trial run

All Your Questions About R. Kelly’s Chicago Federal Trial, Answered

Robert Sylvester Kelly. Photo: E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Image

R. Kelly will go on trial in Chicago federal court on August 15, 2022, his second federal trial in less than one year. The 55-year-old “I Believe I Can Fly” singer faces child pornography and obstruction of justice charges in relation to five alleged victims. Federal prosecutors in this case said that Kelly had sexual encounters with these accusers when they were under 18 years old — and recorded these incidents on video. These alleged sex crimes took place in the late 1990s and early 2000s. When the charges came down against Kelly, prosecutors said, “This indictment demonstrates our office’s commitment to holding individuals such as Kelly accountable for criminal sexual abuse of minors, protecting the victims of such crimes, and punishing those who obstruct law enforcement investigations.” Earlier this summer, on June 29, 2022, the disgraced performer was hit with a 30-year prison sentence in his Brooklyn federal court racketeering and sex crimes case.

While there are definitely some similarities between Kelly’s Chicago case and proceedings in Brooklyn — they’re about the sexual abuse of minors — there are some dramatic differences as well. Two of Kelly’s alleged co-conspirators, Darryl McDavid and Milton “June” Brown, will face trial alongside Kelly in his Chicago trial. They’re accused of trying to clean up Kelly’s alleged misdeeds — and help him thwart his 2008 child pornography trial in Chicago, which ended in his acquittal. These alleged cover-up attempts included coordinating payments to accusers and a potential whistleblower. McDavid and Brown have pleaded not guilty. Kelly has stuck by his not guilty plea, despite his conviction and three-decade prison sentence from his Brooklyn case. Here’s what you need to know about R. Kelly’s Chicago federal trial.

What is R. Kelly accused of, exactly?

A lot. In his Chicago case, Kelly is accused of produced and received child pornogaphy as well as lured minors into engaging in sexual activity. Charging documents accuse Kelly of having sexual encounters with five minors and recording some of his alleged abuse on “multiple videos.” In addition, Kelly is accused of plotting to intimidate victims and hide evidence to “obstruct law enforcement.” This includes his alleged efforts to derail his 2008 state child pornography trial in Chicago.

Who are the people on trial with Kelly?

When Kelly’s Chicago federal court indictment was revealed, it also charged two of his ex-employees, Derrell McDavid and Milton Brown, who’s known as June Brown. McDavid and Brown were both charged with conspiracy to receive child pornography. McDavid, who used to work for Kelly, also stands accused of conspiracy to obstruct justice. So what, exactly, does this mean?

According to charging paperwork, in 2001 Kelly and McDavid started paying off an acquaintance “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to scoop up recordings that had gone missing “for the purpose of concealing and covering up their existence.” However, the acquaintance allegedly decided later on to have a press conference in 2008 where he would disclose that he collected these videos. Kelly and McDavid, as well as unspecified “others,” then gave him about $170,000 to cancel the event. The duo agreed to pay one of Kelly’s alleged victims and another unidentified person for working to return the recordings “but only after they took polygraph examinations to confirm they returned all copies in their possession,” the charges allege.

The charging documents also outline how Kelly and McDavid tried to keep “Minor 1,” the girl in his 2008 trial, from coming forward. Kelly allegedly directed her to lie to cops when they first suspected wrongdoing in the early 2000s. Kelly and McDavid are also accused of telling the girl’s father to lie to grand jurors about the videotape. The Feds also claim that Kelly and McDavid made payments to the girl and her family from 2000 to 2015 to keep them from discussing the encounter. “The case against Mr. McDavid is essential [sic] a case against the legal team that defended R. Kelly in 2008,” Vadim A. Glozman, who represents McDavid, said. “He was doing what he thought was in the best interest of his client, at the direction of his lawyers. He did nothing wrong or improper and we intended to prove that at trial.” Brown’s attorney did not want to comment at this time.

Back up. What was this other Chicago trial?

Kelly drew the attention of authorities in the late 1990s, years after he became a superstar. According to a Chicago Sun Times article by Jim DeRogatis and Abdon M. Pallasch, police started to probe whether Kelly and a girl, identified in Chicago federal court papers as “Minor 1”, were having sexual encounters. The minor and her parents denied any sexual activity. In April 2000, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services began to investigate whether the superstar was committing sexual abuse against “Minor 1,” according to charging paperwork. DeRogatis and Pallasch reported in December 2000 that Kelly “used his position of fame and influence as a pop superstar to meet girls as young as 15 and have sex with them.” About two years later, DeRogatis received a tape in his mailbox allegedly showing Kelly having sex with this minor, per the New York Times. In June 2002, Kelly was charged in Chicago state court with 21 counts of child pornography, in relation to what the Feds describe as “Video 1 and Minor 1.” Now, this language is very important, as it shows the overlap between the Chicago trial some 20 years ago and the 2022 proceedings. In the 2019 Chicago federal indictment, prosecutors are charging Kelly in relation to the minor and video from his trial two decades ago. The Feds also say that about one year before the 2008 trial, McDavid and Brown tried to pay someone for videotapes showing Kelly allegedly having sex with “Minor 1.”

The girl in Kelly’s prior Chicago case, “Minor Victim 1,” refused to testify against him at that trial, leading to his notorious acquittal in 2008. Her willingness to come forward has apparently changed, however. According to reports, she has cooperated with the Feds in these recent federal proceedings. She is expected to testify, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

If Kelly was convicted, why are words like “allegedly” being used to describe the Chicago case?

In short, the cases are different. On October 27, 2021, Kelly was convicted of one racketeering count and eight Mann Act counts in his Brooklyn federal court case. The Mann Act is a statute that prohibits transporting persons across state borders for illicit sexual activity. Kelly’s charges in his Brooklyn case involved six women: Pace Pace, Jane, Stephanie, Sonja, Faith, and Aaliyah. The Chicago case involves child pornography and obstruction charges, of which Kelly has not been convicted. In other words, he was found guilty in Brooklyn of one set of crimes, but at present he is presumed innocent of the charges in his Chicago federal case. Meanwhile, Kelly also faces state sex crime charges in Illinois and allegations of prostitution with an underage person in Minnesota, according to the New York Times.

Where is Kelly now?

Kelly has been locked up since the federal indictments came down in 2019. He is presently in a Chicago federal jail. Kelly’s lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, has filed paperwork indicating that they will appeal his Brooklyn conviction. Bonjean did not respond to a request for comment.

R. Kelly’s Second Federal Trial Starts This Week