Reuters reports that R. Kelly went to court on Monday as jury selection began in his sex trafficking trial in Brooklyn, where a conviction could result in decades in prison for the Grammy-winning R&B singer.
Federal prosecutors charged Kelly, 54, with leading an entourage of managers, bodyguards, and others to recruit women and girls for him to have sex with and abuse and to produce pornography, including child pornography.
Kelly has pleaded not guilty to a nine-count indictment that includes accusations of racketeering, bribery, extortion, and demanding “absolute commitment” from victims, isolating them from friends and family and requiring they call him “Daddy.”
His head now shaved, Kelly wore a blue suit and tie and light blue shirt in appearing before U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers questioned dozens of potential jurors, behind closed doors and in open court.
One prospective juror was excused after saying he was raised Christian and would have “some difficulty” with testimony about sexual activity between people of the same gender.
While most of Kelly’s accusers are women, Donnelly has said an alleged male victim can testify that Kelly sexually abused him. The trial begins on Aug. 18 and may last several weeks.
Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, has been jailed for more than two years.
Sexual abuse allegations have dogged Kelly since the 1990s when he recorded such hits as “I Believe I Can Fly,” for which he won three Grammy awards, and “Bump n’ Grind.”
Prosecutors also charged Kelly with bribing an Illinois official to obtain fake identification for Jane Doe #1, the singer Aaliyah, in 1994 when she was 15 and he was 27, showing her age as 18 so they could get married secretly.
Donnelly will let prosecutors try to show Kelly and Aaliyah, who died in 2001, had sexual contact.
Prosecutors have said Kelly believed Aaliyah had become pregnant and got married so she, as his wife, would not have to testify if he were criminally charged