After weeks of witness testimonies, the racketeering case levied against Robert Kelly – better known as R. Kelly has come to a close.
After nine hours of jury deliberations, the 54-year-old RnB hitmaker of “I believe I can fly” was found guilty on all accounts this Monday. The now-disgraced singer faced many charges: one count of racketeering with 14 underlying acts, including kidnapping, forced labor, and sex trafficking, an additional eight counts of violating the Mann Act – an Act that prohibits sex trafficking across states.
From August 18, the jury listened to 45 witness testimonies and was privy to the prosecution’s hundreds of exhibits. With Jurors hearing from multiple witnesses whose abuse accusations led and some of whom did not lead to any charges and several other witnesses who worked with him at one point in their lives; drivers, assistants, accountants.
Mr. Kelly did not take the stand, and neither did his current or former romantic partners; the defense instead chose to focus on five defense witnesses to testify in his defense.
The case against Mr. Kelly listed six women, some of whom were minors at the time of the abuse. The prosecution throughout the case argued that the RnB singer ran a criminal enterprise for years. It was an enterprise that recruited women and underage girls for sex. In her closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Geddes said, “the defendant was more than just a part of his enterprise; he was the leader.”
And although Mr. Kelly has been found guilty on all accounts, he was not found guilty of two racketeering acts concerning a radio intern. The radio intern testified on September 9. In her testimony, R. Kelly invited her to travel to Chicago to interview him at his studio in 2003. She was 21, and upon arrival, an employee of Mr. Kelly showed her to a room- locked from the outside. The radio intern was only allowed to leave when she had to use the bathroom. She recounted losing unconsciousness after having a meal and woke up to Mr. Kelly adjusting his pants. She realized she had been raped.
Behind black-rimmed glasses and a mask, Mr. Kelly listened to his verdict in the Brooklyn federal court- motionless. And at an overflow courtroom, a woman cried as the verdict of the six-week trial was read. A feeling that was shared by many others who waited in an adjacent park to hear the verdict.
As the verdict was read, it became clear that Mr. Kelly’s defense failed to convince the seven men and five women Jury of his innocence. Even after the singer’s lead attorney, Deveraux Cannick, in a very spirited closing argument, quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mike Pence, and even Hugh Heffner in his client’s defense.
Deveraux Cannick told reporters, “I’m sure we will be appealing.” He expressed that the defense was very disappointed. This does not come as a surprise as he accused the prosecution of allowing witnesses to lie in court during the closing arguments. During his closing argument, Cannick said that he felt that his client was not receiving a fair trial, seeing that people already had a biased opinion about Mr. Kelly after watching “Surviving R. Kelly.”
On the other hand, Jacquelyn Kasulis, the interim U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said, “justice was finally served.” In a press conference following the verdict, Kasulis, who represented six witnesses, referred to the singer as a “predator.” On that used, “used his inner circle to ensnare underage girls, and young men and women, for decades in a sordid web of sex abuse, exploitation, and humiliation.”
Kasulis also addressed the victims of Mr. Kelly, referring to them as “brave” for their courage to come forward. “To the victims, in this case, your voices were heard, and justice finally served,” she said.
Attorney Gloria Allred, who represented three of the six victims, said that the verdict read on Monday served as a message to other celebrities that preyed on others. She also discounted the defense’s defense, that the victims were opportunists motivated by greed and fame. “These were not May-October relationships, which is what his defense attorney wanted the jury to believe – these were crimes against children and some adults,” she said.
It is likely that Robert Sylvester Kelly, his full name, could spend decades in prison after his sentencing in May next year. Mr. Kelly has, throughout the trial, denied any guilt in these allegations.
However, his legal battles are far from over. In Minnesota, he faces criminal charges – two counts of prostitution with a minor and aggravated criminal sexual abuse in Illinois. He faces additional federal charges, including child pornography and obstruction charges in Illinois.