NEW YORK – R. Kelly went on trial in Brooklyn on Wednesday, accused of being the ringleader of a two-decade-long scheme in which he recruited underage women and girls for sex, with a prosecutor calling the R&B superstar a “dumb of prey”.
Opening speeches will be delivered before a jury of seven men and five women who will decide the fate of Kelly, 54.
Kelly, a three-time Grammy winner whose songs include “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Bump N’ Grind,” pleaded not guilty and strongly denied any wrongdoing.
The trial, which has been repeatedly delayed by the pandemic and is expected to last about a month, is expected to contain grim details about Kelly’s alleged abuse, including testimony from some female accusers and at least one male accuser.
“This case involves a predator,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Melendez said in her opening statement.
“A man who used lies, manipulation, threats and physical violence to control his victims and escape accountability for years.”
Prosecutors will argue that Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, used an entourage of managers, bodyguards and others to recruit women and girls, sometimes at concerts, for sex and abuse. of them and their recorded activities.
Kelly is accused of requiring victims to show ‘absolute devotion’ and to follow strict rules, including not eating or using the bathroom without her permission, not looking at other men and l call “dad”.
The lawsuit is the culmination of years of suspicion and allegations against Kelly, many of which were discussed in the 2019 Lifetime documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly”.
Kelly’s legal team described her client’s accusers in court filings as “disgruntled groupies” who longed to be with him, only to change their stories.
The lawsuit also comes nearly four years into the #MeToo era, when more women began speaking out against abuse by famous and powerful men.
If convicted, Kelly faces decades in prison. Even though he is acquitted, he still faces sex charges in Illinois and Minnesota, where he has also pleaded not guilty.
Kelly has been in prison for over two years. He was transferred from Chicago to Brooklyn for trial in June.
The nine-count indictment details Kelly’s alleged mistreatment of five of Jane Doe’s victims, three of whom were minors at the time.
An accuser said Kelly had unprotected sex with her without disclosing he had herpes.
Prosecutors will also try to show that Kelly bribed an Illinois officer in 1994 to get a fake ID for singer Aaliyah, then 15, so they could get married.
Kelly believed she got Aaliyah pregnant and hoped the marriage would save her from having to testify against him, prosecutors say.
A marriage certificate listed Aaliyah’s age as 18, prosecutors said. Aaliyah, identified in the indictment as Jane Doe #1, died in a plane crash in 2001.
The charges include allegations of extortion – more common in organized crime cases – as well as bribery and extortion.
Eight counts allege violations of the Mann Act, a federal law that now makes it a crime to transport people across state lines for the purpose of prostitution.
Rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Chuck Berry is among other well-known people convicted under this law. Actor and filmmaker Charlie Chaplin has been acquitted of the charges.
Kelly was acquitted of child pornography charges in a 2008 trial in Illinois.
Kelly last released a studio album in 2016. Her career stalled after the Lifetime documentary and the latest indictments, and Kelly’s attorneys said this month that her “funds have run out”.