Aug. 12 (UPI) — Jurors were selected Wednesday for the New York City sex trafficking trial of R&B singer R. Kelly.
The panel of seven men and five women were sworn in after they were screened by U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly in federal court in Brooklyn.
Donnelly sought assurances that the jurors would remain impartial despite media coverage of the accusations against the singer, born Robert Sylvester Kelly.
Some of the jurors told her they were mainly aware of Kelly, 54, for his 1996 song “I Believe I Can Fly” and knew little or nothing about the case.
The public and media will not be permitted to watch the trial in person as Donnelly denied a request to have even a limited pool of reporters in the courtroom citing a need to spread out jurors and adding it would be “inappropriate to seat the jurors with members of the public, including reporters, even if there were adequate space.”
Open statements and testimony are set to begin Aug. 18 and jurors will remain anonymous and partially sequestered. The trial may last between six and eight weeks.
Kelly faces charges accusing him of sexual and physical abuse, child pornography, paying hush-money, and racketeering. Prosecutors said he 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 him.
Federal prosecutors in New York and Illinois originally charged Kelly in 2019, but multiple delays — including COVID-19 — put off the trial proceedings and he has been in custody for more than two years.