The criminal case against R. Kelly, which has been pending for five years, is finally headed to trial. At a hearing in Chicago on Wednesday (August 1), Judge Vincent Gaughan said Kelly's trial will begin on September 17.
"As Robert [Kelly] said many times, he believes in our system of justice," a spokesperson for the singer told MTV News. "He is looking forward to finally having his day in court. He's confident that when all the facts come out, it will be clear he's not guilty of any crime."
Kelly was charged with 21 counts of child pornography in 2002 (seven of which were later dropped) for allegedly videotaping himself having sex with a girl prosecutors said was 14 years old at the time; he pleaded not guilty (see "R. Kelly: When the Gavel Drops").
The trial's unusually long delay has not been the norm with other celebrity trials, or even other child-pornography trials, which usually begin within a year or two of charges being filed. But Kelly didn't demand a speedy trial, as was his right, and the pre-trial phase took longer than usual since the defense filed over 30 motions to be heard. Other delays were due to time spent on unrelated cases presided over by Gaughan or defended by Kelly's attorney, Ed Genson. And some delays were more unexpected, such as when Kelly needed emergency surgery for a burst appendix in February and when Gaughan fell off a ladder, causing multiple fractures, last summer.
If Kelly is convicted of the charges, he faces a prison term of up to 15 years and a fine of up to $100,000.
Since being arrested and charged with child pornography in Illinois in 2002 and then in Florida in 2003 (the latter case was later dropped), Kelly's career has largely proceeded without a hitch (see "R. Kelly: Teflon Superstar"). In the past five years, he has released five albums and a greatest-hits collection — most of them million-sellers — toured three times and has also released the successful "Trapped in the Closet" video series. Kelly's 2004 tour with Jay-Z ended in controversy (see "Jay-Z, R. Kelly Part Ways as Best Of Both Worlds Tour Collapses").
For full coverage of the R. Kelly case, see The R. Kelly Trial Reports.
[This story was originally published at 2:57 pm E.T. on 08.01.2007]