Female Juror Suffers Panic Attack During Graphic R. Kelly Trial, Is Replaced by Man

The closing arguments mark an upsetting conclusion to a decades-long legal battle over the singer's child sexual abuse.

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Female Juror Suffers Panic Attack During Graphic R. Kelly Trial, Is Replaced by Man
Photo:Antonio Perez (Getty Images)

On Monday, when closing arguments in convicted sex offender R. Kelly’s child pornography trial began, a female juror was so overcome by the graphic details presented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Pozolo and another defense attorney that she suffered a panic attack. In order for the proceedings to continue, the unnamed woman was dismissed from the trial and swiftly swapped with a male juror.

“I’ve been advised she said she can’t go on one minute more,” U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber relayed to the court before the woman was replaced. The trial—Kelly’s second in the last year, which has spanned nearly a month as of now—featured horrifying testimony from four of Kelly’s accusers, including “Jane,” the now-37-year-old woman who admitted to being the 14-year-old girl from the videotape at the epicenter of Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial.

Kelly, alongside two former associates, was indicted on 13 counts of child pornography and obstruction of justice charges. Derrel McDavid, Kelly’s former business manager, has been accused of conspiring with the disgraced R&B singer to compromise his 2008 child pornography trial by intimidating and bribing witnesses and allegedly buying any videotapes that would incriminate Kelly of sexual abuse. Meanwhile, Milton “June” Brown, Kelly’s former assistant, is accused of receiving child pornography in exchange for his alleged role in obscuring video evidence of abuse.

“The truth has come out. Find the defendants guilty in all counts in the indictment,” Pozolo told the jury on Monday. “Robert Kelly abused many girls over many years…and he didn’t do it alone…the hidden side of Robert Kelly has come to light. The truth has come out.”

It’s been a lengthy legal battle to bring Kelly to justice—one that’s spanned decades and aided largely by activists and journalists. Music journalist Jim DeRogatis first began reporting on the allegations against Kelly in 2000. Back in June, Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison after being convicted on nine counts of sex-trafficking and racketeering in a New York City trial. Eleven of Kelly’s victims spoke at the sentencing hearing, including Lizette Martinez, who was prominently featured in the Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly and who told the court: “I do not know how to put a price on all I’ve gone through.”

In Chicago, four victims—each of whom testified under a pseudonym—delivered damning allegations, but Jane has long been considered by court-watchers to be the prosecution’s ace-in-the-hole. Jane recalled meeting Kelly when she was just “12 or 13 years old” at a gospel concert at her church. Like several of Kelly’s victims, Jane was a burgeoning performer with aspirations of becoming a singer. After Kelly attended one of her performances with her aunt, with whom he was in a relationship despite being married, Jane visited a recording studio with her aunt and Kelly. That day, he would ask her to “sit on his lap,” “rub his head” and “ask him to be her godfather.” Soon after, he prompted her to engage in phone sex, and by the time she turned 14, Kelly’s abuse became physical. Jane was coerced to engage in sex acts with other underage girls whom Kelly asked her to introduce him to. One year later, she testified that she “lost her virginity” to Kelly and “had sex” with him over 1oo times.

“I felt uncomfortable…but I looked up to him,” Jane testified. “It somewhat became normal.”

Sickeningly, videotaping his abuse of her also became normal—so much so that recordings were taken at his home, tour bus, and studio. Three of the videos—two of which showed Kelly urinating on her—were played in court as Jane wept. In one video, Kelly simulated paying Jane. When asked why, she testified: “because if anybody saw the tape…he wanted it to appear I was a prostitute.”

When one of the tapes leaked in 2002, Kelly and his business manager, McDavid, met with Jane and her parents in an attempt to get them “on his team” before police became involved. Ultimately, after Jane begged her parents not to speak to authorities, Kelly paid for them to take a trip to the Bahamas and Cancun. Years later, in 2008, the tape served as key evidence of abuse in Kelly’s child pornography trial. However, he was acquitted after Jane declined to testify. Federal prosecutors have maintained that she and her family were intimidated and bribed by Kelly and his associates to stay silent and deny that it was Jane on the tape.

Despite such testimony, Kelly’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, requested that jurors grant her client the benefit of anonymity—to imagine him not as a formerly renowned R&B singer, but instead, just any other John Doe.

“We are really asking the impossible of you right? To put that all aside,” said Bonjean. “You can think he’s the most amoral, unethical person on the planet, and that has nothing to do with whether the government has met its burden on the charged offenses.”

Bonjean implored the jury to remember that Kelly is “a musical genius,” who began a, “young, shy, introverted kid who had a dream to make it in the music industry.” She also took every opportunity to slander many of those who testified, claiming that her client was at one time surrounded by “low-lifes” who sought to financially profit from him via the tapes. Bonjean went so far as to liken the tapes to Kim Kardashian’s.

“I don’t know what the Kardashians call their sex tapes,” she said. “Maybe a performance tape, too.”

In a powerful rebuttal, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeannice Appenteng told the court: “R. Kelly had to have what he wanted,” she began. “What R. Kelly wanted was to have sex with young girls. And what the people around him wanted, they wanted to help their boss in any way possible, including helping him get away with it.”

The jury was dismissed for deliberation by 1pm on Tuesday afternoon. A verdict could arrive as early as Wednesday.

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