CHICAGO — Jurors in R. Kelly’s federal child pornography trial were shown 17 clips from three separate videos that, prosecutors say, show the disgraced R&B superstar engaging in sex acts with a 14-year-old girl in the late 1990s.
Prosecutors said five of those clips were from the video at the heart of Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial in Cook County court, and all 17 clips showed Kelly engaging in sex acts with the government’s star witness in his current case — a woman identified in court only as “Jane” — Kelly’s former “goddaughter.”
Court staff took extensive measures to ensure that the video clips were seen by no one other than jurors, the various attorneys in the case and Judge Harry Leinenweber. The jurors — and their video monitors — were shielded from view by large, black curtains. Audio from the videos, however, was still played throughout the courtroom, and Leinenweber denied a request from prosecutors to clear the courtroom as the clips were played.
Along with “Jane’s” testimony, an agent from the Department of Homeland Security said on the witness stand that she reviewed the clips from the three videos and it was, in fact, Kelly and “Jane” seen and heard in the explicit footage.
On several occasions, both Kelly and “Jane” referred to her body parts as “14 years old.” Kelly’s defense attorneys have, so far, not directly disputed that it’s Kelly seen and heard in the videos.
The clips were shown to the jury a few hours after “Jane” testified that she was the teen girl seen in the video at the heart of Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial in Cook County.
During her several hours of testimony over two days, “Jane” described how she and Kelly engaged in sex acts “hundreds” of times while she was still a minor. She was 13 years old when she and Kelly were introduced through “Jane’s” aunt, who later suggested that “Jane” ask Kelly to be her godfather. Kelly accepted, and he started making sexual advances toward her just weeks later, “Jane” testified.
She detailed how she felt beholden to Kelly, keeping their relationship secret in an effort to protect him and his career. She said she eventually grew to love Kelly, and the two discussed getting married.
“I was afraid that something bad would happen to Robert. I wanted to protect him so I did everything I could to keep it a secret,” she said.
“That was something I was going to take to my grave,” she added. “It was instilled in me not to admit that to anybody and that’s exactly what I did.”In an effort to head off questions from defense attorneys, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeannice Appenteng also asked “Jane” if she received an immunity deal from prosecutors in exchange for her truthful testimony. “Jane” acknowledged that she did, and Appenteng asked why she waited so long to come forward.
“I became exhausted with living with his lies,” she said.
During her cross-examination of “Jane” Friday morning, Kelly’s attorney Jennifer Bonjean noted that “Jane” and Kelly remained in regular contact via text message and phone calls until April 2019 — three months after the premier of the Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly.”
In January 2019, soon after the series aired, “Jane” told Kelly that she was “super worried” him and that she loved him, according to text messages displayed for the jury. Often, Kelly would not respond to messages from Jane, Bonjean noted.
“I think about you and pray for you often,” “Jane” texted Kelly.
The video clips were played on the fifth day of Kelly’s trial at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.
A federal grand jury in Chicago indicted Kelly, 55, on 13 counts in July 2019, accusing him of producing and receiving child pornography, while also enticing minors to engage in illegal sexual activity. Earlier this year, Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison by a federal judge in Brooklyn after he was found guilty of racketeering.
The Grammy-winning, multiplatinum-selling singer — who has remained in law enforcement custody since his 2019 arrest — was initially charged with sexually abusing five minors, though a superseding indictment in 2020 added a sixth alleged victim.
Two of Kelly’s former employees were charged with him in the federal Chicago case: Derrel McDavid and Milton “June” Brown. Both are charged with one count of conspiracy to receive child pornography, while McDavid also faces two counts of receiving child pornography and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Prosecutors allege Kelly and those in his inner circle paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years in an effort to track down video tapes that Kelly made that allegedly show him engaging in sexual activity with underage victims.
After his federal trial in Chicago concludes, Kelly still faces pending criminal cases in Cook County and Minnesota.