US singer R Kelly has been found guilty of eight counts of sex trafficking, among other crimes.
Warning: this article contains description of an underage sexual relationship.
US R&B singer R Kelly has been found guilty of exploiting his superstar status to run a scheme to sexually abuse women and children over two decades.
Following a trial that began in August 2021, 11 accusers, nine women and two men, took the stand to describe the “sexual humiliation” and “violence” they experienced at his hands.
After two days of deliberation, the jury found Kelly guilty on all the charges he was facing. He was described during the trial as “the ringleader of a violent and coercive scheme that lured women and children for him to sexually abuse.”
He was found to have trafficked women between different US states and produced child pornography, with the jury finding him guilty of eight counts of sex trafficking, as well as racketeering.
During the trial, prosecutors also detailed how his managers, security guards and other entourage members worked to assist him in his criminal enterprise.
The BBC reports that sentencing is due on 4 May 2022 and that he could spend the rest of his life behind bars.
At a news conference outside the court on Monday, prosecutor Jacquelyn Kasulis said that the jury had 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.”
As reported on 19 August 2021: The trial of US R&B singer R Kelly has officially begun in New York, following decades worth of allegations of sexual abuse and inappropriate behaviour with underage girls.
Kelly – who has consistently denied the claims against him – was arrested in July 2019 on federal charges of racketeering and violating the Mann Act, which prohibits the transportation of women or girls “for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery”. The crimes he is accused of under those charges include kidnapping, forced labour and bribery.
If he is convicted on all counts, the singer could be sentenced to several decades in prison.
In her opening statement on Wednesday (18 August), Assistant US Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez described Kelly as “a man who used lies, manipulation, threats and physical abuse” to control his victims and avoid accountability.
“This case is about a predator, a man who for decades used his fame, his popularity, and a network of people at his disposal to target, groom and exploit girls, boys and young women for his own sexual gratification,” Cruz Melendez said. “This case is not about a celebrity who likes to party a lot or about the defendant’s sexual preferences.”
Taking to the stand as the prosecution’s first witness, Jerhonda Johnson Pace – who first spoke out about her alleged underage sexual relationship with Kelly in 2017 – testified that she had initially told Kelly she was 19 upon meeting him in 2009, before admitting she was underage on the day they first had sex.
“I felt uncomfortable. I felt like it wasn’t right, that I should tell him my age,” Pace told the court. “He asked me, ‘What is that supposed to mean?’ and told me to tell everyone I was 19 – and to act 21.”
Pace – who appeared in the 2019 docu-series Surviving R Kelly – also spoke about what her relationship with Kelly entailed, alleging that Kelly demanded she call him “Daddy” and get his permission to go to the bathroom.
“He told me he was going to train me to please him sexually,” she added.
Pace’s testimony will continue on Thursday. The trial – which is expected to last about one month – is also expected to include testimony from more female accusers as well as at least one male accuser.
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