The trial of R&B superstar R. Kelly is set to begin with jury selection Aug. 9 in Brooklyn’s federal court. Here are some key people involved in the trial:
Robert Sylvester Kelly, 54, is a Grammy-winning singer/songwriter from Chicago known for hits like “Bump N’ Grind,” “Step in the Name of Love” and “Ignition (Remix).” He won three Grammys in February 1998 for the anthem “I Believe I Can Fly” from the “Space Jam” soundtrack.
He also produced “You Are Not Alone” for Michael Jackson and performed at the opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002. Later that year, a Cook County grand jury indicted Kelly on 21 counts of child pornography. He would later be acquitted at trial in 2008.
But Cook County prosecutors filed new aggravated criminal sexual abuse charges against him in February 2019. Then, in July 2019, federal prosecutors revealed their own indictments against Kelly in Chicago and Brooklyn. The Chicago indictment alleges that Kelly obstructed justice in his 2008 trial in Cook County. In New York, Kelly is charged with racketeering. The indictment there alleges Kelly led an “enterprise” made up of his managers, bodyguards, drivers and other employees who helped him recruit women and girls for illegal sex.
New to the R. Kelly case?
Need a refresher on what’s happened so far?
Check out these links for everything you need to know about Kelly’s federal trial in Brooklyn.
- A timeline of Kelly’s alleged criminal activity according to federal prosecutors and previous reporting from the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Short bios of everyone involved in the trial.
- Glossary of key trial terms.
- Archival stories on Kelly from the Sun-Times starting in 1994.
- Where to find the most recent coverage of the Brooklyn trial.
Kelly’s Defense Team
Here’s a look at who will be representing Kelly.
Farinella joined Kelly’s defense team shortly after Kelly’s arrest on federal charges in 2019. Farinella’s experience in federal court largely involves bankruptcy cases filed in New York, records show. He handled arguments before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals challenging Kelly’s detention in 2020, though the court ruled against Kelly. He also once represented a former underboss of the Gambino crime family in an unsuccessful bid for a sentence reduction, records show. The government in that case was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez, who is now on the Kelly prosecution team.
Nicole Blank Becker
Becker previously worked as a prosecutor running the sex crimes and child abuse units in Macomb County, Mich., according to her website. Now in private practice, she advertises as a defense attorney focused solely on sex crimes.
Cannick previously worked for the Bronx District Attorney’s office in New York and has been involved in additional high-profile cases there, according to his website.
Scholar has handled personal injury, civil rights and employment discrimination cases, among others. He is a former Westchester County, New York, prosecutor who served as deputy chief for the homicide bureau and chief of the bias crimes unit there, according to his website.
Here’s who will be representing the federal government in the case against Kelly.
Geddes is a longtime assistant U.S. attorney whose previous experience involves the federal racketeering prosecution of members of the Colombo crime family of La Cosa Nostra in New York, records show.
Maria Cruz Melendez
Melendez is deputy chief of the civil rights section for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York. She successfully argued in 2015 against a sentence reduction for a former underboss of the Gambino crime family, according to court records. Thomas Farinella, a member of Kelly’s defense team, represented the defendant at the time. She also helped prosecute a former New York assistant district attorney for an illegal wiretapping scheme.
An assistant U.S. attorney who has also been involved in the prosecution of members of the Colombo crime family in New York, Shihata also previously helped prosecute a former New York police officer for extortion and a former federal prison guard for sexual abuse.
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly
Donnelly is a U.S. District judge in the Eastern District of New York. Originally from Michigan, she was nominated to the position by President Obama in January 2015 and confirmed by the Senate in October 2015. She previously served as a state court judge and prosecutor in New York.
Jane Doe #1/Aaliyah Haughton
Jane Doe #1 in Kelly’s racketeering indictment has been publicly identified as Haughton, the young protégé who Kelly married in 1994. Haughton released her debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number,” with Kelly’s help that same year. Kelly’s indictment alleges Kelly and others had a public employee bribed to obtain a fake ID for Haughton around the time of their Aug. 31, 1994, marriage. She was 15 at the time. Haughton died in a plane crash seven years later, on Aug. 25, 2001.
Jane Doe #2
Kelly is accused of illegal conduct with Jane Doe #2, who met Kelly in 1999 when she was 16 after a member of Kelly’s entourage approached her at a fast-food restaurant. Prosecutors say Kelly filmed their sexual intercourse multiple times, creating child pornography. They also say she has not spoken publicly about her experience with Kelly.
Jane Doe #3
Prosecutors say Jane Doe #3 met Kelly at a mall outside of Illinois in 2003 or 2004 while she was working as a radio station intern in her early 20s. Kelly allegedly invited the woman to travel to Chicago for an interview. Once in town, she was directed to a recording studio and then to a bedroom. She was told to sign a nondisclosure agreement, not to talk to anyone and to keep her head down, prosecutors say.
They said she spent three days in the locked bedroom without sustenance. Then, when a member of Kelly’s entourage gave her food and drink, she became tired and dizzy. Prosecutors say she woke up with Kelly in the bedroom “in circumstances that made clear he had sexually assaulted her while she was unconscious.”
Prosecutors say she has not spoken publicly about her experiences with Kelly.
Jane Doe #4
Kelly allegedly had a months-long sexual relationship with Jane Doe #4 starting in May 2009, when she was 16. Kelly allegedly made photos and videos of Jane Doe #4 engaging in sexual intercourse with Kelly and others.
He also allegedly led her to believe that she or members of her family would suffer serious harm if she did not perform sex acts on him and others. Kelly allegedly engaged in physical and psychological abuse when she disobeyed him by slapping and choking her, and isolating her in rooms for days at a time with no food.
Prosecutors say Jane Doe #4 appeared in the Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” and her circumstances are similar to those of Jerhonda Pace, who was featured prominently in the show.
Jane Doe #5
Jane Doe #5 has been previously identified as Azriel Clary, a former Kelly girlfriend who lived with him and Joycelyn Savage in Chicago’s Trump Tower. She has spoken publicly about her relationship with Kelly, including in a March 2019 interview with CBS’ Gayle King. Prosecutors allege Kelly had sex with her in April, May, September and October of 2015 when she was under the age of 18.
Jane Doe #6
Prosecutors say Jane Doe #6 met Kelly when she was 19. In May 2017, Kelly allegedly had her contact an assistant to arrange for her to attend one of his concerts in New York. Prosecutors allege that Kelly showed up at her hotel room unexpectedly in the early morning hours after the concert and had sex with her without a condom, failing to tell her he had herpes. They also had sexual encounters in January and February 2018, according to prosecutors.
The feds say Jane Doe #6 appeared in the Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” and her circumstances are similar to those of Faith Rodgers, who appeared in the show and filed a lawsuit against Kelly.
Joycelyn Savage lived with Kelly and Azriel Clary in Chicago’s Trump Tower. She has been named as a potential defense witness in Kelly’s racketeering case. Savage was charged with misdemeanor domestic battery following a fight with Clary inside Kelly’s Trump Tower condo in January 2020. Prosecutors said they dropped the battery charge in July 2020 after Clary said she did not want to go forward with the case.