Fourteen years ago, a jury acquitted R. Kelly of producing child sexual abuse images in spite of a horrible video that showed him molesting a 14-year-old girl. The R&B artist was acquitted of all charges and walked free.
Less than a year after Kelly was found guilty in a federal sex crimes case in New York, federal prosecutors in his hometown of Chicago will try to hold him accountable for the tape he is accused of recording. The alleged victim, who was absent from the 2008 trial, is cooperating with prosecutors in the upcoming trial. According to recent documents filed by the defense, she is expected to testify that she was the girl in the video, and that she wasn't telling the truth when she said it wasn't her.
Dave Chappelle parodied the tape on his show. The legs were sold in Chicago, Atlanta, New York and other places. Though Kelly is already facing a 30-year prison sentence for decades of sexual abuse, his second federal trial may be a reckoning on the video that helped tie predatory behavior to his public image and expose how he escaped accountability for so long
One of the victims who testified about graphic abuse in the New York trial described how she first met Kelly outside of the Chicago trial.
How many lives would have been spared if he had been found not guilty?
In the upcoming Chicago case, Kelly is accused of 13 counts, including child sexual abuse images and obstruction of justice. He is accused of recording videos of himself sexually abusing the girl in the notorious tape, as well as two other minor girls, and is also facing charges of swindling two more minor girls to engage in criminal sex acts with him. The girl at the center of the 2008 case and her parents were allegedly bribed by him to lie about their relationship with Kelly.
Kelly will be on trial in New York with two people who helped him hide his crimes. The former business manager for Kelly is accused of receiving child sexual abuse images and obstructing justice. A former employee of Kelly's is accused of receiving child sexual abuse images. The three men who have pleaded not guilty have described the women who have accused them as liars.
Attorneys are expected to give opening statements on Monday.
According to the Chicago indictment, Kelly and McDavid paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to a person in 2001 to get the videos of Kelly molesting the girls. While Kelly was on trial for state charges, the pair and their associates paid someone $170,000 to cancel a press conference he was going to hold to announce that he had recovered videos of Kelly sexually abusing children.
According to prosecutors, in 2007, Kelly and McDavid agreed to pay $250,000 to return a tape that showed Kelly having sex with the girl who was the focus of the 2008 case. The tapes depicting Kelly with the individual and the minor were paid for by Kelly and the others. The individuals had to take polygraph exams in order to find out if they had returned all the tapes.
When Kelly was hit with both the Chicago and New York indictments, the details of these accusations were not disclosed by authorities. The allegations of women who said Kelly had abused them were detailed in the docuseries Surviving R. Kelly. In the 2008 trial, Lisa Van Allen testified that she and another man were paid $20,000 to return a different tape showing her having sex with Kelly. The indictment handed down more than a decade later matches Van Allen's claim that Kelly had offered her $250,000. The prosecutors wouldn't say if Van Allen was the woman described in the charge.
It's clear that his reporting and the documentary had an impact on the case finally breaking ground.
The power of seeing those women one after another in your living room was irrefutable. I think it was at that time.
Kelly has a following of ardent supporters who are adamant that he hasn't done anything wrong despite the change in public opinion. Even though prosecutors have been unsuccessful in getting Kelly to pay fines imposed on him as part of his sentence, he has amassed more than $28,000 in a commissary account.
Fans of the R&B star unmuted their phone lines at the end of a recent remote hearing.
One person told Robert Kelly to love them. You are the center of my life.
One person said to pray for freedom.
There is a petition for the release of R. Kelly.
The federal government will be able to put on a stronger case than the state did 14 years ago, because Kelly is charged with producing four videos that depict child sexual abuse and multiple victims.
The jury didn't hear from the girl, nor were they told about Kelly's history with other young women, notably his 1994 marriage to then-15-year-old Aaliyah. More than a dozen witnesses positively identified the figure on the tape as the 14-year-old, but jurors weren't sure if it was her.
If 2008 was one girl on one tape, we are now hearing that Kelly had a pattern of sexually abusing children and taping assaults. The jurors will be haunted by that.
It isn't a guarantee that the next jury in Chicago will do the same thing as the one in New York did. The presumption is that things have changed and that now women are believed, according to DeRogatis. Sometimes that isn't the case.
DeRogatis doesn't think that has changed. None of the women who were brave enough to testify or trust me with their stories think things have changed. They don't believe black women in particular.
A second chance like the one the alleged victim from the 2008 trial will get is rare; the government is not allowed to prosecute a person for the same crime twice. The charges in the present case are federal and not state.
Steven Block, a former assistant US attorney in Chicago, said that the Department of Justice has strict guidelines when it comes to charging someone with a federal crime after they've been acquitted of a state crime. Given the allegations of obstruction in the 2008 case and the changed circumstances with the alleged victim, it is likely that prosecutors were able to lodge federal charges.
He said that the state case has some unfairness. There was an agreement that justice was not served in that case.
After the New York conviction, DeRogatis questioned the worth of another Chicago trial. Kelly will spend the rest of his life in prison.
The systems that allowed him to exploit his fame to prey on girls and young women should not be tied up. It is going to traumatize everyone involved.
Legal experts said there is still value in the second trial. Kelly is appealing his conviction in New York. A second conviction in Chicago could give the government a bit of a "safety net" to make sure he stays in prison, according to a former federal prosecutor.
Even if Kelly has been convicted of other charges, justice delayed is not justice denied.
He hopes that any crime that has evidence will be fully prosecuted.