jury in Chicago convicted R. Kelly on Wednesday of producing child pornography and enticing girls for sex after a month-long trial in his hometown, delivering another legal blow to the singer who was once one of the world's biggest R&B stars.
Prosecutors won convictions on six counts against him, with many of the convictions carrying long mandatory sentences. But the government lost the marquee count — that Kelly and his then-business manager successfully rigged his state child pornography trial in 2008.
Both of his co-defendants, including longtime business manager Derrel McDavid — who had told jurors that testimony from four Kelly accusers had led him to change his mind about Kelly's believability — were acquitted of all charges.
The trial was, in ways, a do-over of the 2008 trial, with a key video critical to both. Kelly, who shed tears of joy when jurors acquitted him in 2008, gave a thumbs-up sign to spectators after Wednesday's verdict but otherwise showed little emotion. Before Kelly was returned to federal lockup, McDavid hugged the Grammy Award-winning singer, who rose from poverty on Chicago's South Side to become a superstar.
"Mr. Kelly is used to bad news," said lead attorney Jennifer Bonjean, when asked by reporters outside the court how Kelly felt after the verdict.
"He's still got many fights to fight," she said. "But what he did say is that he had a sense of relief that this particular case was in the past now."
The verdict comes months after a federal judge in New York sentenced Kelly to 30 years in prison in June for racketeering and sex trafficking. Based on that sentence, the 55-year-old won't be eligible for release until he is around 80.
2 more trials to come
Two sexual misconduct trials still await Kelly — one in Minnesota and one in state court in Chicago.
After deliberating for 11 hours over two days, jurors convicted Kelly of three counts each of producing child pornography and enticement, while acquitting him of obstruction of justice, one count of production of child porn and three counts of receiving child porn.
Among the charges McDavid was acquitted of was conspiring with Kelly to rig the 2008 trial. Milton Brown, the other co-defendant, was acquitted of receiving child pornography.
Chicago-based U.S. Attorney John Lausch expressed satisfaction with the verdict. He told reporters that, when you add up the potential punishments on the six guilty counts, Kelly was facing at least 10 years and up to 90 in prison.
Judge Harry Leinenweber did not set a sentencing date. He could order that Kelly serve whatever sentence he imposes simultaneously with the New York sentence or that he serve this sentence only after the earlier one is fully served. The latter would, for practical purposes, mean a life sentence.
Prosecutors at the federal trial in Illinois portrayed Kelly as a master manipulator who used his fame and wealth to reel in star-struck fans, some of them minors, to sexually abuse and then discard them.
Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, was desperate to recover pornographic videos he made and lugged around in a gym bag, witnesses said. They said he offered up to $1 million US to recover missing videos before his 2008 trial, knowing they would land him in legal peril. The conspiracy to hide his abuse ran from 2000 to 2020, prosecutors said.
Bonjean, Kelly's attorney, told jurors in her closing statements that in some cases, the government had relied on liars and blackmailers as witnesses. She earlier implored jurors not to see Kelly as "the monster" prosecutors made him out to be.
In her closing rebuttal, prosecutor Jeannice Appenteng cited testimony that Kelly's inner circle increasingly focused on doing what Kelly wanted as his fame boomed in the mid-1990s.
"And ladies and gentlemen, what R. Kelly wanted was to have sex with young girls," she said.
Four Kelly accusers testified. Some cried when describing the abuse but otherwise spoke calmly and with confidence. A fifth accuser did not testify.