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Prosecutor: R. Kelly predator who used fame to abuse minors

The singer is charged with fixing his 2008 state child pornography trial by threatening witnesses and concealing video evidence.

CHICAGO —  Jurors were set to begin deliberating for a second day Wednesday at R. Kelly's federal trial in Chicago, sorting through a month of evidence and arguments on charges accusing the singer of producing child pornography, enticing minors for sex and rigging his 2008 child porn trial.

Jurors must consider 13 separate counts, some involving complex law and assessments of which witnesses were more believable. They began deliberating Tuesday after Judge Harry Leinenweber gave them jury instructions, including explicit descriptions of what constitutes sexual abuse.

Before they withdrew Tuesday, Kelly attorney Jennifer Bonjean sounded indignant, likening government testimony and evidence to a cockroach and the government’s case to a bowl of soup.

If a cockroach falls into soup, she said, “you don’t just pull out the cockroach and eat the rest of the soup. You throw out the whole soup," said told jurors. She said of the prosecution’s case: “There are just too many cockroaches.”

Credit: AP
In this courtroom sketch, a woman who goes by pseudonym “Jane”, left, testifies in R. Kelly's trial in federal court, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Chicago. (Cheryl Cook via AP)

Kelly, 55, was sentenced in June to 30 years in prison during a separate federal trial in New York where he was convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking.

In her rebuttal Tuesday, prosecutor Jeannice Appenteng told jurors to remember the girls and women Kelly allegedly abused.

“When you are in the quiet of the jury room, consider the evidence in light of who is at the center of this case. Kelly’s victims: Jane, Nia, Pauline, Tracy and Brittany,” Appenteng said, referring to five Kelly accusers named in charging documents by their pseudonyms or first names.

She said as Kelly's fame boomed in the mid-1990s, his inner circle increasingly geared everything they did to what Kelly wanted.

“And ladies and gentlemen, what R. Kelly wanted was to have sex with young girls,” she said.

Bonjean described Kelly as a flawed genius who has been functional illiterate since childhood and was ill-equipped to navigate his celebrity and expanding wealth. She said having been abused as a child also deeply affected him.

Known for his smash hit “I Believe I Can Fly” and for sex-infused songs such as “Bump n’ Grind,” Kelly sold millions of albums even after allegations of sexual misconduct circulated in the 1990s. Widespread outrage emerged after the #MeToo reckoning and the 2019 Lifetime docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly.”

MORE: R. Kelly sentenced to 30 years in sex trafficking case

Kelly and co-defendant Derrell McDavid, Kelly's ex-business manager, are accused of fixing Kelly's 2008 trial on state child porn charges by intimidating and paying off witnesses.

Kelly faces four counts of producing child porn, one of conspiring to obstruct justice by fixing the 2008 trial, one of conspiring to receive child porn, two of actually receiving it and five of enticing minors for sex.

McDavid is charged with four counts — two for receiving child porn, one for conspiring to do so and one for conspiring to obstruct justice by rigging the 2008 trial, at which Kelly was acquitted.

Co-defendant Milton Brown, a former Kelly associate, faces a single count of conspiring to receive child pornography.

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