An explosive sex trafficking and racketeering trial is underway after a celebrity was accused of preying upon women and girls.
R&B singer Robert Kelly, known to the world as R. Kelly, has been accused of racketeering and sex trafficking. According to prosecutors, over the course of two decades, Kelly “preyed upon women and girls who attended his concerts,” with whom he allegedly engaged in illegal sexual activity.
The charges against the singer come from six separate victims. Prosecutors allege that Kelly required these victims to follow several rules, including telling them that they would have to ask permission to leave their rooms to go to the bathroom or eat.
In order to make the racketeering charge stick, prosecutors will have to demonstrate that “the sexual abuse was part of an organized criminal operation,” according to The New York Times. This angle is what makes the trial different from other high-profile sexual abuse cases, such as those against Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby.
If Kelly is convicted, he could be facing life in prison. He has pleaded not guilty.
Outside of this trial in New York, Kelly is also facing several charges in other states, including child pornography, aggravated sexual abuse, enticing a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity, prostitution, solicitation, and obstruction of justice.
Past Charges and Allegations
Kelly previously faced child pornography charges because of a leaked tape that allegedly showed him participating in sexual acts with an underage girl, but he was acquitted of those charges in 2008 after denying he was the man in the video. The jury reportedly acquitted Kelly because they were unsure about the prosecutors’ claims that the underage girl on the tape was Kelly’s goddaughter.
He has faced several other scandals in the past.
According to Yahoo! News:
“Kelly has faced allegations of sexual misconduct with underage girls since the 1990s, when as a 27-year-old, he illegally married 15-year-old singer Aaliyah. Their marriage was later annulled, and Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001. The Chicago Sun-Times reported in 2000 that Kelly had sex with girls ‘as young as 15,’ but his music career continued to thrive. Years later, though, Kelly came under additional scrutiny in the wake of a 2017 BuzzFeed News report on his alleged ‘ongoing mental and physical abuse of several women’ and allegations he was holding women against their will in a ‘cult.’ In January 2019, the Lifetime documentary series Surviving R. Kelly detailed the allegations against the singer with interviews with numerous accusers, prompting another wave of backlash. Kelly has remained in custody since July 2019.”
Since the new trial began, several accusers have testified.
Jerhonda Pace told the court that she had several sexual encounters with Kelly when she was only 16, and asserted that he abused her both sexually and physically, and made her lie about her age.
Another accuser, identified only as “Addie,” said that Kelly raped her after a concert when she was 17.
In another piece of testimony, one accuser said that the R&B singer sexually assaulted her at 17, physically abused her, and “purposely” gave her the sexually transmitted disease herpes.
A man identified only as “Louis,” who was the first male accuser to testify against Kelly, said that the singer sexually abused him when he was 17.
Kelly’s former employees have also testified, with one saying that part of his job involved giving girls Kelly’s phone number, and another asserting that he bribed a government employee to get a fake ID for Aaliyah that would allow her to marry Kelly.
The arguments from Kelly’s defense team have been fairly simple. Nicole Blank Becker, one of his attorneys, said that the victims were not recruited, and that they “knew exactly what they were getting into.”
Yahoo! News reports:
“In one instance, Kelly’s defense team had an accuser read a letter she wrote purporting to detail a plot to blackmail Kelly; the accuser said that Kelly ‘made me’ write it to have as collateral.”