R. Kelly and his new lawyer Jennifer Bonjean filed motions late Thursday, which asked he be acquitted, or at the very least, for him to be given a new trial after the singer’s conviction in New York federal court of racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child and kidnapping in September.
The notice of motion for a new trial, filed in the United States District Court of Eastern District of New York and obtained by Rolling Stone, claims Kelly was denied his Sixth Amendment rights. (The Sixth Amendment guarantees the rights of criminal defendants, including the right to a timely public trial, the right to a lawyer, the right to an impartial jury, and the right to know who is making the accusations and the nature of the charges and evidence involved.)
Among the arguments alleged in the motion is that Kelly was denied effective assistance of counsel when it came to examining potential jurors. It also claims counsel didn’t challenge unqualified jurors. It cites that some of the jurors saw the docuseries Surviving R. Kelly or knew about the prior sexual abuse of minors accusations against Kelly, which resulted in a jury that “was neither fair nor impartial.”
It also alleges that Kelly’s former counsel was engaged in a conflict of interest, claiming that one of his trial attorneys was simultaneously representing the defendant of a prosecutor’s star witness, known as “Jane.” In a subsequent hearing over the matter, the court concluded that the lawyer had an attorney-client relationship with Jane while representing Kelly, creating the conflict of interest. Kelly waived the conflict of interest, although the motion alleges this was an “unwaivable conflict” and therefore Kelly was prejudiced by the conflict of interest and is entitled to a new trial.
In separate paperwork filed on Thursday, Bonjean argued for a judgment of acquittal, claiming that the government failed to prove the racketeering charge as well as the other eight counts in the indictment. Kelly was convicted of one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, the law which prohibits sex trafficking across state lines.
It further alleges that the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) prosecution against Kelly was a means to punish him for alleged crimes that “could no longer be prosecuted by state and local agencies,” rather than it being about “criminal activity of an enterprise.” It adds: “The government’s belated interest in protecting Defendant’s alleged victims does not justify application of the RICO statute to alleged private, sexual misconduct of the Defendant (and only the Defendant), even if some of that conduct could have been timely prosecuted by local authorities long ago.”
RICO is typically used to combat organized crime. Kelly’s counsel argued that the government did not “establish an enterprise,” which is one of the bases for a RICO conviction. It lists several arguments, including claiming that Kelly’s employees did not share the common purpose of recruiting women for “illegal sexual activity,” that the government failed to prove that the “purpose of the enterprise was distinct from the racketeering activities” and that it did not prove a pattern of racketeering.
It also claims there was insufficient evidence in the prosecution’s arguments of bribery, sexual exploitation of a child, violations of the Mann Act, forced labor, and sexual exploitation.
Kelly also faces a federal trial in Chicago for sex crimes and child pornography. The jury trial is currently set for August.