US singer, R Kelly has been found guilty of exploiting his superstar status to by running a scheme to sexually abuse women and children over two decades.
Eleven accusers, nine women, and two men took the stand over the searing six-week trial to describe sexual humiliation and violence at R. Kelly’s hands. After two days of deliberation, the jury found Kelly guilty on all the charges leveled against him. Now, he awaits sentencing and could spend decades behind bars.
The jury found Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, as the ringleader of a violent and coercive scheme that lured women and children for him to sexually abuse.
The singer – most famous for the award-winning song ‘I Believe I Can Fly’, was also found to have trafficked women between different US states and produced child pornography.
Along with eight counts of sex trafficking, Kelly was found guilty of racketeering, a charge normally used against organized crime associations. During the trial, prosecutors detailed how his managers, security guards, and other entourage members worked to assist him in his criminal enterprise.
One woman who testified that Kelly imprisoned, drugged, and raped her said in a written statement after the verdict that she had “been hiding” from Kelly due to threats made against her since she went public with her accusations. The woman, identified in court as Sonja said
“I’m ready to start living my life free from fear and to start the healing process”.
Another woman who testified in court, Lizette Martinez, said she was “relieved” by the verdict.
“I’m so proud of the women who were able to speak their truths”.
Legal documents revealed the mental torment that Kelly subjected his victims to. They were not allowed to eat or use the bathroom without his permission, he controlled what clothes they wore and made them call him “Daddy”.
Gloria Allred, a lawyer who represented several victims, told reporters: “I’ve been practicing law for 47 years. During this time, I’ve pursued many sexual predators who have committed crimes against women and children. Of all the predators that I have pursued, Mr. Kelly is the worst”.
At a news conference outside the court, prosecutor Jacquelyn Kasulis said that the jury has sent a message to other powerful men like Kelly.
“No matter how long it takes, the long arm of the law will catch up with you”.
The verdict comes 13 years after Kelly was acquitted of child pornography charges after a trial in the state of Illinois. Many of the allegations heard in the trial were first laid out in the 2019 documentary ‘Surviving R Kelly’.
Victims were sometimes selected from his concert audiences, or were enticed to join him after being offered help with their fledgling music careers after chance encounters with the singer. But after joining his entourage, they found that they were subjected to strict rules and were aggressively punished if they violated what his team had dubbed “Rob’s rules”.
A swift decision by the jury of seven men and five women.
The Jury took nine hours over two days to reach a verdict, meaning they must have been fairly united in their examination of the evidence.
Right before the verdict was read, a handful of R. Kelly’s fans blasted his music outside the courthouse. When asked how they felt after he was found guilty, the fans who were visibly sad said they still supported him.
On the other hand, R. Kelly’s victims are feeling some measure of comfort.
One victim, who remained anonymous throughout the trial, issued a statement saying she felt like she could now start the healing process. This verdict no doubt hinged on their testimony and willingness to recount personal trauma.
For decades these black women kept asking when they would be heard when their voices would matter. This conviction is their ‘Me Too’ victory.
During the federal trial, the court also heard how he had illegally obtained paperwork to marry underage singer Aaliyah, who died in a plane accident in August 2001 after marrying Kelly at age 15.
Kelly’s lawyer Deveraux Cannick told reporters that the singer did not expect to be found guilty.
“The government cherry-picked their version that they thought would support the continuation of the narrative,” said Mr. Cannick. “Why would he expect this verdict given all the inconsistencies that we saw?”
Meanwhile, Kelly is separately facing trial in Chicago on child pornography and obstruction charges. He is also due to face sex abuse charges in Illinois and Minnesota.
At least two former Kelly associates have pleaded guilty in separate cases related to attempts to silence Kelly’s accusers.
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