R. Kelly and his lawyers will not know the identities of the men and women who serve as jurors at his upcoming criminal trial. This move comes after prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York petitioned the court requesting an anonymous and sequestered jury. In that motion, which was filed back in May, prosecutors cited past incidents of witness and juror intimidation at the singer's trials.
Prosecutors had initially asked that this motion and subsequent order be kept under seal but R. Kelly and his lawyer petitioned the court and asked that it be made public. It was ordered unsealed earlier this week after prosecutors agreed to the defense's request.
HISTORY OF WITNESS INTIMIDATION
The motion details three unsettling incidents that were allegedly carried out by Kelly or his associates in the past. In each one of these cases, Kelly ultimately managed to avoid any serious charges. Prosecutors also voiced concerns over the fact that Kelly seemed to become more ad more emboldened with each new offense.
"The defendant and his associates have previously attempted to obstruct justice, a factor that weighs heavily in support of anonymity. As set forth more fully in the government’s detention memoranda ... the defendant, together with others on his behalf, has a history of obstructive conduct, including the following.
- In connection with his trial in state court in 2008, the defendant persuaded multiple individuals to testify falsely before a Cook County grand jury. Indeed, the indictment the defendant faces in the Northern District of Illinois (“NDIL”) charges him with conspiring to intimidate victims and conceal evidence in an effort to obstruct law enforcement, including with respect to an investigation in the 2000s that resulted in the defendant’s 2008 state court trial on child pornography charges, of which he was acquitted. Specifically, the NDIL indictment charges that, in 2001, the defendant and another individual began paying an acquaintance hundreds of thousands of dollars to collect videos of child pornography for the purpose of concealing and covering up their existence. When the acquaintance later planned to hold a news conference to publicly announce that he had recovered the videos, the defendant and others paid him approximately $170,000 in exchange for agreeing to cancel the event. The defendant and another individual also agreed to pay two persons for their efforts to return the videos, but only after they took polygraph examinations to confirm that they had returned all copies in their possession.
- Following a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of Jane Doe #6 against the defendant, a lawyer for Jane Doe #6 received a typewritten letter in 2018 purportedly signed by the defendant. Enclosed with the letter were two pieces of paper that contained images and typewritten text. Among the images were photographs of Jane Doe #6 that had been apparently cropped to not disclose certain body parts. Beneath those photographs was text including “I assure you this would not be considered a Sunday go-to-meeting dress. The next two pictures have been cropped for the sake of not exposing her extremities to the world, yet!!!” Based on the content of the letter and photographs, it is reasonable to conclude that the letter was sent at the defendant’s direction and/or for his benefit, advising Jane Doe #6 of his intent to maintain compromising photographs of her in an attempt to convince Jane Doe #6 to abandon her lawsuit.
- The defendant has told multiple individuals, including one as recently as 2018, that they needed to select a side: his side or the other side, and implicitly threatened that selecting the other side could result in physical harm to that person or that person’s family.
The filing does not mention what may be the most egregious allegation against Kelly.
BUYING THE SILENCE OF STAR WITNESS
Michael Avenatti claimed in a press conference last year that Kelly paid $2 million to the underage victim and her family who had been expected to testify against him at his 2008 child pornography trial in Chicago. "R. Kelly bought his acquittal," said Avenatti at the time.
That victim is the young girl who allegedly appeared in the rape tape with Kelly that led to his being charged by prosecutors. That case quickly fell apart at trial though when the girl and her family refused to take the stand and say if she was in fact the underage teen seen on the tape. That shred of doubt was enough to get Kelly a not guilty verdict.
That young woman and her family will now be testifying against Kelly during his trial in Illinois. A lawyer for the victim, now in her 30s, revealed that she was cooperating with federal prosecutors. That announcement came soon after it had been revealed that she and her father were allegedly receiving payments from Kelly and his acolytes.
NEW YORK VICTIMS
It is the oldest of the victims in the New York case whose allegations best illustrate the loyalty that Kelly commands from his crew. Jane Doe #2 was recruited in a mall and convinced to travel to Chicago, where she was allegedly held captive and then raped days after arriving at Kelly's studio. Once she arrived, Jane Doe #2 was escorted to a room while a member of Kelly's "enterprise" made a copy of his license and had her sign a nondisclosure agreement.
"She was then told not to speak to anyone and "spent approximately three days in the bedroom, which was locked, without sustenance," wrote prosecutors in their indictment. She finally got something to eat on that third day, but that only provided her with a few moments of relief. "After a member of the Enterprise provided her with food and a drink, she became tired and dizzy," states a letter submitted by prosecutors. "She woke up sometime thereafter to the defendant with her in the bedroom in circumstances that made clear he had sexually assaulted her while she was unconscious."
This was just one of the allegations submitted by prosecutors in New York when requesting pre-trial detention for Kelly.
"As set forth below, the charges in this case are extremely serious: the defendant is charged as the leader of a racketeering enterprise engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity spanning two decades involving the sexual exploitation of children, coercing and transporting women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity, kidnapping and forced labor. If convicted on all counts, the defendant faces the prospect of spending decades in prison," noted prosecutors in their letter to Judge Ann M. Donnelly.
"Given the strength of the evidence in the case and the substantial prison sentence that the defendant faces, the defendant poses a significant flight risk. As his past interactions with the criminal justice system have failed to deter the defendant from continuing to engage in serious criminal activity, the defendant is also a danger to the community. Finally, as set forth below, the defendant’s release also presents a serious risk that he will attempt to obstruct justice and threaten and intimidate potential witnesses."
Kelly was initially indicted on 18 charges including child sexual exploitation, child pornography production, kidnapping, forced labor, racketeering, and obstruction of justice. He also faces federal charges in Illinois and state charges in Minnesota.
"Kelly and individuals who served as his managers, bodyguards, drivers, personal assistants, and runners, as well as members of his entourage, comprised a racketeering enterprise (the Enterprise) that operated for over two decades in New York, Illinois, Connecticut, California and elsewhere. Kelly, as leader of the Enterprise, used his fame to recruit women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity with him and others," read a superseding indictment filed by prosecutors in July of last year.
"The superseding indictment alleges that Kelly identified these girls and women and then directed members of the Enterprise to escort them backstage or to events following his musical performances. Kelly also exchanged contact information with girls and women so that he and other members of the Enterprise could arrange travel and lodging for them to visit Kelly and engage in the charged illegal sexual conduct."
That filing also went to details of his actions. "Kelly issued rules that many of his sexual partners were required to follow, including that the women and girls were to call him 'Daddy'; they were not permitted to leave their rooms to eat or visit the bathroom without receiving his permission; they were required to wear baggy clothing when not accompanying Kelly to an event; and they were directed to keep their heads down and not look at other men. Kelly also isolated the women and girls from their friends and family, and made them dependent on him for their financial well-being,' said prosecutors."
Kelly is facing life in prison if convicted in both federal cases.