Fierce

Judge Decides An Anonymous Jury Will Hear R. Kelly’s New York Trial Related To Kidnapping And Sexual Exploitation

Updated November 2, 2020.

Following the release of the explosive 2019 Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly” the world has watched the American singer, songwriter, record producer face a slew of legal issues and criminal accusations. The six part documentary detailed the various sexual abuse all against the rapper and soon after launched criminal investigations and ultimately spurned 10 formal aggravated criminal sexual abuse charges against Kelly. The content of the documentary series, while of course shocking and disturbing for everyone who watched it, only confirmed years of allegations, rumors and even leaked video tapes that the rapper is a predator. In 2002 a video allegedly showed Kelly having sex with, and urinating on, an underage girl. Just a few years before, in 1994, rumors that he had illegally married the then 15-year-old singer Aaliyah sparked media sensation. 

It is this illegal marriage to an underaged child that sparked federal prosecutors in New York to charge Kelly with bribery related to the 1994 purchase of a fake ID so that he and Aaliyah could obtain a marriage license over 25 years ago.

Now, the singer’s federal racketeering and sex trafficking case will be heard by an anonymous jury in New York.

According to reports, US District Judge Ann M. Donnelly (who is overseeing the case) has determined that the jury will be partially sequestered.

Judge Donnelly’s decision comes after federal prosecutors sought a motion for an anonymous jury this past October. The ruling was issued on October 8 and unsealed on Friday. “Empaneling an anonymous jury is appropriate given the seriousness of the charges, the defendant’s history of obstructing the judicial process, the potential for juror intimidation and the intensity of media attention given to this case,” Donnelly explained in her written ruling.

The disgraced rapper currently faces multiple federal racketeering and sex trafficking charges, one of which includes violations of the Mann Act. The United States federal law prohibits trafficking individuals from across state lines for prostitution or sexual activity. Kelly is being held without bail in a federal prison in Chicago where he is also up against federal and state charges. Kelly pled not guilty to all of the charges last September in 2019.

Last December, Kelly was indicted by a New York grand jury with one count of bribery.

In a report by the New York Times, the charge was said to be related to his obtainment of a false ID in 1994 so he could marry Aaliyah. The charge is part of a superseding indictment that was filed  by federal prosecutors in New York on Thursday. The indictment accuses  Kelly of bribing an Illinois government employee back in August 1994, to obtain “a fraudulent identification document for Jane Doe #1, an individual whose identity is known to the Grand Jury” and is related to the relationship between Kelly and Aaliyah who in 1994 was just 15 years old.  The fake ID obtained by Kelly was used to obtain a marriage license that listed Aaliyah’s age as 18. Kelly and Aaliyah’s arriage was later annulled in February 1995 by her parents and the two recording artists would deny that they had been married later on. Aaliyah died in a plane crash at age 22 in 2001 after they completed filming the music video for her song “Rock the Boat.” In the years following the marriage, R. Kelly had various other allegations made about him regarding his involvement with minors. His marriage to Aaliyah has been used as evidence of his abuse of power and predatory behavior. The newest charge is, according to the New York Times, “expands on an existing racketeering indictment filed in New York against Mr. Kelly that accuses him of sexually exploiting underage girls and coercing them into illegal sexual activity. This year, Mr. Kelly, 52, has been criminally charged in several jurisdictions on allegations that he sexually abused minors.”

According to the New York Times, Kelly’s  broad racketeering chargein Brooklyn will give prosecutors the opportunity to introduce acts from any time period that were part of the alleged conspiracy. (Normally, Aaliyah’s case would have surpassed the statue of limitations.) The statute has typically been used to take down mob organizations.

Kelly’s defense attorney, Steve Greenberg, recently called the indictment “ridiculous.”

Speaking to ABC’s “Good Morning America,” in an interview,  Greenberg said Kelly  had “no idea” that Aaliyah was 15 when they had been married.

In a separate statement about the new indictment Greenberg said that he and his team were “going to review the indictment, which we just got this afternoon. It doesn’t look like it materially changes anything in the case. We continue to work on this and look forward to the day Robert is free.”

This past July, Kelly was also charged in an indictment that accused him of violating the Mann Act. In the indictment prosecutors accuse Kelly of coercing and transporting women and girls across state lines to engage in illegal sexual activity. 

According to The New York Times report, “Among the evidence prosecutors have collected are records from the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois secretary of state, the filing said. The new indictment did not specify which agency employed the individual who allegedly took a payoff from Mr. Kelly.”

The allegations state that he did this as far back as 1999 and details alleged incidents in four different states: Illinois, Connecticut, California and New York. Kelly pleaded not guilty to the charges in August.  

The New York-based criminal trial was originally set to start in May in 2020.

However in April, prosecutors requested to delay Kelly’s October trial, arguing that the coronavirus pandemic raised issues that could lead to a mistrial.

According to The New York Times report, “Among the evidence prosecutors have collected are records from the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois secretary of state, the filing said. The new indictment did not specify which agency employed the individual who allegedly took a payoff from Mr. Kelly.”

The allegations state that he did this as far back as 1999 and details alleged incidents in four different states: Illinois, Connecticut, California and New York. Kelly pleaded not guilty to the charges in August.  

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