Brooklyn Boro

Convicted on all charges: R. Kelly called ‘worse’ than Weinstein, Epstein

Brooklyn sentencing set for May, still faces trials in 2 states

September 27, 2021 Tom Hays and Larry Neumeister, Associated Press
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R. Kelly, the R&B superstar known for his anthem “I Believe I Can Fly,” was convicted Monday in a sex trafficking trial of all charges after decades of avoiding criminal responsibility for numerous allegations of misconduct with young women and children.

A jury of seven men and five women in Brooklyn Federal Court found Kelly, 54, guilty of all nine counts, including racketeering, on their second day of deliberations. Kelly wore a face mask below black-rimmed glasses, remaining motionless with eyes downcast, as the verdict was read.

Prosecutors alleged that the entourage of managers and aides who helped Kelly meet girls — and keep them obedient and quiet — amounted to a criminal enterprise. Two people have been charged with Kelly in a separate federal case pending in Chicago.

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He faces the possibility of decades in prison for crimes including violating the Mann Act, an anti- sex trafficking law that prohibits taking anyone across state lines “for any immoral purpose.” Sentencing is scheduled for May 4.

One of Kelly’s lawyers, Deveraux Cannick, said he was disappointed and hoped to appeal.

“I think I’m even more disappointed the government brought the case in the first place, given all the inconsistencies,” Cannick said.

Prosecutors against R. Kelly arrive at the Brooklyn Federal Court House on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021, in New York. A New York City jury resumed deliberations on Monday at the sex trafficking trial of R&B star R. Kelly. Jurors began the day by sending the judge a note asking for transcripts of testimony by two former Kelly employees and for a legal clarification. AP Photo/Brittainy Newman

For years, the public and news media seemed to be more amused than horrified by allegations of inappropriate relationships with minors, starting with Kelly’s illegal marriage to the R&B phenom Aaliyah in 1994 when she was just 15.

Widespread public condemnation didn’t come until a widely watched docuseries, “Surviving R. Kelly,” helped make his case a signifier of the #MeToo era, and gave voice to accusers who wondered if their stories were previously ignored because they were Black women.

“To the victims in this case, your voices were heard and justice was finally served,” Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis said Monday.

Gloria Allred, a lawyer for some of Kelly’s accusers, said outside the courthouse that of all the predators she’s gone after — a list including Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein — “Mr. Kelly is the worst.”

At the trial, several of Kelly’s accusers testified without using their real names to protect their privacy. Jurors were shown homemade videos of Kelly engaging in sex acts that prosecutors said were not consensual.

Deveraux Cannick, attorney for R. Kelly, is surrounded by the media during a break at the Brooklyn Federal Court House on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021, in New York. The 54-year-old Kelly, perhaps best known for the 1996 smash hit “I Believe I Can Fly, ” has pleaded not guilty to racketeering charges accusing him of sexually abusing women, girls and boys for more than two decades. AP Photo/Brittainy Newman

The defense labeled the accusers “groupies” and “stalkers.”

Kelly’s lawyer, Cannick, questioned why women stayed in relationships with Kelly if they thought they were being exploited.

“You made a choice,” Cannick told one woman who testified, adding, “You participated of your own will.”

Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, has been jailed without bail since in 2019. The New York case is only part of the legal peril facing the singer. He also has pleaded not guilty to sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota. Trial dates in those cases have yet to be set.

At the trial, prosecutors painted the singer as a pampered man-child and control freak. His accusers said they were under orders to call him “Daddy,” expected to jump and kiss him anytime he walked into a room, and to cheer only for him when he played pickup basketball games in which they said he was a ball hog.

The accusers alleged they were ordered to sign nondisclosure forms and were subjected to threats and punishments such as violent spankings if they broke what one referred to as “Rob’s rules.” Some said they believed the videotapes he shot of them having sex would be used against them if they exposed what was happening.

Among the other more troubling tableaus: Kelly keeping a gun by his side while he berated one of his accusers as a prelude to forcing her to give him oral sex in a Los Angeles music studio; 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 underneath a boxing ring in his garage; and Kelly shooting a shaming video of one alleged victim showing her smearing feces on her face as punishment for breaking his rules.

Some of the most harrowing testimony came from a woman who said Kelly took advantage of her in 2003 when she was an unsuspecting radio station intern. She testified he whisked her to his Chicago recording studio, where she was kept locked up and was drugged before he sexually assaulted her while she was passed out.

She said one of R. Kelly’s employees warned her to keep her mouth shut about what had happened.

Other testimony focused on Kelly’s relationship with Aaliyah. One of the final witnesses described seeing him sexually abusing her around 1993, when Aaliyah was only 13 or 14.

Jurors also heard testimony about a fraudulent marriage scheme hatched to protect Kelly after he feared he had impregnated Aaliyah. Witnesses said they were married in matching jogging suits using a license falsely listing her age as 18; he was 27 at the time.

For the Brooklyn trial, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly barred people not directly involved in the case from the courtroom in what she called a coronavirus precaution. Reporters and spectators had to watch on a video feed from another room.


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