Jury selection started Monday in Brooklyn, New York for the R. Kelly sex abuse trial.
The Grammy-winning artist has been awaiting trial for two years after multiple delays because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The “I Believe I Can Fly” singer-songwriter is charged with kidnapping, racketeering, forced labor and child sex charges over nearly two decades.
Federal prosecutors allege he ran a criminal ring where his handlers and other employees recruited women and underage girls for sex, as well as obtained a fake ID for the late singer Aaliyah when she was 15, so the two could get married. Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
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Out of the hundreds of potential jurors that have been summoned, 12 jurors and six alternates will be selected for the federal trial.
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the public and the media will not be allowed inside the courtroom and members of the media will only be allowed to see the court proceedings through a video feed in a separate room.
Jury members will be spread throughout the courtroom gallery to ensure social distancing. Due to the highly-publicized trial, Judge Ann M. Donnelly has asked for jurors to be partially sequestered and to remain anonymous.
Testimony in the trial is slated to begin on Aug. 18. Court TV will be broadcasting gavel-to-gavel coverage.
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Several accusers are expected to testify, however, a judge has ruled that the women will only be referred to by their first names.
Kelly, 54, additionally faces federal and state charges in Illinois.
The singer was previously indicted on 13 counts of child pornography, but was acquitted of all charges in 2008.
He began to face renewed scrutiny when the Lifetime documentary series Surviving R. Kelly premiered in January 2019. The series addressed claims that the R&B singer had sex with numerous underage girls, and abused his ex-wife, Andrea Kelly. The superstar singer has repeatedly denied the claims.
Kelly has been jailed in Illinois since 2019, but was moved last month to the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn to face trial.