Editor’s Note: This story contains language and descriptions that may be upsetting to some readers.
The girl allegedly seen in multiple child pornography tapes from the late 1990s having sex with R. Kelly is expected to testify the singer had sex with her when she was 14 and recorded some of their hundreds of sexual encounters, prosecutors said at the start of Kelly and two associates’ Chicago federal trial Wednesday.
The tapes showing the alleged encounters were part of a 2008 Illinois child pornography trial in which Kelly was acquitted after the witness declined to take the stand. Now nearly 40 years old, she is finally expected to testify, using the pseudonym “Jane,” said Assistant US Attorney Jason Julien during his opening statement.
“Jane’s going to testify. Jane’s going to tell you that it’s her on the videos,” Julien told jurors. “That it’s Kelly on the videos having sex with her.”
Kelly faces charges he sexually abused five minors in the late 1990s and created multiple explicit videos with four of them. The charges also include producing and receiving child pornography, enticing minors to engage in criminal sexual activity and obstruction charges.
Two of his former associates are co-defendants. Derrel McDavid was Kelly’s former business manager and accountant and faces child pornography and obstruction charges. Milton “June” Brown was Kelly’s former assistant and faces one count of conspiracy to receive child pornography. Kelly, McDavid and Brown each pleaded not guilty to the charges.
“The defendant Robert Kelly had sex with multiple children. He made videotapes of himself having sex with young children. And these two defendants Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown knew about it. Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown helped Kelly cover it up and keep it a secret,” Julien said.
Kelly’s attorney Jennifer Bonjean asked jurors to question why Jane is coming forward now to testify that the tapes show Kelly having sex with her when she was underage, contradicting what she told authorities decades ago.
“For the last 22 years she has adamantly denied that it was her in that video. Before there was any criminal investigation, she denied it. She denied it repeatedly to prosecutors, she denied it to social workers to police officers. She denied it under oath to a grand jury,” Bonjean said.
Prosecutors are expected to show multiple tapes of child pornography allegedly involving Kelly having sex with underage girls. The public and media will not be permitted to view the tapes, as they are considered contraband, but jurors will.
“The videos are difficult to watch,” Julien said. “But it’s important for you all to watch those videos to understand what happened.”
Before opening statements began, one juror was excused by US District Judge Harry Leinenweber due to medical issues. The jury is now made up of four men and eight women, along with five alternates, who were sworn in Tuesday.
The trial in Kelly’s hometown is the latest chapter in a series of legal battles the singer faces. Kelly was convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking charges at a Brooklyn federal trial in September and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Kelly’s inner circle
Both Milton Brown and Derrel McDavid began working with Kelly around the height of his career in the 1990s.
But when allegations began surfacing in 2001 that a tape had leaked showing Kelly having sex with a minor, prosecutors said the pair and others in Kelly’s inner circle sprang into action.
“Kelly, Brown and McDavid went through extraordinary lengths to get that tape back,” Julien said.
But Vadim Glozman, an attorney for McDavid, told jurors Kelly, Jane and her family were not truthful to McDavid and the team of high-powered entertainment lawyers and denied the recordings showed Kelly having sex with Jane when she was underage.
“We will show you that everything he (McDavid) saw and everything he was told led him to believe that the tape was not legitimate,” Glozman said. “Because he believed that, there was never any intention to obstruct justice or break the law. The only intention was to present the best defense possible.”
That defense team helped Kelly win his 2008 trial. Glozman said McDavid will take the stand at this trial to tell jurors what he did and did not do during that time, and that he believed he was simply doing his job.
In an opening statement, Kathleen Leon, an attorney for Brown, painted him as a small-town, high school dropout who was trying to break into the music industry and felt he hit the jackpot when he started working for Kelly as one of his assistants, an “errand boy.”
“Evidence will prove that he was just an assistant who, day in and day out fulfilled his employment duties,” Leon said. “He had no knowledge of the secrets that his employer Robert Kelly held close and hidden from the world. He had no knowledge of any conspiracy and no knowledge that the individual portrayed in the VHS tape was a minor.”
Disturbing videos of Jane
Prosecutors said Jane was from a musical family. Her aunt, known professionally as Sparkle, signed a recording contract with Kelly. Jane’s father played guitar on several of Kelly’s records.
“Kelly became Jane’s family’s only source of income,” Julien told jurors.
Jane met Kelly when she was about 12 or 13 years old in the mid 1990s, and the singer eventually became her godfather.
“Kelly never became Jane’s godfather in a religious sense,” Julien said. “But being Jane’s ‘godfather’ provided cover for spending time with her.”
Jane was around 13 or 14 when Kelly took her virginity, Julien said. Kelly was about 31.
“Kelly taught Jane what to do to please Kelly sexually. Kelly told Jane how to position her body during sex. What he wanted Jane to say to him during sex,” Julien said.
One thing Kelly and Jane discussed during sex was her age, Julien said.
Julien said jurors will see Kelly setting up a camcorder and adjusting it before having sex with Jane, and offered a disturbing description of what the tapes show.
Prosecutors said Jane’s story was not an outlier in Kelly’s world, that he had sex with her underage friends, as well, who are also expected to testify at trial.