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Prosecutors tell R. Kelly jury of singer's "hidden side," as defense urges them to reject portrayal as "monster"

Prosecutors tell jury of R. Kelly's "hidden side" as federal trial begins
Prosecutors tell jury of R. Kelly's "hidden side" as federal trial begins 02:46

CHICAGO (CBS) –  R. Kelly kept "a hidden side, a dark side" to his life as he rose from poverty to music stardom, federal prosecutors told a jury Wednesday as they began making their case accusing Kelly of filming himself having sex with girls, and conspiring to rig his 2008 child pornography trial in Cook County.

Kelly is going on trial on a 13-count indictment, including child pornography and obstruction of justice charges. Two associates, former business manager Derrel McDavid and former assistant Milton Brown, are being tried alongside him.

As expected, both sides showed up at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse on Wednesday ready for battle.

The prosecution started by laying out the heart of the case against R. Kelly in blunt terms.

 "The defendant R. Kelly had sex with multiple children. He made video tapes of himself having sex with multiple children," Assistant U.S. Atty. Jason Julien told the jury, adding that McDavid and Brown knew all about it.

Julien told jurors most of the world knew Kelly only as a popular R&B singer, but said he had "another side, a hidden side, a dark side, a side that he, McDavid and Brown did not allow the world to see."

Prosecutors, defense attorneys present opening statements in R. Kelly trial 02:14

Prosecutors said Kelly had sex with multiple girls between the ages of 13 and 16 from 1996 through 2001, often recording himself having sex with them.

Julien detailed some of those relationships, including one with a woman formally known as "Minor 1," now being referred to as "Jane."

Back in 2008, when Kelly was acquitted of child pornography charges, the girl in that tape did not testify.

That victim, 13 at the time, is now in her 30s, and federal prosecutors said both she and her parents will testify, and jurors will see excerpts of the tapes she's in.

Prosecutors said jurors will see parts of three total tapes, but won't see a fourth, because Kelly and his associates successfully covered it up.

Kelly kept those tapes close, because he knew he'd get in trouble if they came to light, and when one of the tapes went missing, Kelly, Brown, and McDavid went to extraordinary lengths to get it back, according to Julien.

The defense spoke directly to those tapes, saying there's an obligation to decide if those tapes are authentic, even questioning the existence of the fourth tape.

Kelly's lead defense attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, told the jury they will need to "brave" in this "challenging" case, since most have some knowledge of Kelly, and are "not blank slates," a focus in jury selection the past two days.

Speaking directly to Jane, the defense team questioned her decision to speak up now, mentioning she has immunity in this case.

She also says Kelly deserves a non-biased jury and to consider every one of the 13 counts separately and determine if the government has met its burden for each one. 

Kelly was reintroduced to the jury as a Grammy award-winning singer who went from being a high school dropout to singing in the subways to becoming a star. 

Bonjean said while Kelly may have "stumbled along the way" on his journey from poverty to music stardom, she asked the jury to reject the prosecution's attempts to portray him as a "serial child abuser" and a "monster," and remember he's a human being.

"You're not going to be asked if he's a good or bad person…that's for social media," Bonjean said.

After both sides completed their opening statements, prosecutors called their first witness, Dr. Darrel Turner, a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist, and expert who's testified hundreds of times on "grooming," word used to describe how sex offenders gradually start and maintain sexual relationships with young victims in secret.

Turner conceded he never examined R. Kelly, and was testifying broadly about his research on grooming, and how abusive adults use a "power differential" over children to indoctrinate and control them.

Also called as a witness was Dan Everett, a retired Chicago Police detective, who received the first tip regarding the then-teenage "Jane" back in 2000.

Everett recalled his interview of "Jane" and her parents, when he said the girl referred to Kelly as her godfather and said no sexual abuse took place. At the time, CPD calling the investigation "unfounded," since she and her parents denied sexual abuse.

But Everett later received a sex tape of Kelly and a girl from the Chicago Sun Times, and Everett said he recognized the girl on the tape "Jane."

Everett will continue his testimony on Thursday, when defense attorneys will begin their cross-examination.

Jury selection for the trial wrapped up Tuesday. In all, jury selection took two days with a judge swearing in the jury Tuesday evening with 12 jurors and six alternates.

Kelly is facing a 13-count federal indictment including child pornography and obstruction of justice charges.

Federal prosecutors say he and his associates rigged his 2008 child pornography trial in Cook County. Kelly, McDavid, and Brown are accused of bribing or otherwise intimidating witnesses including a teenage girl whom Kelly allegedly sexually assaulted on videotape. Kelly was acquitted at that 2008 trial.

This time around, that teenage girl, who is now in her 30s, is expected to be the star witness -- testifying that those denials in 2008 were a lie and that she did have sex with Kelly as a minor.

Kelly is already sentenced to 30 years in prison for a federal sex trafficking case in New York. He would face a minimum of ten more years if convicted of the charges in his hometown of Chicago with the potential for decades more.

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