A federal court judge in Brooklyn began the jury selection process for R. Kelly on Monday, marking the official start to his long-awaited New York trial.
Kelly is facing multiple charges of trafficking and federal racketeering related to decades of alleged sexual abuse. Prosecutors say Kelly operated his sex trafficking ring like a criminal enterprise, relying on the people who worked for him to facilitate it.
In the final days leading up to this month’s trial, the judge presiding over Kelly’s New York case has also allowed prosecutors to submit new evidence against the disgraced singer. At the end of July, they filed court documents including allegations that Kelly abused a 17-year-old boy he met at a McDonald’s in 2006, and later invited back to his Chicago recording studio. The documents say Kelly had “sexual contact” with the boy while he was still a minor, asking him how far he would go to launch a career in the music industry. Kelly attorneys asked the judge to reject the evidence, arguing that the defense would not have an “adequate opportunity to assess the evidence,” but the judge granted prosecutors’ request last week.
“The evidence is certainly relevant because it demonstrates the methods that were used to perpetuate the (enterprise),” the judge said at a pretrial press conference.
The evidence will significantly change the scope of the trial for Kelly: In addition to the allegations that he abused boys as well as young women and girls, the court documents reportedly add 15 new victims to the case. In the July filings, prosecutors said they believed their findings would help convince a jury that the other allegations against Kelly were “part of a larger pattern” of criminal behavior.
Whatever the outcome of Kelly’s New York trial, he still faces another in Chicago, where he faces more federal charges for the alleged sex abuse of minors, and then additional indictments in Cook County. Opening statements begin on Aug. 18, according to Variety.