R. Kelly Opts Not To Testify At His Federal Trial As Defense Attorneys Begin Presenting Their Case

R Kelly
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Three weeks into his federal trial in Chicago, singer R. Kelly spoke for the first time.

Three weeks into his federal trial in Chicago, singer R. Kelly spoke for the first time, to tell the judge he would not be testifying in his own defense.

Kelly, 55, is on trial on a 13-count indictment, including child pornography and obstruction of justice charges. His former business manager Derrel McDavid and former assistant Milton "June" Brown are being tried alongside him, accused of scheming with Kelly to buy back incriminating sex tapes to help cover up his sex crimes and rig his 2008 child pornography trial in Cook County, at which Kelly was acquitted.  

Kelly also did not testify at his federal trial last year in New York, when he was convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking charges, and later sentenced to 30 years in prison. He also did not take the stand at his 2008 child pornography trial in Chicago, when he was acquitted of all charges.

Brown also will not take the stand at their federal trial in Chicago, although McDavid has chosen to testify in his own defense.

Kelly's defense team called their first five witnesses on Thursday, after the judge rejected their motion for acquittal. Such motions are routinely filed in criminal trials, and are very rarely granted.

As they started presenting their case, the defense team tried to poke holes in some of the stories brought by R. Kelly's accusers earlier in this trial.

First on the stand was Christopher Wilson, a former Chicago police detective and family friend of McDavid's, who testified that McDavid told him Kelly was being "blackmailed."

Wilson said he traveled to Kansas City with a private investigator to meet with the alleged blackmailer. He said he did not personally witness anything illegal, and as a cop he would have been required to report it.

Next up was Merry Green, who planned a 1999 expo at McCormick Place. That's where one of Kelly's accusers says she met the R&B singer. That accuser, testifying under the pseudonym "Tracy," has testified that she was only 16 when they met, and soon began having sex, accusing the singer of sexually abusing her dozens of times.

But Green testified under oath that she was never made aware of Kelly's attendance at the expo where Tracy claimed she met him, and she would have been aware of an R&B star of that magnitude. Green testified that he appeared at the expo in the year 2000, when Tracy would have been 17.

The witness who spent the longest amount of time on the stand was audio engineer Tom Arnold, who worked for Kelly for about eight years starting in 2003, and before that worked at Chicago Trax studios, while Kelly was recording music there.

Arnold said it was very normal for him to cash checks at a bank and handle large amounts of cash for Kelly. He said the largest sum was approximately $125,000 dollars in cash.

He also testified he drove people for Kelly and that it was "common knowledge" drivers were not supposed to talk to Kelly's female "guests."

Ronald Winters took the stand after Arnold. He worked as a personal assistant to R. Kelly's criminal defense attorney in his Cook County case in the 2000s.

WInters said he viewed multiple VHS tapes of Kelly having sex with different women, but Winters said none of them appeared to be underage.

Winters thought one of the tapes showed Kelly's then-wife, not an underage girl as prosecutors have argued. 

Jurors were excused until Tuesday at 10 a.m.

The judge said they expect to finish the case next week "without fail."

After the jury was excused for the day on Thursday, the judge, prosecutors, and defense attorneys worked on finalizing jury instructions. Kelly's attorney said the singer was not feeling well, so he will not be participating in that process. 

This story was originally published by CBS News on Sept. 1, 2022.