R. Kelly’s federal sex trafficking and racketeering case in Brooklyn will be heard by an anonymous and partially sequestered jury, according to a newly unsealed decision.
US District Judge Ann Donnelly issued the ruling on Oct. 8, but it was only made public on Friday.
“The government has established that empaneling an anonymous and partially sequestered jury is warranted,” wrote Donnelly.
She said marshals would escort jurors in and out of the Brooklyn federal courthouse each day and sequester them during all breaks to protect them from outside influence. They will still be able to go home at the end of the day.
She pointed to the allegations in the indictment that accuse Kelly of heading up a criminal enterprise for 24 years designed “to promote the defendant’s music, to recruit women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity with the defendant and to produce child pornography.”
The jailed songbird, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is charged in a separate indictment in Illinois “with participating in a long-running conspiracy to obstruct justice and receive child pornography,” she wrote.
In these cases, the singer allegedly silenced witnesses through bribes, blackmail and threats. She added that the intense media scrutiny was another factor in her decision.
She said she had to take seriously the possibility that “social media will become a tool for the harassment and intimidation of the jurors should their identities be made public.”
Prosecutors, who had requested an anonymous, partially sequestered jury, argued that the “I Believe I Can Fly” crooner and his cronies have a long history of trying to obstruct justice.
During his 2008 child pornography trial in Chicago, which ended in an acquittal, Brooklyn federal prosecutors said in court papers that he personally played a role in trying to influence the jury.
They added that three Kelly associates were recently arrested by the feds for allegedly trying to harass and bribe witnesses in a bid to silence them in his Brooklyn case.
The defense countered that withholding the panelists’ names, addresses and employers would hurt the defense’s ability to meaningfully question them during the jury selection process.
Further, the attorneys said the government hadn’t sufficiently proven that Kelly’s conduct posed a risk to jurors. The defense did not object to the partial sequestering.
Kelly has been held without bail in Chicago since his arrest last year — a decision he has unsuccessfully appealed at least three times. The celebrity inmate has had a rough time in the slammer. In August, another prisoner allegedly tried to stab him with a pen in his jail cell.
Kelly’s defense lawyer, Steven Greenberg, didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
There is still no firm trial date.