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Jury starts deliberations in latest R Kelly trial

By | Published on Wednesday 14 September 2022

R Kelly

The jury began its deliberations yesterday in the latest R Kelly trial in Chicago. That followed closing statements from the prosecution and legal reps for all three defendants in the case.

Having been found guilty a year ago of running a criminal enterprise in order to access and abuse women and teenagers, Kelly currently faces specific charges in relation to the alleged production and distribution of videos featuring the sexual abuse of children – described as ‘child pornography’ in American law.

He is also accused of enticing minors to engage in criminal sexual activity and – alongside his co-defendants Derrel McDavid and Milton ‘June’ Brown – of conspiring to obstruct justice. The latter relates to allegations Kelly and his team sought to interfere in an earlier criminal investigation and trial in the 2000s sparked by the leaking of a tape allegedly showing the musician sexually abusing a fourteen year old girl.

Much of the defence phase of the trial was dominated by the testimony of Kelly’s co-defendant and former business manager Derrel McDavid – during which the abuse allegations against Kelly were rarely challenged – with McDavid simply insisting that he was not aware of Kelly’s alleged criminal conduct, and that he genuinely believed, at the time, that his employer’s accusers were lying in a bid to extort money from the star.

To that end, the closing statements from Kelly’s lawyer Jennifer Bonjean arguably constituted the most important part of his defence. According to the Chicago Tribune, she urged jurors to set aside any preconceptions they had about her client as a result of all of the media coverage of this criminal case and last year’s high profile trial in New York.

She also argued that a lot of the “unflattering evidence” that has been presented during this trial, in a bid to further tarnish Kelly’s reputation, was actually irrelevant to the charges he faces. The jury, therefore, she said, need to focus very specifically on each of the charges, and asses what evidence and testimonies are actually relevant to ascertaining his guilt or not of each of those things.

Despite criticising the prosecution for trashing her client’s reputation, Bonjean nevertheless used a chunk of her closing statement to trash the reputations of many of the prosecution’s witnesses. Many of those witnesses had received immunity from prosecution for their own alleged crimes, she stressed, including previously lying before grand juries, and some had a long history of dishonesty.

The implication, of course, was why accept that those people are now suddenly telling the truth? If you find a cockroach in your soup “you don’t just toss the roach and eat the soup”, Bonjean said, throwing a little metaphor into the mix. “You throw out the whole soup”, she added, “there are just too many cockroaches with these witnesses”.

Bonjean also continues to question the timelines of the events described by some witnesses, including Kelly’s alleged victims. That is a crucial part of the defence’s strategy, suggesting that the women who claim they had sex with Kelly when they were underage were in fact at least seventeen at the time, the age of consent in Illinois.

Needless to say, Jeannice Appenteng – speaking for the prosecution – was keen to stress there were no ambiguities or blurred lines in this case. The evidence was clear, she argued, Kelly was a serial sexual predator, and his co-defendants made the decision to help him hide his crimes so that his pop star career could proceed and they would continue to make money from it.

“What R Kelly wanted was to have sex with young girls”, Appenteng told the court, “and what the people around him wanted … they wanted to help their boss, including helping him get away with it”.

Jury deliberations are due to continue later today.