Elizabeth Williams / AP
Editor’s Note: This report includes allegations of sexual and physical abuse.
Today, federal prosecutors closed their case in the lawsuit against R&B star R. Kelly.
Kelly faces a number of charges dating back decades: sexual exploitation of a minor, kidnapping, forced labor and more. At the heart of the federal government’s case against him is a racketeering charge that positions him at the head of a criminal enterprise working together using Kelly’s fame to lure potential victims of sex crimes. Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all counts.
This is the fifth week of witnessing. Meanwhile, prosecutors called 45 witnesses, including 11 alleged victims, to sketch a pattern of Kelly’s behavior.
For example, the second accuser, who was named “Jane,” said at the start of the trial that at 17 she was an aspiring R&B singer and had met Kelly at a music festival. A member of Kelly’s entourage gave him Kelly’s phone number. Hoping to continue her musical career, Jane met him for an audition, where Kelly immediately urged her to have sex.
“I told her that I had not come to please her, and that I was coming for an audition,” she said.
Jane ended up living with Kelly at his home in Chicago and formed a relationship with him in which she had to follow certain rules. She had to dress in loose clothes. She couldn’t recognize the other men. She couldn’t come and go from the rooms without the permission of Kelly or one of her assistants. Breaking these rules resulted in punishment, usually spanking.
A common thread in the testimonials was Kelly’s iPads. Witnesses said he kept a backpack full of devices and used them to record his sex and inflict punishment, as well as monitor his resident girlfriends.
Another recurring theme was the letters Kelly would send to people in her orbit. An accuser, nicknamed “Anna,” met Kelly when she was 19 or 20 after a concert in South Carolina in 2016. After forming a relationship with Kelly similar to Jane’s, Anna testified that Kelly had her. repeatedly ordered to write letters containing false statements. A letter read aloud in court asked Anna to apologize for working with her mother to blackmail Kelly. When asked by the prosecution if what she wrote in that letter was true, Anna replied: “No”.
The trial also coincided with the 20th anniversary of pop star Aaliyah’s death, as well as the arrival of her music on streaming services. At the start of the trial, Demetrius Smith, a former tour manager for Kelly, said he helped organize the wedding between Kelly and Aaliyah when the pop star was 15. Smith said Kelly believed Aaliyah was pregnant and that being married to her would potentially prevent her from being prosecuted for having sex with a minor.
The defense began presenting its witnesses today.