Brooklyn, NY – July selection began on Monday in the long-awaited sex trafficking trial of R&B legend R. Kelly.
Kelly, 54, has been in jail – mostly in a federal facility in Chicago – since he was indicted two years ago, the Associated Press reported.
He was transferred to the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn in July.
Kelly is facing a nine-count indictment that included accusations of racketeering, bribery, and extortion, Reuters reported.
Federal prosecutors have said Kelly demanded “absolute commitment” from victims and isolated the young women from friends and family.
He also allegedly made the girls and women call him “Daddy,” according to Reuters.
The Grammy winner, who has been accused of having managers, bodyguards, and other employees help him recruit women and underage girls for sex, has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to all charges, ABC News reported.
Federal prosecutors said Kelly’s helpers chose his victims at concerts and other venues and made arrangements for them to see the music icon.
Kelly’s defense attorneys have said the alleged victims were groupies of the multiplatinum-selling artists who went to his shows and made it known they “were dying to be with him,” ABC News reported.
Prosecutors said Kelly took sexually explicit videos or photographs with multiple underage girls, CNN reported.
The girls and women that Kelly was having sex with were kept in rooms “for days at a time with no access to food,” according to federal prosecutors.
Lawyers for the R&B legend said the alleged victims only began complaining the Kelly abused them after the start of the #MeToo movement.
Prosecutors are expected to show the jury evidence that Kelly paid to have a fake ID made for 15-year-old singer Aaliyah, whom he married in a secret wedding ceremony in 1994, ABC News reported.
Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash in 2001, is identified as “Jane Doe #1” in court documents because she was a juvenile when Kelly began a sexual relationship with her.
Court documents alleged that Kelly thought Aaliyah was pregnant when he married her, ABC News reported.
“As a result, in an effort to shield himself from criminal charges related to his illegal sexual relationship with Jane Doe #1, Kelly arranged to secretly marry her to prevent her from being compelled to testify against him in the future,” prosecutors wrote.
Kelly produced Aaliyah’s debut album in 1994, ABC News reported.
In 1996, Kelly won multiple Grammys for the song “I Believe I Can Fly” that became an inspirational song used in commercials and at celebrations.
Ten years later, he released cult classic “Trapped in the Closet” in a rock opera format, which told the story of a man who was cheating on his wife in 22 chapters, ABC News reported.
This isn’t the first time the singer has been in legal trouble.
He was charged with child pornography in Chicago in 2002 but was acquitted of those charges in 2008, ABC News reported.
Lifetime network released a documentary miniseries entitled “Surviving R. Kelly” in 2019 after more women came forward and claimed they had been abused by him during the rise of the #MeToo movement.
Criminal charges for sex trafficking were filed against Kelly shortly after the graphic and detailed Lifetime documentary aired, ABC News reported.
No members of the media or the public will be permitted in the courtroom during Kelly’s trial, CNN reported.
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly described the unusual setup to accommodate social-distancing requirements that would have witnesses testify from the jury box and the jurors spaced six feet apart in the gallery where the public would usually sit.
Media and members of the public can only view the trial from an “overflow room” with a video feed, CNN reported.
It’s unlikely that anyone watching the video feed will be able to see evidence presented to the jury or Kelly’s reactions to what is happening in front of him.
Opening arguments are expected to begin on Aug. 18, CNN reported.