CHICAGO (CBS) — Federal prosecutors in New York want jurors’ names kept secret when R. Kelly goes on trial on sex crime charges there, arguing in part the embattled singer “has a history of obstructive conduct.”
The feds also argued jurors will hear evidence Kelly is “capable of inflicting violence,” which might affect their impartiality if they are aware their names will be public, and that significant media attention in the case might pressure the jury to reach a verdict based on factors other than the evidence.
“Multiple witnesses will testify that the defendant physically and violently assaulted them when they broke one of the defendant’s ‘rules’ and that they witnessed the defendant physical assault others as well for similar transgressions. In these circumstances, the fact that jurors are aware that their identities are publicly known may subtly and unconsciously impair their impartiality,” prosecutors wrote in their filing.
Federal prosecutors also said Kelly and his associates have a history of attempting to obstruct justice. They pointed to charges in a separate federal case in Chicago accusing Kelly of intimidating and bribing witnesses in his 2008 child pornography trial in Cook County, which ended in his acquittal.
In addition to seeking an anonymous jury, federal prosecutors want jurors partially sequestered during trial. Specifically, they have asked that jurors be required to eat lunch together every day, and be escorted in and out of the courthouse by federal marshals to keep them from mingling in the courthouse with the public or potential trial spectators.
Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, called the feds’ request for an anonymous jury “ridiculous,” saying prosecutors want to deny R. Kelly the same basic rights any other defendant has.
“They want to ensure that he is unable to select a fair jury. Of course we are going to oppose it,” Greenberg wrote in an email.
However, Kelly said he agrees with the request to partially sequester the jury.
“I wholeheartedly agree that they should be shielded from the outside influences of the #metoo movement,” he wrote.
Kelly, 53, faces sex crime charges in four separate jurisdictions in Chicago, New York, and Minnesota.
The federal charges in New York accuse Kelly of using his fame to recruit young women and girls for illegal sexual activity. The racketeering case also accuses him of kidnapping, sexual exploitation of a child, and forced labor. Jury selection in that case is now scheduled to begin on Sept. 29.
Federal prosecutors in Chicago have charged him with videotaping himself having sex with underage girls, and paying hush money and intimidating witnesses to cover up his crimes. That trial is scheduled for October.
Cook County prosecutors have charged Kelly with multiple counts of sexual assault and sexual abuse against four women years ago. The first of those trials is scheduled for September.
Minnesota prosecutors have charged him with engaging in prostitution with an underage girl. No trial date has been set in that case.
It’s unclear if any of Kelly’s trials will be held as currently scheduled, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
If convicted of all the charges, Kelly could face the rest of his life in prison.