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THREAD: What do the federal charges against R. Kelly tell us?
1/ Today federal indictments of R. Kelly were unsealed in the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago) and Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn), which charge very different crimes and conduct. The Chicago indictment, which I'll discuss first, is below. justice.gov/usao-ndil/pres…
2/ The Chicago indictment charges Kelly with using a child to engage in sexually explicit conduct to create child pornography, obstruction of justice, receipt of child pornography, conspiracy to receive child pornography, and enticing minors to engage in sexual activity with him.
3/ This indictment will be very difficult for Kelly to defend. It can be challenging to defend against child pornography charges if the government can prove that the individual depicted is in fact a child. (There is likely no question that Kelly created or received the material.)
4/ Perhaps the most interesting count of the indictment is Count Five, the obstruction of justice conspiracy, which charges R. Kelly with conspiring for two decades to cover up his abuse of minors. He also allegedly used violence, threats, blackmail, and more to control victims.
5/ This count puts Kelly's "not guilty" verdict in the prior state court case squarely at issue. The indictment mentions the verdict and a key victim from that trial is one of the key prosecution witnesses in this new federal indictment.
6/ It was smart for the prosecution to take on the "not guilty" verdict. Kelly's defense team was sure to try to make use of it anyway.

But it creates an unusual situation in which what happened during a prior trial is squarely at issue in this current case.
7/ It will be extremely difficult for Kelly to defend against these wide-ranging charges, especially given the state charges he faces for aggravated criminal sexual assault and other crimes and the new Brooklyn indictment.
8/ Two of his associates, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, are also charged in the indictment. They are charged with crimes that include a mandatory minimum five-year sentence. I wouldn't be surprised if one or both flip on Kelly, which could really undercut a potential defense.
9/ Kelly faces a mandatory minimum ten-year sentence for creating child pornography as well as multiple mandatory minimum five-year sentences.

I've tried three cases before the judge presiding over his case. He is a good trial judge and will control his courtroom.
10/ It's worth noting that the indictment charges Kelly with abusing five minors, who are cooperating with the government and you should expect to testify. Today the Chicago federal prosecutors asked for Kelly to be detained without bond as a danger to the community.
11/ In their detention memo, the Chicago prosecutors said: "There is no overlap between the victims alleged in this Indictment and the victims alleged in the New York case. Accordingly, defendant faces federal charges related to his abuse of 10 different minors and young women."
12/ That brings us to the Brooklyn indictment, which charges Kelly with various crimes as part of a RICO racketeering enterprise. (Yes, @Popehat, it is RICO.) RICO is a very cumbersome and complex statute that prosecutors usually avoid charging. justice.gov/usao-edny/pres…
@Popehat 13/ Why charge RICO? The Brooklyn indictment charges R. Kelly with a criminal enterprise spanning from CA to IL to NY involving child exploitation, kidnapping, forced labor, and the coercion and transportation of girls across state lines to engage in illegal sexual activity.
@Popehat 14/ Much of the activity in the Brooklyn indictment did not take place in Brooklyn but rather in northern California or the Chicago area. So the RICO charge allows the Brooklyn prosecutors to charge that wide-ranging activity from other states in Brooklyn federal court.
@Popehat 15/ Although the crimes alleged in the Brooklyn indictment are serious, the description of R. Kelly's activities as an "enterprise" may seem unusual to jurors. The alleged enterprise was intertwined with his music business and I can see the defense claiming it is an overreach.
@Popehat 16/ Unlike the Chicago indictment, none of Kelly's associates are charged and none are even listed as "Individual A" or "Manager A," so it's unclear who else was involved. But I suspect many of his associates will claim they didn't realize they were part of a criminal scheme.
@Popehat 17/ The Brooklyn indictment is an impressive effort to investigate and charge disturbing and serious crimes. But the nature of the charges makes them easier to defend than the Chicago indictment.

But Kelly has to defend against *both* of them, *and* the state charges.
@Popehat 18/ The real game changer for R. Kelly is that now he has to fight a three-front war, and he may be behind bars as he does so, because the Brooklyn federal prosecutors also have sought to detain him.

It will be very difficult and expensive to him to fight on all of these fronts.
@Popehat 19/ If Kelly testifies in one trial, his testimony from that trial can be used against him in the other trials. The prosecutors are clearly coordinating -- the Brooklyn prosecutors obtained their indictment in June but waited for the Chicago team to finish up.
@Popehat 20/ You can expect colorful and aggressive defense strategies, and some effort to push one case ahead of the other two. But given that R. Kelly faces very serious criminal charges in three different courtrooms, it's hard to see how he escapes without a felony conviction. /end
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