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R. Kelly trial enters second day of testimony

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Chicago-born R&B star R. Kelly’s trial on conspiracy and child-pornography charges is set to enter its second day of testimony Thursday at the downtown federal courthouse.

Prosecutors outlined their case against the 55-year-old singer and his two co-defendants, former manager Derrel McDavid and ex-employee Milton “June” Brown, in blunt terms during opening statements Wednesday.

“The defendant, Robert Kelly, had sex with multiple children,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Julien said. “He made videotapes of himself having sex with children. And these two defendants, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, knew about it.”

Kelly is accused of making multiple videotapes of himself engaged in sex acts with underage girls, including a video of the singer having sex with a then 14-year-old at his former Lincoln Park home in the late 1990s —the same tape at the heart of Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial in state court. The now 37-year-old woman on the video, identified in court by the pseudonym “Jane,” will testify, Julien said in his opening statement Wednesday.

That woman denied she was on the video and declined to testify in Kelly’s 2008 state court trial, after which he was acquitted.

Kelly’s attorney Jennifer Bonjean noted in her opening statement that the girl and her family had for more than two decades denied that the singer had done anything inappropriate with her. Bonjean also alleged that several other prosecution witnesses had tried to blackmail Kelly.

Prosecutors “waited decades to bring this case in a mob justice climate where hashtag movements tell us what we should and should not believe,” Bonjean said.

McDavid’s attorney, Vadim Glozman, said that decades ago, his client was merely following instructions from Kelly’s all-star legal team, including legendary defense attorneys Ed Genson and celebrity private eye Jack Paladino.

In the early 2000s, Kelly’s advisors were struggling to head off a brewing scandal as sex tapes of Kelly appeared to have been leaked by a jilted former employee. A search for the tapes and a series of payoffs took place, but McDavid and Kelly’s lawyers believed the allegations that the women on the tapes were underage were false, Glozman said. McDavid never watched the tapes, and had been told that the alleged victim and her parents denied the girl was the one on the tape, the defense attorney added.

McDavid “did what they directed him to do, he followed their directions,” Glozman told jurors. “He did it because he was R. Kelly’s business manager and it was his job.”

Brown, who is charged with setting up payments for tapes that prosecutors say show Kelly sexually abusing minors, was likewise doing his job as one of Kelly’s many assistants, a role in which he knew little more about Kelly’s life than did members of the general public, his defense attorney Kathleen Leon said.

“Milton Brown had little knowledge about [Kelly’s] private life, much less his most-guarded secrets,” Leon said. “He had no knowledge of who his employer really was.”

Testimony opened Wednesday, with prosecutors calling an expert witness on the “grooming” practices pedophiles use to target underage victims. The fed’s second witness was a representative of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, who confirmed Kelly’s three Grammy wins and 12 nominations, and that he performed his hit “I Believe I Can Fly” at the 1998 Grammy Awards show.

Also on the stand Wednesday was retired Chicago Police detective Dan Everett, who testified to investigating an anonymous tip that Kelly was having sex with a minor in the fall of 2000. Everett said he interviewed Jane, then about 14 years old, and her parents, who denied the allegations. In 2002, Everett did a search of Kelly’s home after he said former Sun-Times music critic Jim DeRogatis turned over a tape of Kelly with a “young-looking female,” whom he recognized as Jane.

That tape, which was played repeatedly for jurors in Kelly’s 2008 trial, was entered into evidence but has so far not been shown to the jury in his federal trial.


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