R. Kelly, the R&B superstar who has long been dragged along by charges of misconduct and sexual abuse, was found guilty on all counts on Monday in a high-profile sex trafficking case, closing a lawsuit that featured hours of graphic testimony from the singer’s accusers. .
Kelly, who has been in custody most of the time since he was formally charged in 2019, has been convicted of one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, a law that prohibits the transport of people across state borders “for any immoral purpose.”
Kelly, best known for the 1996 hit “I Believe I Can Fly,” pleaded not guilty to all counts in the case. The singer, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, has not taken a stand in his own defense.
Prosecutors in the trial, which focused on the allegations of six people, alleged the singer was a serial sexual predator who abused young women as well as underage girls and boys for more than two decades.
Prosecutors further alleged that the singer and his entourage ran a criminal enterprise that recruited and groomed victims for sex, arranging for them to attend concerts and other events across the United States.
In a two-day oral argument, U.S. Assistant Prosecutor Elizabeth Geddes accused Kelly and her entourage of using “predator play guide” tactics to control her victims.
Kelly’s alleged tactics included confining the victims to hotel rooms or her recording studio, managing when they could eat and use the restroom, and forcing them to follow various “rules,” including requiring that ‘they call him “Papa”.
“Now is the time to hold the accused accountable for the pain he inflicted on each of his victims,” Geddes said Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn. “Now is the time for the accused, Robert Kelly, to pay for his crimes. Condemn him.
Geddes characterized one of the many explicit videos in evidence, which was seen by the jury during testimony but was not made public. She said the video showed Kelly grabbing a victim by the hair and forcing her to give another man a blowjob.
The “woman’s will had been broken,” Geddes said.
The singer’s lawyers tried to present his accusers as “groupies” who sought to exploit his notoriety and profit from the #MeToo movement.
Deveraux Cannick, one of Kelly’s defense attorneys, argued that the testimony of several of his client’s accusers was false, stating in his closing argument: “Where’s the fairness to Robert? Where is the integrity of the system?
Cannick argued that a celebrity like his client wouldn’t need a criminal enterprise to entice people for sex. He “didn’t have to recruit women,” Cannick told jurors.
He argued that Kelly’s accusers were never forced to do anything against their will. They stayed with him, the lawyer argued, because the singer offered them expensive dinners, free air travel and other alleged perks.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Kelly was considered one of the kings of R&B. He was instrumental in redefining the genre with popular tracks like “Bump N ‘Grind”, “I’m a Flirt (Remix)” and the “hip-hopera” project “Trapped in a Closet”.
But the singer’s alleged behavior behind the scenes has drawn greater public scrutiny with the rise of the #MeToo movement, leading to the #MuteRKelly social media campaign, boycott of his records and protests across the country.
“Surviving R. Kelly,” a lifetime documentary series released in 2019 that featured testimony from multiple accusers, has stepped up calls for the singer to face the legal consequences of his alleged abuse.
Kelly was previously acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008.
Criminal proceedings in New York City began on August 18, lasted about six weeks, and included the testimony of more than 45 witnesses. The jury of seven men and five women got the case on Friday.
The singer also faces charges in Illinois and Minnesota.
The Associated Press contributed.