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R. Kelly files for acquittal or new trial in Chicago

The former R&B star’s attorney argues federal prosecutors did not prove their case and a government witness gave false testimony.

CHICAGO (CN) — Two months after Chicago jurors found R. Kelly guilty on six federal child porn and sexual enticement charges, his lead attorney is attempting to overturn their verdict.

Attorney Jennifer Bonjean filed two motions on the disgraced singer's behalf Tuesday night: one arguing Kelly should be acquitted and the other asking for a new trial.

Bonjean argues in the acquittal motion that federal prosecutors did not provide enough evidence at trial to show Kelly's production of a sex tape featuring his then-14-year-old goddaughter "Jane," as she was referred to in court, fulfilled the requirements of the child porn charges he was convicted of.

"While the evidence may have been sufficient to prove violations of criminal sexual abuse under the Illinois criminal code, it did not establish that [Kelly]: (1) enticed or persuade Jane to engage in the prohibited conduct; or (2) that he did so with the purpose of producing the contraband images," Bonjean wrote. "The production of the images was ancillary to the sexual explicit conduct, it was not the purpose of the conduct."

One major element of the government's case against Kelly on the child porn accusations was the transportation of pornography across state lines. During the trial in September, witnesses reported finding copies of Kelly's sex scenes with Jane, filmed in the "log cabin" room of his Chicago property, as far away as Kansas City and Atlanta.

Bonjean argued this was insufficient to show any original tape left Illinois due to Kelly's actions. And even if images of Kelly having sex with different women traveled across state lines, she said, there is insufficient evidence to show these images were the same as were on the original Jane tape in question.

"There is no evidence whatsoever that the videotape ever left the state of Illinois," Bonjean wrote. "The government contends that while the tape may have never left the state of Illinois, the images did. Assuming... the government is correct, the government's evidence that the images travelled in interstate commerce was insufficient as a matter of law as to the so-called log-cabin images."

"The government simply failed to connect those dots," she added.

In the motion for a new trial, Bonjean claims one of the government's witnesses, clinical psychologist Dr. Darrel Turner, gave perjured testimony. Turner was introduced to the jury as an expert on child sexual abuse and spoke on the stand about how children are victimized by adult sexual predators.

Bonjean alleges Turner had lied about how much he charged the government for his services and how much time he spent preparing for the trial. While Turner testified his hourly rate was $250 and he had spent two hours preparing, an invoice he later sent to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois indicated he spent six and a half hours preparing at a rate of $450 per hour. While federal prosecutors themselves noted this discrepancy, they never clarified the matter to the jury.

Kelly's attorney says this omission constituted a violation of his due process rights under the 14th Amendment, one which should warrant a new trial. If the jury knew of Turner's dishonesty, she said, they would likely have been more skeptical of the rest of his testimony.

"Had the jurors known that Dr. Turner actively misled them, the jurors would likely have rejected his testimony outright," Bonjean wrote. "A reasonable likelihood exists that Dr. Turner's false testimony affected the judgment of the jury in terms of crediting [Kelly victims] Nia and Pauline about why they delayed reporting the alleged sexual conduct with defendant, whether the incidences happened at all, and whether the alleged incidences occurred when the complainants were under the age of 17 as they alleged."

Neither Turner nor the U.S. Attorney's Office responded to a request for comment.

Presiding U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber, who denied an attempt by Bonjean to dismiss the majority of Kelly's charges in May, did not immediately rule on the motions Wednesday. The Ronald Reagan appointee instead gave the government until Dec. 6 to respond, with a ruling likely not to come until after Christmas.

Should the motions fail, Kelly faces sentencing on Feb. 23, 2023.

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