Crime & Justice

Singer R. Kelly’s sex-trafficking trial gets under way

New York, Aug 18 (EFE).- The federal trial on sex-trafficking charges of singer R. Kelly, dubbed the “King of R&B” during the 1990s, got under way on Wednesday in New York with prosecutors describing him as a “predator” in his relationships with women and girls, including the late R&B singer Aaliyah, whom he married when he was 27 and she was just 15.

Robert Sylvester Kelly, 54, has been charged by the Eastern District of New York with one count of racketeering with 14 underlying acts, including sex trafficking, kidnapping, forced labor and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits sex trafficking across state lines, engaging in all this behavior over two decades, charges similar to the ones he is also facing in Chicago, where he remained behind bars from his 2019 arrest up until this past June.

“This case is about a predator. That predator is the defendant,” Assistant US Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez, one of the three prosecutors handling the case, said in her opening statement in the Brooklyn courthouse where the trial is under way.

Cruz Melendez said that Kelly was a predator who for decades used his fame, popularity and a network of associates to deceive girls, boys and young women for his own sexual ends.

Kelly’s lawyers, however, contend that prosecutors are trying to cast their client as a Mafia-like figure and assured jurors that the evidence will exonerate him.

The prosecutor, however, told jurors of Kelly’s interactions with six women and girls – including Aaliyah, who died in a 2001 plane crash – referring to them by their Christian names only and saying that they were between 16 and 22 years old when they were sexually abused by the singer.

Some of those alleged victims potentially will appear as witnesses during the trial, according to local press reports.

Authorities said that two of the witnesses appeared in the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” which detailed allegations of Kelly’s abuse, pedophilia and predatory behavior and sparked harsh criticism of the singer, leading to his indictment some months later.

The trial of the “I believe I can fly” singer is anticipated to last about a month, the jury includes seven men and five women who will remain anonymous for privacy reasons and both the press and the public have been banned from the courtroom.

Kelly’s defense team said that the prosecution’s case was built on exaggerations and falsehoods to the point where not even the government will be able to disentangle the jumble of “lies.”

The artist, who was acquitted in 2008 in a child pornography trial, has pleaded not guilty of the charges and says that 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 when the MeToo movement began to gain steam.

In addition to the federal charges he is facing in New York and Chicago, Kelly has been charged with similar crimes on the state level in Illinois and Minnesota.

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