Jury selection can begin in R. Kelly’s long-delayed child pornography trial, a judge ruled Friday.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Vincent Gaughan denied a defense motion to again postpone the trial in which the Grammy-winning R&B singer is accused of having sex with a girl as young as 13 on videotape. The trial has been delayed for six years.
Defense attorney Marc Martin told the court the jury pool was “irrevocably poisoned” by an article in Friday’s Chicago Sun-Times citing unnamed sources talking about a potential witness.
But prosecutors contended it was premature to say the article affected potential jurors and that if any were tainted, they could be weeded out during the selection process.
Publicity surrounding the case has heated up and some media has speculated about who might testify.
Kelly didn’t acknowledge the crowd Friday morning as he walked into the courthouse with several other people and a videographer. Raucous onlookers shouted “I love you” and “R. Kelly’s a pedophile.”
Prosecutors will have to surmount several hurdles if they hope to prevail.
Chief among them is that the alleged victim, now 23, says it wasn’t her. And Kelly’s lawyers — including prominent Chicago attorney Ed Genson — haven’t admitted it’s Kelly in the video.
The 41-year-old Kelly, who has pleaded not guilty, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
The centerpiece of the trial is the video footage, which Gaughan ruled may be shown in open court.
Prosecutors claim the videotape was made sometime between Jan. 1, 1998, and Nov. 1 2000, and that the girl was born in September 1984. Kelly was indicted on pornography charges June 5, 2002, after the tape surfaced.
It is unclear whether prosecutors have asked — or would be allowed — to tell jurors about accusations that Kelly allegedly had sexual relations with other minors, because some of the trial
proceedings have been kept secret by the judge.
Media outlets, including The Associated Press, have filed a motion seeking to get court records and hearing transcripts unsealed. Gaughan said Thursday he would rule on that motion May
Once the trial gets under way, it is expected to last at least several weeks.
Although he won a Grammy in 1997 for the gospel-like song “I Believe I Can Fly,” Kelly’s biggest hits are sexually charged songs like “Bump N’ Grind,” “Ignition” and his current single, “Hair Braider.”
He is due to release a new album in July.