Disgraced singer R. Kelly on Wednesday was convicted of multiple child pornography charges accusing him of sexually abusing his 14-year-old goddaughter on video nearly 20 years ago, but jurors acquitted him of charges he conspired with two associates to cover up the tapes and to obstruct justice in his 2008 child pornography trial in Cook County.
Kelly, 55, was found guilty of three child pornography counts, and three counts of enticing minors for sex, but acquitted of seven other charges, including obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to receive child pornography. Each of the child pornography counts carries a sentence of up to 20 years, and the enticement charges each carry a sentence of up to 10 years.
Co-defendants Derrell McDavid and Milton “June” Brown were acquitted of all charges.
Jurors deliberated for about 11 hours over two days before delivering their verdict.
Kelly was convicted of three of four counts accusing him of producing child pornography by filming himself having sex with his underage goddaughter, who testified against him under the pseudonym “Jane.” Jurors saw parts of those three videos in court. Jurors acquitted him of a fourth child pornography charge involving a tape that Jane and prosecutors said showed Kelly having a threesome with Jane and his ex-girlfriend, Lisa Van Allen, but that tape was not shown in court. Prosecutors had argued that’s because Kelly and his team successfully covered it up.
Jurors acquitted Kelly and McDavid, his former business manager, of a conspiracy to obstruct justice charge that accused them of rigging his 2008 child pornography trial in Cook County by covering up incriminating sex tapes, and intimidating and paying off Jane and her parents to keep his abuse of her secret.
Kelly, McDavid, and Brown also were acquitted of a conspiracy to receive child pornography charge accusing them of trying to retrieve and cover up three sex tapes involving Jane. Kelly and McDavid also were acquitted of two charges of receiving child pornography, involving further claims they tried to retrieve and cover up other videos involving Jane. The government’s case on those charges rested in large part on testimony from Charles Freeman and Lisa Van Allen, who defense attorneys described as liars out to extort Kelly for money.
Finally, Kelly was convicted of three of five charges accusing him of enticing minors to engage in sexual activity, but acquitted of two other charges. Jurors convicted him of enticement charges involving Jane, and two other accusers testifying under the pseudonyms “Nia” and “Pauline,” while acquitting him of enticement charges involving accusers “Tracy” and “Brittany.”
Jane had accused Kelly of sexually abusing her hundreds of times after becoming her godfather when she was only 14 years old. Prosecutors showed the jury three videos that they said showed Kelly having sex with Jane, including one that showed him telling her to lay on the floor while he urinated on her.
Nia had testified she first met Kelly in 1996, when she was only 15 years old, and that they had two sexual encounters, one at a hotel during his concert tour in Minnesota, and another later that year at his music studio in Chicago.
Pauline testified that Jane introduced her to Kelly when she was only 14 years old, and the three soon started having threesomes, before Pauline started her own sexual relationship with Kelly alone when she was 15. She estimated she had sex with Kelly more than 80 times and had 60 threesomes with Kelly and Jane between the ages of 14 and 16.
Tracy testified that she met Kelly in 1999 when she was an off-the-books intern for an Epic Records executive, and claimed that, when she was only 16, Kelly “forced himself” on her at a downtown Chicago hotel. She said the two later developed a sexual relationship that continued beyond her 17th birthday. But defense attorneys cast doubts on her claims, pointing to a past lawsuit she filed against Kelly in which she claimed they met and started having sex in 2000, when she was 17 years old.
Brittany did not testify at trial, and while both Jane and Pauline testified to having threesomes with Kelly and Brittany when they were just girls, defense attorneys seized on the fact Brittany didn’t testify herself, asking jurors in closing arguments “Where is Brittany!”
Before the jury began its deliberations, Kelly’s lead defense attorney asked jurors to set aside what they knew about the singer before the trial, acknowledging most of it probably wasn’t favorable, and to treat him as a “John Doe.” Bonjean said the jury must make their decision based only on the evidence they heard in the courtroom, not what they might know about Kelly through the media, or what they’ve heard about him elsewhere.
Bonjean said no matter what jurors might decide, Kelly did some beautiful things when it came to making music, and he shouldn’t “be stripped of every bit of humanity he has.”
However, in the prosecution’s rebuttal argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeannice Appenteng said the evidence was clear that Kelly sexually abused girls, and his co-defendants helped him cover it up.
“What R. Kelly wanted was to have sex with young girls,” Appenteng said.
Appenteng said when the jury reflects on the case, they should consider who is at the center of it: Kelly’s victims. She said they were children when Kelly began sexual relationships with them, and the jury should find him guilty.
“The defendants are guilty of each count in the indictment. Hold them accountable,” Appenteng said.
Jurors heard four weeks of testimony from more than 30 witnesses, and saw clips from three sex tapes that prosecutors say show Kelly sexually abusing his 14-year-old goddaughter.
During the trial, four women accused Kelly of sexually abusing them when they were girls, including the state’s star witness, who testified under the pseudonym “Jane,” and told jurors that Kelly began abusing her after becoming her godfather when she was only 14, and had sex with her hundreds of times between the ages of 14 and 18.
Jane had denied for years that Kelly abused her, but now says Kelly intimidated her and her family, and paid them off to keep his abuse secret. She now says she was the person in the video at the center of Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial in Cook County, and has told the jury Kelly recorded her on other videos shown in court.
McDavid was the only defendant to testify at the trial, spending three days on the witness stand repeatedly telling jurors that he believed Kelly when he denied sexually abusing girls in the early 2000s, but said he began to have doubts about Kelly’s innocence after learning new things during the ongoing federal trial.
Kelly already has been sentenced to 30 years in prison after he was convicted last year of racketeering and sex trafficking charges in federal court in New York.
Kelly also is still awaiting trial in Cook County in sexual assault and sexual abuse cases involving four women, three of whom were girls at the time of the abuse. He also faces charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution in Minnesota.
Read more about the response to Wednesday’s verdict below.