Before the federal trial for R. Kelly even began, it has been shrouded in secrecy, with journalists and the public barred from the courtroom where prosecutors laid out their racketeering case against the singer -- charges that could send him to prison for decades.
US District Judge Ann Donnelly decided to keep media out of the courtroom less than a month before the Aug. 18 start of the trial. Because of the pandemic, she said, jurors needed to be seated in the courtroom gallery due to social distancing recommendations and that it would be "inappropriate" to seat members of the press with them.
Despite her concerns over the pandemic, she did not require jurors to be vaccinated, something her colleague, US District Judge William Kuntz, did require for jurors at a trial he is overseeing that's also underway in the same courthouse. Judges are responsible for their own courtrooms and it is not uncommon for rules to differ from courtroom to courtroom.
Donnelly's decision created obstacles for journalists covering the trial. They couldn't see important pieces of evidence or watch how the jurors reacted to testimony, among other issues.