MINNESOTA — R. Kelly was convicted Monday by a federal jury in his sex trafficking trial, in which prosecutors accused the R&B singer of exploiting his quarter-century fame to lure underage women and girls in its orbit for sex.
A jury in federal court in Brooklyn deliberated just over a day before finding Kelly, 54, guilty of the nine counts he faced after a 5.5-week trial.
Kelly had been charged with one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting people across state lines for prostitution.
Prosecutors said Kelly used his fame and charisma to use people around him to recruit victims, some of whom were snatched from the crowds at his concerts.
Witnesses said some victims hoped Kelly could boost their careers, only to find he demanded their strict obedience and punished them if he failed.
Trial testimony from government witnesses revealed, often in graphic detail, an unseemly side to Kelly’s 30-year music career, highlights of which include the Grammy-winning hit ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ in 1996.
Kelly has repeatedly denied the sexual abuse allegations.
The R. Kelly dilemma
The singer, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is one of the most high-profile people to face sexual allegations during the #MeToo movement, adding to the allegations that have dogged him since the start of the 2000s.
Like Kelly, many of his accusers were black, which sets the case apart from recent #MeToo convictions of comedian Bill Cosby and film producer Harvey Weinstein. Cosby’s conviction was overturned in June.
Kelly’s alleged victims included the late singer Aaliyah, who briefly and illegally married Kelly in 1994 when she was 15. Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001.
Many of the allegations against Kelly were captured in the January 2019 Lifetime documentary, Surviving R. Kelly.
Several witnesses said Kelly instilled fear when his victims failed to meet all of his sexual and other needs.
The jury heard how Kelly would force the victims to follow “Rob’s rules”, including calling him “daddy” and being allowed to eat or go to the bathroom.
A witness who wanted to interview her for a radio station said he held her without food or water for at least two days before attacking her.
Witnesses also said Kelly urged prosecutors to write “apology letters” to possibly exonerate him of wrongdoing and hid the fact that he contracted herpes before sex.
The racketeering charges gave prosecutors an opportunity to present evidence that might otherwise be too old to prosecute.
Kelly did not testify in his defense, which lasted about two days.
His lawyers, including when cross-examining multiple witnesses, attempted to portray Kelly’s accusers as former fans who felt abandoned when they fell out of favor and their sexual relationship with Kelly was consensual.
They also tried to show how some accusers stuck with Kelly long after the alleged abuse began and questioned why they didn’t go to the police or wait years to come forward.
In addition to the conviction, Kelly still faces federal charges in Chicago for child pornography and disability, as well as state charges in Illinois and Minnesota.