A federal judge in New York has ruled that an alleged male victim of R. Kelly can testify about allegedly being sexually abused as a teen after meeting Kelly at a Chicago McDonald’s and hearing promises from the singer for help with his music aspirations.
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly ruled that the alleged victim, who was 17 when he contends he met Kelly in 2006, will be allowed on the witness stand at Kelly’s upcoming New York racketeering trial and be identified only by his first name.
“The evidence is certainly relevant because it demonstrates the methods that were used to perpetuate the (enterprise),” the judge said at Kelly’s final pretrial conference in Brooklyn on Tuesday.
Kelly, 54, was indicted in 2019 on racketeering charges alleging he ran a criminal enterprise that recruited women and underage girls for illegal sexual contact, then isolated and threatened them to keep them under control.
Prosecutors have alleged Kelly invited the boy to a party at his Chicago residence shortly after meeting him at an unspecified McDonald’s in the city. The boy attended with his parents, and Kelly “advised him to come without them to the next gathering,” prosecutors wrote in a recent court filing.
Kelly later invited the teen to his music studio “under the guise of helping and mentoring” him with his musical aspirations, prosecutors have alleged.
“Kelly also asked John Doe #1 what he was willing to do to succeed in the music business and clarified that he wanted John Doe #1 to engage in sexual contact with Kelly,” prosecutors alleged. “With that backdrop, Kelly then engaged in sexual contact with John Doe #1.
Prosecutors said Kelly also forced the boy to have sex with females as Kelly videotaped the acts. Kelly’s defense had resisted the government’s attempt to use the witness, arguing they didn’t have time to properly prepare and contemplate asking prospective jurors their opinions about homosexuality.
Donnelly also signaled Kelly may need to take the witness stand for the jury to hear about parts of his background that don’t involve the allegations against him.
Defense lawyers asked about introducing testimony of Kelly’s “prior good conduct,” the judge said he was free to talk about his past if he decides to testify, but any other character witnesses would be extremely limited.
“You’re not going to call a witness to say just generally he’s the greatest guy in the world,” the judge said.
Donnelly also ruled that witnesses who allege abuse can testify with only their first name given to jurors, who will sit in the gallery rather than the jury box because of a reconfigured courtroom tied to coronavirus restrictions.
Donnelly also said she will generally not allow questions aimed at revealing if any of the women have had mental health treatment. She said she will not allow the jurors to be told that one witness worked as an exotic dancer years after she said she was abused.
Also likely to be excluded from the trial is any testimony about religious beliefs or that some of the women were directed to have sex with one another, the judge said.
Prospective jurors have filled out questionnaires aimed at ensuring they have no biases that would affect their judgment. They will begin answering questions Monday.
The judge ruled last week that the public and the media will be banned from the New York courtroom after 12 news organizations asked that six reporters be permitted inside because watching a portion of the courtroom on monitors in two overflow rooms was insufficient and might not constitute an open proceeding. She cited the coronavirus restrictions.
As he left the courthouse Tuesday, Cannick was asked if the closing of the courtroom might be grounds for appeal if his client is convicted.
He smiled and said, “If there was a conviction, we’d use every error that was made” in an appeal.
Opening statements are scheduled for Aug. 18. The trial is expected to last at least a month.
Kelly, who is being held at a federal jail in Brooklyn, also faces charges in U.S. District Court in Chicago related to alleged sex abuse of minors, as well as separate indictments brought in Cook County.