Arts & Entertainment

Award-winning singer R. Kelly convicted of racketeering, sex trafficking

New York, Sep 27 (EFE).- American singer R. Kelly was found guilty on Monday of sex trafficking and racketeering after a six-week trial in New York City in which dozens of witnesses offered graphic testimony.

The jury announced its verdict after nine hours of deliberations over two days.

The 54-year-old Kelly, a major recording artist who won three Grammy Awards in 1998 for his most famous song, “I Believe I Can Fly,” is due to be sentenced on May 4 by the same federal judge who presided over his trial in Brooklyn. He faces a sentence of 10 years to life in prison.

Nicknamed the “King of R&B,” Kelly was accused two years ago by the United States Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York of a range of charges that included racketeering, kidnapping, forced labor and transportation of women and girls in interstate commerce to engage in illegal sexual activity.

“As alleged, R. Kelly, together with employees and members of his entourage, engaged in a racketeering enterprise that preyed upon women and girls who attended his concerts so that the victims could be available to engage in illegal sexual activity with him at a moment’s notice,” US Attorney Richard Donoghue said then of the indictment unsealed on July 12, 2019.

Kelly also faces similar federal charges in Chicago, where he was behind bars from his arrest in February 2019 until being moved to a Brooklyn jail in June of this year ahead of his New York trial.

Additional sex crimes charges have been filed against him at the state level in Minnesota and Illinois.

Over the past several weeks, nearly a dozen witnesses testified that they had been victims of sex crimes at the hands of the singer, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, while dozens of other witnesses detailed a continuous pattern of abuse.

On the stand, the witnesses described a charismatic celebrity who would frequently target young girls who attended his concerts and sometimes sexually assaulted them backstage minutes after the shows.

Some of his former girlfriends testified that Kelly beat them, forced them to call him “daddy” and told them what to wear and when they could use the bathroom or eat.

The witnesses also said Kelly used his entourage to help him recruit young girls and isolate and intimidate them.

Gloria Allred, a high-profile attorney who represented several of the victims, told reporters shortly after the verdict that Kelly is the worst sexual predator she has come across in nearly 50 years of practicing law.

“He used the power of his celebrity to recruit vulnerable underage girls for the purpose of sexually abusing them,” she said outside the federal court in Brooklyn.

The recording artist opted last week not to testify in his own defense.

His attorneys sought to discredit the allegations against their client, calling several former employees who testified that they had never seen any predatory behavior by R. Kelly and even described his conduct as gentlemanly.

The recording artist, who was acquitted in 2008 in a child pornography case, pleaded not guilty to all charges in the New York City trial.

His attorneys said the young people claiming he abused them were groupies who “were dying to be with him” and that they only began to accuse him of abuse years later once the MeToo movement began to gain steam. EFE


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