R&B star R. Kelly was convicted in New York after a six-week trial with vivid testimony from dozens of prosecutors.
A jury of seven men and five women pronounced the 54-year-old guilty on Monday on the second day of the trial in all nine cases of sex trafficking and extortion. Kelly remained motionless, eyes lowered as the verdict was read.
The charges were based on an argument that the entourage of managers and aides who helped the singer get to know girls – and keep them obedient and calm – was, under federal law, a criminal enterprise originally intended to stop organized crime.
Kelly was also convicted on criminal charges of violating the Mann Act, which makes it illegal to take someone across state lines for “immoral purposes”.
Kelly’s attorney Deveraux Cannick was disappointed with the verdict. “I think I’m even more disappointed that the government brought the case in in the first place, given all the inconsistencies,” said Cannick.
The charges go back decades and come from six complaining witnesses, including the late singer Aaliyah, named No. 1 Jane Doe by prosecutors. Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, did not speak out during his trial.
Kelly, who has been behind bars since his arrest in July 2019, faces up to 20 years in prison. The sentencing is scheduled for May 4th.
The verdict falls 13 years after he was acquitted of 14 child pornography charges in 2008 by a jury that deliberated less than eight hours over two days.
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Kelly continues to face similar federal and state charges in Illinois and Minnesota; It is not yet clear how the Brooklyn ruling will affect these cases or when they may be on trial.
After six weeks of testimony from several witnesses accusing him of sexual and physical abuse, prosecutors have reopened their case against the R&B singer. Their reports contained mundane video and audio recordings that, according to the prosecution, document how he threatened prosecutors with violence.
“Now is the time for the defendant, Robert Kelly, to pay for his crimes. Convict him,” said US Assistant Attorney Elizabeth Geddes in her closing argument in Brooklyn federal court on Thursday.
Kelly “believed the music, the fame, and the celebrity meant that he could do what he wanted,” US Assistant Attorney Nadia Shihata told a federal court in Brooklyn.
But she added, “He’s not a genius, he’s a criminal. A predator. ”She added that its alleged victims“ are not groupies or gold diggers. They are people. “
The defense hit back Thursday, telling the jury that they had been misled by opportunist prosecutors about friendly relations.
In his closing, defense attorney Deveraux Cannick told the jury that the testimony of several prosecutors was full of lies and that “the government made them lie”.
Cannick argued that there was no evidence that Kelly’s accusers were ever coerced into doing anything against their will. Instead, Cannick said, Kelly’s friends stayed because he pampered them with free air travel, shopping and fancy dinners – a treatment that belied the predator label.
“He gave them a lavish lifestyle,” he said. “That’s not what a predator should do.”
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More than 45 witnesses testified, including five complaining witnesses who said Kelly exposed them to perverted and sadistic whims when they were a minor.
The first complaining Witness to comment was Jerhonda Johnson Pace, who previously shared her story in the Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly”. In court, she claimed to have had sex with the singer when she was 16, although she initially told him she was 19 years old.
Pace testified that Kelly recorded her sex sessions and later showed her the tapes to point out where she could use “improvement.” She said she “contracted herpes” in 2009 while she was with Kelly.
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The second accuser, who called herself “Jane” on the witness stand, said when she first met Kelly he pressured her before an audition for sex. She said she moved in with him as a junior in high school and testified that Kelly chastised or punished her for various reasons during their time together, including forcing her to have sex with another man while Kelly was up recorded on an iPad. She was also forced to have an abortion in 2017 after Kelly said he wasn’t ready to have a child with her, she said, testifying the star gave her herpes.
She also claimed Kelly got his girlfriends to answer questions about him in order to better defend him during his cursory CBS interview with Gayle King.
The third complaining witness, who called herself “Stephanie,” said in 1999 that she went to see Kelly to help a friend with her singing endeavors. Kelly exposed her to a month-long abusive sexual relationship when she was 17, in which he frequently videotaped their sexual encounters, she testified. His sexual demands and the video recordings of her in degrading positions made her “disgusting,” she told the jury.
Another complaining witness, “Faith,” said she was exposed to a sexually transmitted disease after meeting Kelly at a backstage after party in 2017, when she was 19. She said the singer paid for her flights and hotel rooms to attend his concerts in cities where he asked her to have sex. When questioned by prosecutors, she said Kelly didn’t tell her he had herpes and wasn’t wearing condoms.
The fifth complaining witness alleged that Kelly locked her in a darkened, windowless room for days and raped her while she was unconscious. The witness said she spent two days in captivity before finally getting something to eat.
Kelly’s former assistant and tour manager Demetrius Smith testified under subpoena and immunity that he facilitated Kelly’s illegal marriage to then-15-year-old singer Aaliyah in 1994 after he began a sexual relationship with her and believed she was pregnant.
Prosecutors said Kelly, then 27, wanted to use the marriage, which was later annulled, to protect herself from criminal charges related to sex with a minor and prevent her from testifying against him. Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001 at the age of 22.
Contributors: The Associated Press, Charles Trepany