Disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly is appealing one of his two federal convictions – his September 2021 guilty verdicts on sex trafficking and racketeering charges in New York – and is seeking a reversal of that conviction or a new trial, court documents show.
In a brief filed Wednesday, the singer’s attorneys argue at least four seated jurors in the New York case were already familiar with the sex trafficking accusations raised against R. Kelly prior to trial, with some having seen a documentary series about him.
“Numerous seated jurors were either familiar with accusations that Defendant had a history of sexually abusing underage girls, had previously faced legal problems, and/or had seen the highly unflattering docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, in which several government witnesses had appeared,” the brief said.
“Defense counsel did not move to disqualify jurors who admitted they had prejudged Defendant’s guilt or had gathered knowledge about the case from other sources,” it added.
“Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison in a New York federal court after a jury convicted him of nine counts, including one charge of racketeering and eight counts of violations of the Mann Act, a sex trafficking law. Prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York accused Kelly of using his status as a celebrity and a “network of people at his disposal to target girls, boys and young women for his own sexual gratification.”
Separately, R. Kelly earlier this year was sentenced to 20 years in prison in a Chicago federal courtroom following a 2022 conviction on charges of child pornography and enticement of a minor.
In their brief filed in the New York case this week, R. Kelly’s attorneys described his federal racketeering charge as “absurdly remote,” saying it aimed to prosecute him for “alleged misdeeds going back decades without pesky statutes of limitations obstacles.”
The federal statute under which R. Kelly was charged requires proof of an ongoing criminal enterprise. His attorneys allege the prosecution failed to show there was a “collective of individuals who shared any common purpose other than to promote” R. Kelly’s music.
“The government brought a (racketeering) prosecution against Defendant, not to remedy widespread criminal activity of an enterprise, but to punish one man whose alleged crimes could no longer be prosecuted by state and local agencies,” the brief says.
The attorneys also argue prosecutors “swamped the jury with excessive other bad act evidence” that should not have been allowed in the trial, including medical documents that detail R. Kelly’s contraction and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases; his alleged mistreatment of employees; audio in which he allegedly both verbally and physically assaulted his girlfriend, which they allege was unrelated to the case; and “audio and video-recordings of this conduct with women and men, some of whom never testified.”
After R. Kelly’s sentencing, the government seized nearly $28,000 from his trust account. He also was ordered to pay more than $360,000 in restitution to two separate women who alleged they had contracted herpes from him.
The singer’s attorneys are also seeking to vacate those orders and return the funds confiscated from his trust account.