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Jury begins deliberations in R. Kelly's child pornography and obstruction of justice case

Kelly is already serving a 30-year prison sentence after he was found guilty last year in New York City of federal racketeering and sex trafficking.

CHICAGO — A Chicago jury began deliberating Tuesday in the federal trial of disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly, who faces charges of child pornography and obstruction of justice.

The case was handed over to the jury after about a month of testimony, including from multiple women who allege that Kelly had sex with them when they were minors.

Prosecutors have alleged that Kelly, 55, had sex with minors on numerous occasions, recorded many of the alleged assaults and then paid people who knew about the recordings to keep quiet when he faced criminal charges of child pornography in 2008.

Kelly, who already is serving a 30-year prison sentence after he was found guilty last year in New York City of federal racketeering and sex trafficking, is facing 13 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, receipt of child pornography, enticement of minors to engage in unlawful sexual conduct, conspiring to obstruct justice and conspiring to receive child pornography.

During the government's closing argument Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Pozolo told jurors that Kelly had committed “horrible crimes against children” and then, with the help of his business partners, tried to cover up his actions because he knew they would be “completely damning.”

Jennifer Bonjean, Kelly’s attorney, argued that the government's witnesses were not credible and implored jurors Tuesday to put aside their prior knowledge of Kelly when deliberating and focus only on the evidence presented during this trial.

R Kelly
R. Kelly appears at a hearing on June 26, 2019 in Chicago.E. Jason Wambsgans / Pool via Getty Images

"The government’s burden cannot be met with the inference of bad character, or tendency to commit crimes," Bonjean said during closing arguments. "Your beliefs about Mr. Kelly’s character, even if it's justified, is not evidence that he committed the acts charged in the indictment. You may consider him to be the most amoral, dishonest person on the planet. And that has nothing to do whether the government has met its burden."

Kelly, whose legal name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is being tried alongside his former business manager, Derrel McDavid, and an associate, Milton “June” Brown, who are accused of conspiring with him to intimidate and bribe witnesses and to cover up evidence in a 2008 criminal trial on child pornography charges in Cook County.

The chief charge against Kelly and his associates is that they conspired to rig that trial, which centered on a 26-minute videotape sent anonymously to the Chicago Sun-Times in 2002 that allegedly showed Kelly performing sex acts with an underage girl. NBC News has not viewed the videotape. He was acquitted in that case after the girl who purportedly appeared in the tape refused to testify at the trial. Jurors at the time said that made it difficult for them to convict Kelly.

The woman, now 37 and identified by the pseudonym Jane in court, was the prosecution’s star witness in this trial.

She testified that she had sex with Kelly “hundreds” of times from age 15 to 18. Under questioning from prosecutors, she said she did so because she was intimidated by him and considered him an “authoritative figure.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeannice Appenteng told jurors Tuesday to "use Jane as your base and as your guide" during deliberations.

"From beginning to end, Kelly’s sexual abuse of her is clear," Appenteng said.

Bonjean, Kelly's attorney, however, said Tuesday that the government's case relied on "perjurers, extortionists" and witnesses who had received "immunity deals."

"They came in to tell the government’s truth," she said.

Supporters lined up early Tuesday hoping to get a seat in the courtroom for the last day of closing arguments. Some wore white in a show of solidarity with the disgraced singer. Several people prayed together as they waited, asking "an angel to come through the courtroom" to help Kelly.