R&B superstar R.Kelly was found guilty of racketeering in a high-profile sex-trafficking case after a long trail of sexual misconduct and abuse allegations.
Since he was formally charged in 2019, the singer has been in custody and on trial in New York for one count of racketeering, with 14 underlying acts including sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery, and sex trafficking charges.
He was also charged with eight more counts of violating the Mann Act, a sex trafficking law that prohibits the transport of people across state lines “for any immoral purpose.”
Despite the fact that R.Kelly, best known for the 1996 hit “I Believe I Can Fly,” pleaded not guilty to all charges in the case and did not take the stand in his own defence, prosecutors in the trial, which centred on the allegations of six people, claimed that the singer was a serial sexual predator who abused young women as well as underage girls and boys for more than two decades.
Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York successfully demonstrated to a jury of seven men and five women that Kelly was the leader of a criminal enterprise aimed at luring girls, boys, and women to the R&B singer for sexual gratification.
During a two-day closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Geddes accused Kelly and his entourage of using tactics from “the predator playbook” to control their victims.
His alleged tactics included confining victims in hotel rooms or his recording studio, controlling when they could eat and use the restroom, and forcing them to follow various “rules,” including demanding they call him “Daddy.”
During the five-week trial, fifty prosecution and defence witnesses testified, including victims identified as “Jane Does” in Kelly’s indictments. There were 45 witnesses for the prosecution.
He was found guilty of six counts of sexual exploitation of a child, bribery, kidnapping, racketeering, and sex trafficking. His sentencing hearing in New York is set for May 4, 2022. Kelly could face a prison sentence ranging from 10 years to life.
Kelly also has outstanding criminal charges in Cook County, Illinois, where he was indicted by the state attorney in February 2019 for aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four victims (three of whom were minors), and Minnesota, where he was charged in August 2019 with engaging in prostitution with a minor.
In Illinois, the singer will face a second federal trial on child pornography and obstruction of justice charges. Some of those allegations stem from a child pornography trial in Chicago in 2008, in which he was acquitted of all charges.
Kelly was regarded as one of the kings of R&B in the 1990s and 2000s. With hits like “Bump N’ Grind,” “I’m a Flirt (Remix),” and the “hip-hopera” project “Trapped in a Closet,” he was widely credited with helping to redefine the genre.
With the rise of the #MeToo movement, his behind-the-scenes actions drew increased public scrutiny, resulting in the #MuteRKelly social media campaign, record boycotts, and protests across the United States.
The Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” which aired in 2019 and featured testimony from several accusers, fueled calls for the singer to face legal consequences for his alleged pattern of abuse.