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Closing arguments begin in R. Kelly Chicago trial

After more than a month of witness testimony, attorneys in R. Kelly's second federal trial have begun wrapping up their cases.

CHICAGO (CN) — The federal trial of former R&B star R. Kelly entered its fifth week Monday morning with attorneys beginning to present their closing arguments to the jury.

Kelly's defense team - as well as those for co-defendants Derrel McDavid, Kelly's former manager, and Milton "June" Brown, his former personal assistant - rested their case on Friday.

With three defendants in the case, closing arguments are expected to last into Tuesday. U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber, the Ronald Reagan appointee presiding over the trial, gave the prosecution three hours to make their arguments. Kelly and McDavid, who face 13 and four criminal charges respectively, got 105 minutes a piece. Leinenweber gave Brown, who faces only one charge, 45 minutes.

Prosecutors from the Northern Illinois U.S. Attorney's Office went first, with attorney Elizabeth Rose Pozolo spending a little over two hours explaining to the jury why Kelly and his co-defendants should be convicted on the charges against them.

"[Kelly] committed horrible crimes against children, and he didn't do it alone." Pozolo said.

She broke the counts the three man face into three separate categories.

The first group consisted of four counts against only Kelly for sexual exploitation of minors. Prosecutors gave Kelly one count each for four separate sex tapes he allegedly made between 1998 and 1999, featuring a then-underage girl going by the pseudonym Jane.

The second group of charges, also four counts, detailed all three men's alleged complicity in a conspiracy to cover up the underage Jane sex tapes after they began leaking publicly in the early aughts. U.S. attorneys hit Brown with only one conspiracy count, befitting his alleged role as Kelly's driver, messenger and fixer. McDavid and Kelly face the same conspiracy count, and an additional three charges for their alleged efforts to recover the Jane tapes from across state lines between 2001 and 2008.

"The purpose of this conspiracy was... to conceal the tapes of Jane. To keep the tapes of Jane from ever, ever coming to light," Pozolo said.

The last and largest group of charges consisted of five counts Kelly alone faces for allegedly coercing five separate underage girls into abusive sexual activity between 1996 and 2000.

Pozolo posited to the jury that for all three groups of charges, the government had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. She was especially adamant that Kelly's two co-defendants were complicit in his alleged conspiracy, responding to McDavid defense attorney Beau Brindley's attempt earlier in the trial to distance his client from Kelly's alleged actions. She claimed that underage sex tapes leaking would have been too large a career crisis for Kelly to handle alone.

"Is Kelly the only one that's going to deal with this? Absolutely not. He's going to rely on his team," Pozolo said.

Brindley, whose closing arguments followed the government's, maintained that McDavid never had any knowledge of Kelly's alleged sexual contact with young girls, and no reason to believe those allegations were true. He painted McDavid as a dedicated manager who only sought to protect his friend and client's image from what he considered cynical extortion attempts. Brindley focused on the fact that before a 2002 Cook County grand jury, Jane and her parents themselves denied she was in a sex tape with R. Kelly.

"Jane denies it all. Her family denies it all," the attorney said.

Brindley also pointed out that Kelly's now-deceased attorneys Gerry Margolis and Edward Genson, both of whom McDavid was close with and on whose counsel McDavid relied, also reportedly believed the Jane allegations to be false. While McDavid testified last week that his opinion of the allegations against Kelly has changed over the course of this trial, Brindley said that revelation should not be held against his client.

"They thought they proved it was a fake, and 12 good people agreed... what was [McDavid] supposed to think?" Brindley said, referencing Kelly's 2008 acquittal in Cook County on 21 child porn charges.

The only evidence tying McDavid to any conspiracy, Brindley claimed, was testimony provided earlier in this trial by a Kansas City man named Charles Freeman and Kelly's ex-girlfriend Lisa Van Allen. While both claimed to have had sex tapes featuring Kelly and James in 2007, Brindley called both of them liars. Pointing out Van Allen's participation in the documentary "Surviving R. Kelly," and Freeman's own testimony that he tried to get $1 million out of Kelly for the return of the alleged Jane tape in his possession, he said neither was worthy of the jury's trust.

"Freeman is a slimy, untrustworthy Kansas City street thug," Brindley said. On this point, he and the prosecution agreed - though Pozolo painted Freeman's mercenary attitude as a reason to believe his testimony. He was in it for the money, she said, and he never got that whole $1 million out of Kelly.

Brown's attorney Mary Judge was the last to deliver closing arguments Monday, taking only about 45 minutes to make her arguments. She claimed her client was ultimately vestigial to the case, having largely faded into the trial's background amid the examination of Kelly and McDavid's alleged crimes.

"You've heard Milton or June Brown's name mentioned very sparingly throughout the case," Judge said.

She argued, as Brown's attorneys have throughout the case, that he was simply Kelly's employee doing as he was told, ignorant of any larger conspiracy.

Kelly's own lead attorney Jennifer Bonjean did not make her closing statements Monday. She instead moved twice for a mistrial, arguing the implication of McDavid and Brown's closing statements was that Kelly was guilty and the other two men were simply caught in his orbit. This unfairly prejudiced the jury against Kelly, she said.

"Repeatedly the implication was, if [McDavid] knew then what he knew now, it would be different," Bonjean said, adding later, "I come into this trial with three parties that are saying, 'yeah, R. Kelly is guilty.'"

Leinenweber denied her motion both times, but granted her extra time to present her closing arguments Tuesday. They will be followed by the federal prosecutors' rebuttal, after which the jury will begin deliberation.

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