Singer R. Kelly was found guilty of racketeering and sex trafficking after a six-week trial in New York, in which dozens of people testified against him.
The jury announced its verdict after nine hours of deliberations, and means that the one-time R&B star of the 1990s, who barely reacted to the decision, could spend several decades in prison.
R. Kelly was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York with racketeering, coercion and transporting women and girls for illegal sexual activity in the United States for two decades, charges similar to those he faces in Chicago, where he was behind bars from his arrest in 2019 until last June.
At the New York trial, the prosecution questioned at least 10 women over four weeks who said they were abused by Robert Sylvester Kelly, 54, and dozens more witnesses who detailed a continuing pattern of abuse.
The women described on the stand a charismatic celebrity who frequently singled out young victims attending his concerts, whom he sometimes sexually assaulted backstage minutes after the event.
Testimony also revealed prolonged abuse by Kelly against his partners, whom he beat, forced to call him “daddy,” controlled how they dressed, when they could use the bathroom or eat, how they interacted with other men, and whether they could leave the rooms of residences or hotels where he kept them.
In addition, they uncovered that R. Kelly used an entire network of employees to assist him in his efforts to recruit, isolate and intimidate young girls.
Attorney Gloria Allred, representing several of the victims, asserted that Kelly is the “worst sexual predator” she has seen during her long professional career.
“To begin with, he used the power of his celebrity status to recruit vulnerable minors for the purpose of sexually abusing them,” Allred told reporters outside the courthouse shortly after the sentencing was announced.
The lawyer stressed that these were not simple relationships between a young person and a more adult one, as Kelly’s defense argued, but were “crimes committed against girls and some adults”.
Last week, the artist decided not to testify during the judicial process, in which his lawyers tried to discredit the allegations of sexual abuse through several of his former employees, who assured they had never seen such behaviors and who even described him as “gentlemanly.”