CHICAGO – It took six years to get this far, but a jury in R. Kelly's long-delayed child pornography trial is now deciding whether the R&B singer is guilty or innocent of videotaping himself having sex with an underage girl.
Jurors began deliberating Thursday afternoon and continued for three hours. They were told to return Friday morning and were immediately sequestered.
The panel includes the wife of a Baptist preacher from Kelly's Chicago-area hometown, as well as a compliance officer for a Chicago investment firm and a man in his 60s who emigrated from then-Communist Romania nearly 40 years ago.
As they left the courtroom to deliberate, jurors took the sex tape at the center of the trial with them, and a monitor was set up in the jury room in case they wanted to review it.
Kelly is charged with 14 counts of videotaping himself having sex with an underage girl, who prosecutors say was as young as 13. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison. He would also have to register as a sex offender in Illinois.
The 41-year-old superstar, who has pleaded not guilty, was charged in 2002. His trial was repeatedly delayed, once because the judge seriously injured himself falling off a ladder and another time because Kelly had emergency surgery to remove his appendix.
Jurors heard closing arguments on Thursday.
Kelly's attorney banged on the jury box with his fist, he yelled and he whispered, he laughed and he pleaded for more than in hour in his emotion-filled closing.
At one point, Sam Adam Jr. referred to a defense argument made repeatedly during the trial that a mole on the singer's back proved he simply can't be the man in the video.
After displaying a freeze frame of the man's back in the video -- with no apparent mole -- Adam walked over to the defense table and placed his hand on Kelly's shoulder.
"The truth be told, there is no mole ... that means one thing," Adam told jurors, then paused and lowered his voice. "It ain't him. And if it ain't him, you can't convict."
Prosecutors wrapped up their arguments the same way they began them a month ago: by playing the entire graphic sex tape in open court.
The 27-minute film played on a monitor just outside the jury box -- the lights switched off and the blinds pulled across courtroom windows -- as Assistant State's Attorney Robert Heilengoetter read through sections of the indictment.
Both Kelly and the alleged victim, now 23, deny being on the tape. Neither testified at trial. But as the video played Thursday, Heilengoetter told jurors the man on the tape is Kelly and that he controlled the encounter.
At one point in the video, entered into evidence as "People's Exhibit No. 1," the female dances and urinates on the floor -- the man out of view. Back in view, he has sex with her. In one scene near the end of the video, alluded to in one count of the indictment, the man urinates on the female. At another point, the man hands her money.
Kelly sat across the room from jurors at the defense table in a gray pinstripe suit, his hands folded in front of him. As the sex tape played, he appeared tense, keeping his eyes on the monitor, his mouth drawn tight and his brow furrowed.
"The one person who is responsible is sitting right here," Assistant State's Attorney Shauna Boliker said, pointing at Kelly. "What you know now is that this is not a whodunit, but a he-did-it."
Over seven days presenting their case, prosecutors called 22 witnesses, including several childhood friends of the alleged victim and four of her relatives who identified her as the female on the video.
In two days, the Grammy winner's lawyers called 12 witnesses. They included three relatives of the alleged victim who testified they did not recognize her as the female on the tape.
During the trial, Kelly endeavored to make a good impression on jurors, always standing straight and folding his hands in front of him whenever they entered the courtroom.
Jurors, in turn, made a good impression on Judge Vincent Gaughan, who repeatedly praised their attentiveness. All appeared to take careful notes, even when testimony became highly technical.