R&B superstar R Kelly has been convicted in a sex trafficking trial in the United States after decades of avoiding criminal responsibility for numerous allegations of misconduct with young women and children.
A jury of seven men and five women on Monday 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 and remained motionless with eyes downcast, as the verdict was read in federal court in Brooklyn.
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.
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.
Several accusers testified in lurid detail during the trial, alleging that Kelly subjected them to perverse and sadistic whims when they were underage.
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.
His records and concert tickets kept selling. Other artists continued to record his songs, even after he was arrested in 2002 and accused of making a recording of himself sexually abusing and urinating on a 14-year-old girl.
Widespread public condemnation did not come until a widely watched docuseries called, Surviving R. Kelly, helped make his case a signifier of the #MeToo era. This 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,” said acting US Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis on Monday.
Gloria Allred, a lawyer for some of Kelly’s accusers, said outside the court that “Mr Kelly is the worst” of all the predators she has gone after – a list that includes Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein.
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. The defence labelled the accusers “groupies” and “stalkers”.
Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, has been jailed without bail since 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.