R&B star R. Kelly gained weight and lost money while he awaits a sex-trafficking trial that starts in earnest next week, his lawyers said Tuesday (August 3) at a court hearing. The revelations came as U.S. District Judge Ann M. Donnelly in New York made a series of rulings to narrow down what evidence can be shown to jurors.
She mostly ruled for prosecutors but said some evidence will be excluded because it is too similar to other parts of the case aimed at showing Kelly engaged in racketeering in pursuit of women and girls he could abuse. The Grammy-winning, multiplatinum-selling R&B singer is accused of leading an enterprise of managers, bodyguards and other employees who helped him recruit women and girls for sex, sometimes at concerts and other venues. He has pleaded not guilty to racketeering, bribery, coercion, enticement and sex trafficking.
Devereaux Cannick, one of his lawyers, told the judge that Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, needs to be measured for new clothing because he’s gained so much weight in jail. And he asked that court transcripts be provided at no cost because Kelly has been unable to work for two years. “His funds are depleted,” Cannick said of a client who left the courtroom after the hearing with his hands cuffed. “It’s going to be a long trial,” Donnelly said after prosecutors outlined their plans to call numerous witnesses, including women who say they were sexually abused, physically abused and coerced to do things for Kelly’s pleasure.
The judge said the 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 had 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 already filled out questionnaires aimed at ensuring they have no biases that would affect their judgment. They will begin answering questions next Monday. Kelly, is known for work including the 1996 hit “I Believe I Can Fly” and the cult classic “Trapped in the Closet,” a multipart tale of sexual betrayal and intrigue. Kelly’s sex life has drawn scrutiny since the 1990s, and he also is facing sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota. He has pleaded not guilty.
The judge in New York ruled last week that the public and the media will be banned from the 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, one of Kelly’s lawyers, 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.