Jury selection for R. Kelly’s sexual trafficking trial is underway in New York City. The process began Monday after delays due to the pandemic and changes to the R&B singer’s legal team.
Almost two years after Kelly was initially charged with abusing women and girls for nearly two decades, potential jurors are being interviewed for the case, USA Today reported.
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly asked them whether they can keep an open mind about Kelly. Due to bad publicity swarming around about him, she reminded them that he’s presumed innocent regardless of coverage.
The screening was held in compliance with pandemic precautionary measures, preventing press and public from overflowing the courtroom and broadcasting the events. As a result, Kelly and the potential jurors weren’t clearly seen or heard, according to USA Today.
Questioning is set to continue today.
Kelly has been incarcerated since he was indicted in 2019. He’s been housed mostly in a federal jail in Chicago, but was moved to the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn last month to face trial.
The singer was initially charged with leading an operation of managers, bodyguards, and other employees to help him recruit women and girls for sex. Federal prosecutors claim the victims were selected at concerts and other venues and arranged to see Kelly.
Kelly denied those allegations and pleaded not guilty.
On the other hand, defense lawyers say the females involved were fans who came to the shows and expressed they “were dying to see him.” The accusations of abuse came years later during the rise of #MeToo, they said.
Recently, prosecutors accused Kelly of having sexual relations with a 17-year-old boy.
Jurors will hear the testimonies of several people who claimed they were abused, all of whom will be referred to by first name only.
Prosecutors are expected to bring forth evidence that Kelly secretly married singer Aaliyah when she was 15 years old and that he organized with others to buy her a fake ID. The marriage took place in 1994; Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001.
Though the trial was expected to start earlier in the year, opening statements were moved to August 18 after the artist fired his original lawyers.