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Jury selection for singer R. Kelly’s federal trial on allegations of child pornography and rigging his 2008 state trial kicked off Monday in Chicago in a trial that is expected to last up to four weeks.
Prospective jurors are being questioned on whether they watched the 2019 documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly,” about sex allegations against the R&B star.
R. Kelly’s defense wanted anyone who had seen the film to automatically be excluded from the jury pool, but U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber rejected that request. The judge did, however, quiz potential jurors on how much of the documentary they had watched, what they could recall about it and if they believed they could be impartial.
Jurors had been asked in a questionnaire already filled out if they had watched the documentary.
Of the approximately 60 prospective jurors the judge questioned, about half were dismissed. One of those dismissed was a woman who said she once took martial arts classes with R. Kelly’s children.
Jury selection is scheduled to resume on Tuesday.
The federal trial is viewed as a re-do of his 2008 state trial when a jury acquitted him of charges that he produced a video of himself having sex with a 14-year-old girl when he was 30. R. Kelly is also accused of threatening and paying off the victim and her parents in that trial in an effort to dissuade them from testifying. None of them ended up testifying.
Double jeopardy, which prohibits the prosecution of a defendant for the same crimes they were previously acquitted of, does not apply in this case because prosecutors are alleging different crimes related to the victim, including obstruction of justice.
The victim, who is now in her 30s, will be the government’s star witness in the federal trial. The trial will also include testimony from multiple other women who said they were abused by R. Kelly as minors.
This trial comes after the 55-year-old singer was sentenced in New York to 30 years in prison for a 2021 conviction on racketeering and sex trafficking in which he used his fame to sexually abuse other young fans. He is appealing that conviction.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.