Jury Selection Begins for R. Kelly: Who Might Testify? What Is He Charged With?

Jury selection begins Monday in Brooklyn for R. Kelly's upcoming trial in which the R&B singer faces multiple charges, including kidnapping, racketeering in relation to the sexual exploitation of children, forced labor and sex trafficking.

The 54-year-old Grammy winner—whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly—has been locked up since 2019 while awaiting four separate state and federal trials. The trial in Brooklyn is scheduled to start on August 18 following a week's break after jury selection and is anticipated to last between six and eight weeks.

If convicted in New York, Kelly faces up to 20 years in prison. He was previously acquitted in 2008 of child pornography charges in Illinois.

R. Kelly
Jury selection began on Monday for R. Kelly's trial in Brooklyn, New York. In this photo, Kelly is seen during a court appearance at Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Illinois, on June 6, 2019. Getty

In a filed indictment, prosecutors accuse Kelly of starting a criminal enterprise which, in addition to promoting his music, helped him "recruit women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity." The indictment lists multiple employees of Kelly who were allegedly part of this enterprise, such as managers, bodyguards and assistants.

Among the many allegations made against Kelly, prosecutors claim he took sexually explicit videos or photographs with multiple girls who were minors. He is also accused of keeping some women and girls in rooms for days at a time without food.

Hundreds of potential jurors will appear Monday in federal court, of which 12 jurors and six alternates will be selected. All other members of the public and media are barred from the criminal trial.

With COVID-19 cases rising throughout the country, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly made the announcement about banning the public from the courtroom during a pretrial hearing last Tuesday.

Donnelly said witnesses would testify from the jury box, while jurors would be socially distanced throughout the gallery where reporters and other members of the public would normally sit. The judge noted a video feed would be shown in a separate "overflow" room during the trial.

During the same pretrial hearing, Donnelly said jurors would not be asked about their vaccine status but would be required to wear masks.

A man identified as "John Doe #1" is expected to testify in Brooklyn that Kelly asked him to influence a juror in the 2008 Illinois case. The witness will reportedly testify that after he had informed Kelly he had access to a one of the jurors in that trial, Kelly asked him to try to influence the juror.

A man who alleges Kelly abused him when he was under the age of 18 is also expected to testify. He claims Kelly initially offered to mentor him in the music business before later having sexual contact with him.

Around half a dozen women and girls are involved in the charges made against Kelly in Brooklyn. Their names have not been made public. Some of them could testify in the August trial, though Judge Donnelly said only their first names would be made public if they take the stand.

A trial in Illinois will begin following the completion of the Brooklyn trail.

Kelly, who is currently in a federal facility in Brooklyn, has pleaded not guilty to all charges.