R Kelly case: R&B singer charged with trial-fixing, child pornography and enticing minors for sex
CHICAGO (WLS) -- R&B superstar R. Kelly has been convicted of child pornography charges in Chicago.
Kelly, 55, was found guilty on three counts of child pornography and three counts of enticing a minor, but was acquitted of a conspiracy to obstruct justice charge accusing him fixing his state child pornography trial in 2008.
WATCH | Federal prosecutors on R. Kelly Chicago verdict
"The evidence in this case revealed reprehensible conduct," said John Lausch, U.S. Attorney of Northern District of Illinois. "I want to thank the victims. I want to thank the survivors, the people who survived Robert Kelly and his years of abuse at his hands. Their courage to come into this courtroom and to stand before the jury and reveal the things that man did to them, it's remarkable."
The ABC7 I-Team has been following R. Kelly's case for more than 20 years, from the South Side to South Florida. But, until Wednesday, federal authorities in Chicago have never been able to put a guilty label on Kelly.
The decision comes after a federal judge in New York sentenced Kelly to 30 years in prison in June for racketeering and sex trafficking. Based on that sentence, he won't be eligible for release until he is around 80.
Now, federal prosecutors want the Chicago sentence to be consecutive to the 30 years he already faces in New York for similar crimes. Although the court victory is being heralded by prosecutors, there isn't anything to celebrate.
"We are not celebrating," said Kelly's attorney, Jennifer Bonjean. "Something that I have been fighting for and was fighting for from the beginning was that, if this jury concluded that he was guilty on the first three counts, would they care enough to consider the evidence on the rest? And they did their job. They looked at each count separately."
WATCH | R. Kelly's attorney reacts to verdict
The Chicago-born star, who grew up on the South Side, has always proclaimed his innocence, despite the charges and allegations against him.
ABC7 legal analyst Gil Soffer, who is a former federal prosecutor in Chicago, said it is highly unlikely Kelly will ever see the light of day. He faces up to 90 years in prison on the Chicago charges alone and he is a 55 year old man, so he will likely die in prison.
The Chicago trial was, in many ways, a do-over of Kelly's 2008 child pornography trial, with a key video critical to both.
Federal prosecutors called four women to testify, telling the jury they were underage when engaging in sexually activity with Kelly.
WATCH | ABC7 legal analyst Gil Soffer breaks down verdict
Among them the woman calling herself "Jane," who testified she was 14 years old in a sexually explicit video with Kelly.
The verdict affirms that the jury belived three of those women.
Kelly's co-defendants, his former business manager Derrel McDavid and former employee Milton Brown, were found not guilty.
McDavid threw his hands in the air after the verdict was read.
A federal jury found he, Kelly and Kelly's assistant Milton Brown were not part of a conspiracy to fix a Cook County trial in 2008.
Jurors did what was right," Beau Brindley, the attorney for McDavid, said. "Witnesses were liars."
WATCH | Co-defendant Derrel McDavid reacts after his acquittal
"My son got out of law school and worked on this case 'til 3:30 every morning to find his father not guilty," said defendant Derrel McDavid.
The legal challenges for Kelly - who rose from poverty on Chicago's South Side to become a Grammy-winning superstar - are not yet over. Two further trials are pending; one in Minnesota and another in state court in Chicago.
Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx released a statement following the verdit that said: "Today's verdict sends the message that justice matters. Not just for the survivors who had the courage to relive trauma and face their abuser years later in this case, but also for the many survivors in our communities who speak their truth on their path to healing.
The Cook County State's Attorney's Office has long combined efforts with our federal partners, and we are pleased that our collaborative efforts resulted in this conviction. We will continue this collective work in the pursuit of justice for all victims. At this time, the four sexual assault cases filed in 2019 by my office involving Robert Kelly remain pending litigation. As we review next steps in the prosecution of these cases, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office will continue to prioritize public safety and support all victims of crime and we will remain a compassionate trauma informed resource for survivors as they regain their power and heal."
'Wheels of justice: I-Team takes a look at prosecuting R. Kelly
Attorneys for R Kelly and his co-defendant were in and out of court Wednesday when the jurors had questions, before they ultimately reached a verdict. In the courtroom, they reviewed the questions with the judge.
The jury had a number of questions for attorneys, including one about a piece of evidence, a college application from a Kelly accuser; if there were records for a Westin hotel stay in 1999 and 2000; and clarity on language of whether Kelly "persuaded, induced, enticed and/or coerced minors."
The judge said the application was not admitted into evidence.
Prosecutors responded, saying there were no records of those hotel stays.
They're also working to clarify whether the charging documents stated "or coerced" or "and coerced" minors, meaning they would have to prove that, as well.
Jurors weighed 13 charges against the three defendants as they debated whether R. Kelly will serve more time in federal prison on child pornography charges dating back decades.
The disgraced singer, once a music industry icon, was on trial with two men intertwined with Kelly's career, including his former business manager and former employee.
"Derrel McDavid is not guilty, and that is the right answer," defense attorney Beau Brindley said earlier in the day. "And we feel very confident that the jury will reach that answer."
Jurors heard nine hours of closing arguments in the fifth week of this trial. Kelly is accused of creating child pornography, and all three men are accused of trying to hide sex videos of Kelly with minors and silence witnesses during Kelly's Cook County prosecution in 2008.
Kelly's attorney argued Tuesday: "This man did some beautiful things with his music. And he should not be stripped of every bit of humanity... I ask more importantly and to remember each count counts and take the time you need...Mr. Kelly deserves it no matter what you think of him."
Federal prosecutors had the final say, arguing that the activities of the three were conspiracy to thwart criminal prosecution.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeannice Appenteng told the jury: "That case was fixed because Kelly, McDavid and others caused Jane and her family to lie to the grand jury."
She concluded: "Find Robert Kelly guilty of sexually abusing these young women....Find Mr. McDavid and Mr. Brown guilty for agreeing with Kelly to cover up the videos."
Bonjean also spoke about the challenges of public opinion, ahead of the trial's start Tuesday.
"I do think it has come into focus how much Mr. Kelly has been prejudiced having a joint trial," she said.
Kelly's attorney argued for hours that federal prosecutors did not prove their case and that their evidence is flawed based on testimony from liars and extortionists.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Pozolo argued Monday, "He took advantage of his position, his fame and her youth. He took advantage for his own pleasure."
Pozolo went on to argue that the three - Kelly, his former business manager and former assistant - conspired to conceal evidence and thwart criminal prosecution in Cook County when the video of Jane became public.
"Kelly and his team did their best to cover up the fact that this R&B star R Kelly is a sexual predator," Pozolo said.
Prosecutor Pozolo concluded her argument, saying, "Robert Kelly manipulated girls over many years, and he committed horrible crimes against children. And he didn't do it alone."
Each defendant's attorney made a closing argument, too.
The attorney for McDavid - Kelly's former business manager - argued those who testified about McDavid's involvement in any conspiracy lied before and during the trial.
"Don't give into guilt by association because that's all the government has," Beau Brindley, McDavid's attorney, told jurors.
Additionally, Brindley argued McDavid believed Kelly's goddaughter, who was 14 years old at the time, was not the girl in the sex tape.
"The information he had then is different than what he has now," Brindley said.
Mary Judge, the attorney for Kelly's former assistant, Milton Brown, argued that Brown was not part of any conspiracy, saying, "It proved he was doing his job and that is all it proves."