R. Kelly convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking

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R. Kelly was convicted of all counts of racketeering, child sexual exploitation and jury kidnapping on Monday in his federal trial held in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. The singer faces decades behind bars on the sentencing, which is set for May 4, 2022.

The New York federal case against R. Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, included racketeering, transportation to engage in unlawful sexual activity, and coercing a minor to engage in accusations of illegal sexual activity. The racketeering charge and violations of Mann’s Law, which prohibits sex trafficking across state lines, were particularly at the heart of prosecutors’ case to ensure that the singer and his associates were held accountable for coordination of sexual abuse of minors.

A jury deliberated for nine hours before returning a guilty verdict on all counts. With the racketeering charge, the prosecution went to great lengths to establish that Kelly was the head of a criminal enterprise that preyed on underage women and girls for sexual purposes. It allowed the prosecution to present evidence from more than 30 years ago, with 11 accusers among the more than 40 witnesses who testified during the trial. For the first time, prosecutors were able to initiate criminal proceedings against Kelly in connection with Kelly’s marriage to the late Aaliyah, who was then 15 years old. (Kelly had denied all charges against him.)

An attorney for Kelly did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told CNN they were considering appealing the singer’s name.

The indictment involving Aaliyah accused Kelly of conspiring with others and paying a bribe in exchange for obtaining a “fraudulent identification document” on August 30, 1994. A day later, Kelly, who was then 27, married minor Aaliyah in a secret ceremony. . The marriage was called off months later due to her age.

Jerhonda Pace was the opening witness for the prosecution and is one of six women and girls named in the indictment. Pace was 16 when she met Kelly at a party in 2009. During his testimony, Pace said he insisted that she call him “Dad” and that she needed permission. from Kelly to use the toilet. She said things ended after he strangled her until she passed out. Pace testified that Kelly knew she was 16 when they had sex because she claimed she showed him some ID, but she alleged he told her to pretend that she was 19 for the others. “He told me he was going to train me to sexually please him,” Pace said. She also testified that he gave her herpes. Prosecutors added that DNA evidence from a shirt Pace wore at the time matched Kelly’s.

A woman identified as Stephanie said she was 17 when she met Kelly in 1999 and soon after began having sex with the singer. She said it was the first time she spoke publicly about their dating until she spoke up, by The New York Times. Stéphanie described her time with him as “the most difficult time of my life”. “I have never been treated like this before or since,” she said. “He humiliated me, he degraded me, he scared me. I will never forget the way he treated me “and told the court that when Kelly had sex with her it was” humiliating “and he was” very specific “about the positions” in which he urged him to stay, sometimes for hours. .

Stephanie is one of six women at the heart of the indictment, three of whom said they were minors when Kelly started having sex with them. A woman identified as “Zel”, during the first two days of testifying, said she was 17 and an aspiring singer when she first met Kelly, whom she hoped would be. ‘help in his career. Instead, she said he physically assaulted her and when she got pregnant she told the court that he pressured her to have an abortion. “Zel,” known as Jane Doe number five in the indictment, had previously defended Kelly publicly, but then came forward accusing Kelly of sexual and physical abuse.

A woman identified as Faith, another of the six women in the indictment, said she was 19 when she met Kelly at a concert and they started sex shortly after. She accused the singer of exposing her to herpes and failing to inform her that he had the disease.

In the five weeks that prosecutors presented their case, accusers detailed their meetings with Kelly. A woman identified as Sonja testified that Kelly tricked her into her studio and raped her in 2003, while a man identified as Louis accused Kelly of mistreating him when he was 17 in 2006. second man who testified as Alex said Kelly treated him for sex from the age of 16, and they started having sex when he was 20.

Several former Kelly employees also testified, including former assistants and tour manager Demetrius Smith, who helped obtain fake IDs for Aaliyah. A former backup dancer said she saw the singer perform oral sex on a minor Aaliyah.

Accounts from employees combined with testimony from accusers were essential in building the prosecutors’ racketeering case against Kelly. In total, the prosecution presented more than 40 witnesses as evidence of Kelly’s racketeering; “The law recognizes that when someone commits a crime as a member of a group, they are more powerful – more dangerous,” Assistant US Attorney Elizabeth Geddes said in oral argument. “Without his entourage, the accused could not have committed the crimes he committed as long as he did.”

Despite the benefit of a long delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and possibly because of the last-minute change to Kelly’s legal team, the defense argument only lasted three days. and five witnesses. Kelly’s lawyers launched their defense by removing their list of probable witnesses, proposing three new ones, and then – when the third was not in town – interviewing only two. Witnesses, an aspiring artist named Dhanai Ramnanan aka Da-Ni and Larry Hood, a former bodyguard and member of the Chicago Police Department, both said they had known Kelly for more than a decade and hadn’t had seen the singer commit any of the abuses. during this time. Ramnanan, who referred to Kelly as a “mentor” and a “friend,” claimed that Kelly had been “chivalrous, essentially” with his girlfriends during the 15 years he had known Kelly.

Hood, who had known Kelly from high school but had worked with him for a shorter period, told the court he had never seen Kelly commit inappropriate behavior. Hood said his job as a police officer would have compelled him to act if he saw anything abusive happening.

Prosecutors made holes in the two men’s testimony: Ramnanan said he had been on the road with Kelly, but couldn’t remember which tours. He said he worked with Kelly in the studio, but the music was never released. Prosecutors asked him to indicate where he was in three different photos of Kelly and women on a tour bus and asked if he was with Kelly every second in the studio. The aspiring artist admitted that “he had to go to the bathroom”. “I guess you slept,” the prosecution added.

Hood’s cross-examination was based on the prosecution’s revelation that Hood, a former cop who now sells cars, had been convicted of forgery. Hood, who claimed he was unaware of Kelly’s marriage to Aaliyah as a minor, also claimed he was unaware he was spending counterfeit $ 100 bills in 2007.

The last defense witness, Music Director Julius Darrington, said during his work with Kelly – a term that began in 2016 – he had never witnessed any wrongdoing. However, prosecutors countered that Darrington, a “friend” Kelly helped break into the music industry, had never seen Kelly engage in any sexual or illegal activity because he had never passed time with the singer behind closed doors.

As his attorneys’ defense ended their case after their fifth and final witness, Kelly told the judge he would not testify, avoiding what would have been demanding cross-examination by federal prosecutors.

“For many years what happened in the world of the accused stayed in the world of the accused,” Federal prosecutor Elizabeth Geddes told jurors during oral argument. “But not anymore.”


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