NEW YORK — After decades of evading criminal accountability for multiple claims of misbehavior with young women and children, R. Kelly, the R&B superstar famed for his song “I Believe I Can Fly,” was convicted Monday in a sex trafficking trial.
On the second day of deliberations, a jury of seven men and five women convicted Kelly, 54, guilty of all nine counts, including racketeering. As the decision was announced in federal court in Brooklyn, Kelly donned a face mask under black-rimmed glasses and remained still with her eyes downcast.
Prosecutors said Kelly’s retinue of managers and aides operated as a criminal organization, helping Kelly meet females and keeping them submissive and silent. In a separate federal case ongoing in Chicago, two persons have been charged with Kelly.
For offenses such as breaking the Mann Act, anti-sex trafficking legislation that forbids transporting anybody over state borders “for any immoral purpose,” he may face decades in jail. The sentencing date has been set for May 4th.
Deveraux Cannick, one of Kelly’s lawyers, expressed disappointment and expressed optimism for an appeal.
“Given all the discrepancies, I’m even more unhappy the government filed the case in the first place,” Cannick said.
During the trial, several accusers testified in graphic detail about how Kelly subjected them to strange and cruel whims while they were minors.
For years, rumors of improper connections with children tended to amuse rather than horrify the public and news media, beginning with Kelly’s unlawful marriage to R&B prodigy Aaliyah in 1994 when she was just 15 years old.
His albums and performance tickets continued to sell well. Even after he was arrested in 2002 and accused of filming himself sexually assaulting and urinating on a 14-year-old girl, other musicians continued to record his tracks.
After a highly watched docuseries, “Surviving R. Kelly,” helped make his case a symbol of the #MeToo era, and gave voice to victims who wondered whether their claims were previously overlooked because they were Black women, widespread public criticism came.
“To the victims, in this case, your voices were heard, and justice was finally served,” said Acting United States Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis on Monday.
Outside the courthouse, Gloria Allred, a lawyer for several of Kelly’s victims, said, “Of all the predators I’ve gone after, Mr Kelly is the worst.” That list includes Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein.
To preserve their privacy, some of Kelly’s accusers testified at the trial without using their true identities. Prosecutors showed jurors home films of Kelly performing sex activities that were not voluntary, according to prosecutors.
The accusers were dubbed “groupies” and “stalkers” by the defense.
Cannick, Kelly’s lawyer, questioned why women would continue in relationships with Kelly if they felt exploited.
Cannick told one of the women who testified, “You made a decision,” and added, “You participated of your own free will.”
Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, has been imprisoned without bail since January of this year. The singer’s legal woes do not end with the New York lawsuit. In Illinois and Minnesota, he has also pleaded not guilty to sex-related allegations. Trial dates have yet to be established in those instances.
Prosecutors portrayed the musician as a spoiled brat and a control freak throughout his trial. His accusers said they were told to call him “Daddy,” that they were required to jump up and kiss him whenever he entered a room, and that they were only supposed to applaud for him when he played pickup basketball games when they claimed he was a ball hog.
The accusers said they were forced to sign nondisclosure agreements and faced threats and penalties, including harsh spankings if they disobeyed “Rob’s orders.” Some claimed they were afraid that if they disclosed what was going on, the videotapes he took of them having sex would be used against them.
Kelly keeping a gun by his side while berating one of his accusers in a Los Angeles music studio as a prelude to forcing her to give him oral sex; Kelly giving several accusers herpes without disclosing he had an STD; Kelly coercing a teenage boy to join him for sex with a naked girl who emerged from beneath a boxing ring in his garage, and Kelly shooting a teenager.
Only two of the 14 probable racketeering actions evaluated in the trial were declared “not proven” by the jury. Kelly allegedly took advantage of a woman who was an unknowing radio station intern in 2003, according to the claims.
He took her away to his Chicago recording studio, where she was tied up and drugged before he sexually attacked her while she was unconscious, she testified. “I was terrified when I realized I was trapped,” she says. I felt humiliated. “I felt humiliated,” she said.
Kelly’s connection with Aaliyah was the subject of other testimony. One of the last witnesses said he sexually abused Aaliyah when she was 13 or 14 years old, circa 1993.
Jurors also heard about a fake marriage plot Kelly devised to cover himself when he suspected he had pregnant Aaliyah. They were married in identical jogging suits, according to witnesses, using a license that erroneously listed her age as 18; he was 27 at the time.
Aaliyah, whose full name was Aaliyah Dana Haughton, collaborated with Kelly on her debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number,” released in 1994. At the age of 22, she perished in an aircraft disaster in 2001.
Kelly had previously been tried in a child pornography case in Chicago but had been acquitted in 2008.
In what she called a coronavirus precaution, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly prohibited individuals not directly engaged in the case from the courtroom throughout the Brooklyn trial. Reporters and other observers were forced to watch the verdict via a video stream from another room in the same building, while a handful was permitted to enter the courtroom for the announcement.