After several delays, jury selection has begun in R. Kelly’s sex trafficking trial.
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly began questioning hundreds of potential jurors in federal court in Brooklyn on Monday (Aug. 9) about whether they can keep an open mind about the 54-year-old singer, who is accused of abusing women and girls for two decades. The judge reminded them that Kelly was presumed innocent and that they should not allow bad publicity to influence their judgement.
The 12 jurors and six alternates selected will be the only members of the public with an in-person view of the criminal trial. They will be required to wear masks and will be spread out among the gallery where media and members of the public generally sit.
Day 1 of R. Kelly jury selection: The singer's lawyers say giving someone herpes is not a crime, and one juror said he thought this whole thing was about the cartoonist R. Crumb.
— Jacob Shamsian (@JayShams) August 9, 2021
In what CNN describes an “an unusual move for a trial of this magnitude,” the public and press will be unable to watch the trial in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the media will be restricted to overflow courtrooms with video feeds.
In Monday’s court filing, lawyers for Kelly asked the judge to dismiss charges related to the singer giving two accusers herpes, saying it’s not against New York law.
Kelly has been behind bars in Chicago since he was detained in July 2019. He was moved last month to the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn to face trial for racketeering and sex trafficking charges.
Opening arguments are expected to begin Aug. 18 and the trial may last between six and eight weeks. Kelly, who has denied the charges, faces decades in prison if convicted.
Kelly is also facing criminal trial in Chicago, including recent allegations that he sexually abused a 17-year-old boy he met at a McDonald’s.