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R. Kelly attorney files second motion for new trial in Chicago

The new motion claims the prosecution's star witness lied on the stand during the disgraced singer's federal trial in his hometown last year.

CHICAGO (CN) — R. Kelly's lead attorney filed a motion for a new trial for the convicted R&B star over the weekend, claiming one of his accusers lied in court last year about seeking millions in restitution in exchange for her testimony.

Kelly was convicted on federal child porn and sexual enticement charges in Chicago last September, and on federal sex trafficking and racketeering charges in New York City in September 2021. The Windy City native is currently in custody at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, serving his 30-year sentence from the New York conviction and awaiting sentencing on the Chicago conviction.

The new motion is the second such filing attorney Jennifer Bonjean has made in the Northern District of Illinois. Senior U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber, the Ronald Reagan appointee presiding over the case, has yet to rule on either of them.

Like Bonjean's last motion petitioning the court for a new trial, the latest filing claims a government witness perjured themselves on the stand, without federal prosecutors correcting their allegedly false statement. But while the prior motion dealt with the testimony of a relatively minor expert witness over the issue of how much the government was paying him for his services, Saturday's filing concerns the prosecution's star witness: "Jane," Kelly's goddaughter, who says she participated in several videotaped sex scenes with the disgraced singer while she was only 14.

"Defendant maintains that Jane's false testimony regarding restitution, and the government's failure to correct it denied defendant of his Due Process rights as well as his Sixth Amendment right to confront his accuser about matters that reflected on her credibility," Bonjean wrote in the new motion.

On the stand last August, Jane told defense attorneys in cross-examination that she was "undecided" about whether she would seek restitution from the government in the event of Kelly's conviction. But Bonjean claims that by the time Jane testified, she had already worked with a legal team to put together a restitution package asking the court to award her $20 million. U.S. attorneys would later use this package, Bonjean claims, to argue that Jane is entitled to $13 million from Kelly.

"Jane's testimony was not truthful when she claimed she was 'undecided' about whether she would seek restitution from [Kelly]. She knew full well she was seeking restitution in an extraordinary amount if Defendant was convicted. The government knew it too," the motion states.

To support her claim, Bonjean attached to the motion an affidavit from Boston-based attorney Christopher Brown, a managing member of the law firm Brown & Rosen LLC. Brown wrote in the document that he had charged Jane over $54,000 for his services helping her negotiate immunity and restitution agreements with the government. His invoice claims that discussions over restitution date back to April 2020, more than two years before Jane appeared in court.

Bonjean claims a potential $20 million payout is a "particularly strong motive" that defense attorneys should have been allowed to explore in trial. That they weren't, and that prosecutors did not correct Jane's statement that she was unsure about whether she would seek restitution, is sufficient reason to grant Kelly a new trial, according to the motion.

"The government should have disclosed Jane's intent to seek extraordinary amounts of restitution which apparently was the reason she ultimately cooperated with the government; it certainly was obligated to correct her false testimony on this point," the filing states. "Instead, it sat silent when Jane was less than honest about her interest in restitution denying defendant his right to cross-examine her interest, bias, and motive."

Should Leinenweber deny this or the prior retrial motion, Kelly's sentencing will proceed as scheduled on Feb. 23. Bonjean said in a phone call that the court has not yet given her any indication when Leinenweber would issue his rulings on the matter.

Bonjean also said that should Leinenweber rule against the motions, she and her team will file an appeal for Kelly's case to appear before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

"There are definitely meritorious issues for appeal," Bonjean said. She cited a failed pre-trial motion for dismissal from last May, in which she argued many of the claims against Kelly in Chicago had passed their statue of limitations by the time he was indicted in 2019.

Bonjean also said Kelly's sentencing, should he not win a new trial, could potentially raise additional issues for the Seventh Circuit to review.

"There's a couple things. like whether he serves his sentences consecutively, that are definitely appealable," Bonjean said.

In other Kelly news, last week the Cook County State's Attorney's Office announced it was dropping four state-level sexual abuse indictments against the singer that had been pending since 2019. With the 56-year-old Kelly likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars anyway, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx said she believed "justice has been served" in his case.

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