Aug. 9 (UPI) — A criminal trial that accuses R&B singer R. Kelly of trafficking women and girls for sex for decades is scheduled to begin in New York City on Monday with the start of jury selection.
The singer, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, faces numerous charges in the case, including sexual and physical abuse, child pornography, paying hush-money and racketeering.
Twelve jurors and six alternates will be chosen for his trial in federal court in Brooklyn.
Jurors will be anonymous and partially sequestered for the trial and Judge Ann Donnelly ordered that the courtroom will be closed to the public.
Federal prosecutors in New York and Illinois originally charged Kelly in 2019, but multiple delays — including COVID-19 — put off the trial proceedings.
Opening arguments are scheduled to begin on Aug. 18 and the trial is expected to last between six and eight weeks.
Kelly, 54, has pleaded not guilty to a number of charges of abusing girls and women for over two decades, kidnapping, forced labor, sex trafficking, making hush-payments to alleged victims and building a criminal enterprise with the purpose of preying on children.
Prosecutors say Kelly was head of a trafficking enterprise that consisted of managers, bodyguards, drivers and personal assistants who recruited women and girls to engage in sexual activity with Kelly.
Defense attorneys have argued that it was the women who sought out the singer, and only began to accuse him of abuse with the rise of the #MeToo movement around 2018.
Last month, prosecutors brought more evidence and charges to the case that said Kelly abused teenage girls, and a 17-year-old boy, as far back as 1992.
Prosecutors also charged Kelly for bribing a police officer to make a fake ID in 1994 for singer and ex-wife Aaliyah, who was 15 at the time.
The singer has been in custody for more than two years. A year ago, Kelly was attacked in his jail cell and three men linked to him were charged with trying to influence victims’ testimony.
Kelly also faces a similar trial in Chicago after his New York trial is complete. In 2008, he was acquitted in a separate case that indicted him on child pornography charges.