NEW YORK (AP) – R&B star R. Kelly has gained weight and lost money as he awaits a sex trafficking trial which begins in earnest next week, his lawyers said in a hearing Tuesday before the tribunal.
The revelations came as U.S. District Judge Ann M. Donnelly in New York City issued a series of rulings to refine the evidence that can be presented to jurors. She ruled primarily for prosecutors, but said some evidence will be excluded because it is too similar to other parts of the case to show Kelly racketeering in the pursuit of women and girls he could mistreat.
The Grammy-winning, multi-platinum R&B singer is accused of running a company of managers, bodyguards and other employees who helped him recruit women and girls for sex, sometimes at concerts and other places. He pleaded not guilty to racketeering, bribery, coercion, seduction and sex trafficking.
Devereaux Cannick, one of his attorneys, told the judge that Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, had to be measured for new clothes because he had gained so much weight in prison.
And he requested that court transcripts be provided free of charge because Kelly hasn’t been able to work for two years.
“His funds are depleted,” Cannick said of a client who left the courtroom after the hearing with his hands cuffed.
“It will be a long trial,” Donnelly said after prosecutors presented their intention to call numerous witnesses, including women who say they were sexually and physically abused and coerced into doing things for Kelly’s pleasure.
The judge said witnesses who allege abuse can testify with only their first names given to jurors, who will sit in the gallery rather than the jury box due to a reconfigured courtroom linked to coronavirus restrictions.
Donnelly also said she would generally not allow questions to reveal whether any of the women had received mental health treatment. She said she would not allow jurors to learn that a witness had worked as an exotic dancer years after she said she was abused.
Also likely to be excluded from the trial is any testimony about religious beliefs or that some of the women were invited to have sex with each other, the judge said.
Candidate jurors have already completed questionnaires designed to ensure that they have no bias that could affect their judgment. They will start answering questions next Monday.
Kelly, is known for her work, including the 1996 hit “I Believe I Can Fly” and the cult classic “Trapped in the Closet,” a multi-part tale of sexual betrayal and intrigue.
Kelly’s sex life has come under intense scrutiny since the 1990s, and he also faces sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota. He pleaded not guilty.
The New York judge ruled last week that the public and media would be banned from the courtroom after 12 news agencies called for six journalists to be allowed in because watching part of the courtroom on of monitors in two overflow rooms was insufficient and may not constitute an open procedure. She cited the restrictions on coronaviruses.
As he left the courthouse on Tuesday, Cannick, one of Kelly’s attorneys, was asked if closing the courtroom could constitute grounds for appeal if his client is found guilty.
He smiled and said, “If there was a conviction, we would use every mistake made” in an appeal.