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Judge orders anonymous, partially sequestered jury in R. Kelly’s Brooklyn trial

November 2, 2020 Editorial Staff
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U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly has ordered an anonymous and partially sequestered jury in the federal racketeering and sex trafficking case of pop star R. Kelly in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Kelly, who is currently behind bars in Chicago, faces charges in New York, Illinois and Minnesota.

Brooklyn federal prosecutors have charged him with a scheme in which he and his associates invited women and underage girls to have sex with him after concerts, then allegedly kept them away from friends and family and made them financially dependent on him. Kelly has denied all of the charges.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn had asked for an anonymous, partially sequestered jury “because the trial is expected to garner overwhelming media attention, the defendant has both the incentive and the means to interfere with the jury though bribery or intimidation, the defendant and his associates have attempted to obstruct justice in the past, and the jury will likely perceive the defendant as dangerous based on the evidence presented at trial.”

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Brooklyn Federal Judge Ann Donnelly was sworn in in 2016. Photo: Rob Abruzzese/Brooklyn Eagle

Kelly and his attorneys had argued that the federal government had not proven that the jurors would be at risk during the trial and that withholding potential jurors’ personal information would hinder their effort to hold a proper voir dire.

The feds, however, charged that Kelly and his associates have tried to obstruct justice in the past. They said that during Kelly’s 2008 trial in Chicago, which ended in an acquittal, one of Kelly’s associates “had access to a juror” and Kelly allegedly asked this associate to make contact with the juror.

In addition, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the government recently arrested three men who it said have attempted to harass, intimidate and bribe government witnesses from testifying. One of those men allegedly threatened to blow up a Manhattan movie theater if it showed a film about R. Kelly, while another allegedly set a witness’ car on fire.

Moreover, the judge said, Kelly has “the means and influence” to influence jurors. Even if this doesn’t happen, the case has been very well publicized, and friends, relatives and other people may try to influence them, she said.

The jurors will be sequestered during lunch and other breaks, and escorted to and from the courthouse every day by U.S. marshals.

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