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R. Kelly convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking by a federal jury in New York

<i>Elizabeth Williams/AP</i><br/>In this courtroom sketch
AP
Elizabeth Williams/AP
In this courtroom sketch

By Sonia Moghe, CNN

Jurors have found R&B singer R. Kelly guilty of racketeering, including acts of bribery and sexual exploitation of a child, along with separate charges of sex trafficking.

In this federal case in the Eastern District of New York, Kelly faced a total of nine counts — one count of racketeering, with 14 underlying acts that included sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery and sex trafficking charges, and also eight additional counts of violations of the Mann Act, a sex trafficking law.

Kelly was found guilty of nine counts — one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act. Of the 14 underlying acts for the racketeering count, he needed to be found guilty of at least two to be convicted of that count. Jurors found prosecutors had proven all but two of the 14 underlying racketeering acts.

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“Today’s guilty verdict forever brands R. Kelly as a predator, who used his fame and fortune to prey on the young, the vulnerable and the voiceless for his own sexual gratification,” said Jacquelyn Kasulis, acting US attorney from the Eastern District of New York.

R. Kelly is “a predator who 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 added.

She said the victims were brave for coming forward and telling their stories.

“To the victims in this case, your voices were heard and justice was finally served,” Kasulis said.

Attorney Gloria Allred, who represented three of the six victims who testified at trial, said Kelly is the worst predator she has ever pursued.

“First, he used the power of his celebrity to recruit vulnerable underage girls for the purpose of sexually abusing them. 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,” Allred said.

She said the verdict was also a message to other celebrities who prey on others.

Kelly did not have any reaction to the verdict when it was read in court and, according to his attorney, he was not expecting this verdict.

Attorney Deveraux Cannick said outside of court the government “cherry-picked” evidence to support its narrative.

“You didn’t get to see what we saw in terms of the discovery. You didn’t get to see all the inconsistencies,” Cannick said. “We said in our summation that the government cherry-picked their version that they thought would support the continuation of the narrative.”

Cannick continued, “Why would he expect this verdict given all the inconsistencies that we saw?”

Kelly could face decades in prison

The jury, made up of seven men and five women, began deliberating Friday afternoon.

In all, Kelly could face decades in prison at sentencing, which is scheduled for May 4.

The verdict comes 13 years after Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, was acquitted of child pornography charges at an Illinois state trial.

An attorney for Kelly said they are considering filing an appeal and are disappointed in the verdict.

Trial began August 18

Fifty prosecution and defense witnesses took the stand during the five-week trial, including victims who were identified as “Jane Does” in Kelly’s indictments. There were 45 prosecution witnesses.

Jane Doe 1 was the singer Aaliyah, who died in 2001.

Jurors heard from multiple witnesses who were present at her marriage to Kelly on August 31, 1994, when he was 27 and she was 15. Prosecutors showed copies of the couple’s marriage license application, which listed Aaliyah’s age as 18 at the time of their wedding, as well as their marriage license and marriage certification.

Kelly’s former tour manager, Demetrius Smith, testified reluctantly that he bribed a worker at a welfare office in the Chicago area to create a welfare ID for Aaliyah.

“I made her (the welfare office worker) an offer and she took the money,” Smith testified. “I gave her $500.”

While the ID did not list Aaliyah’s date of birth, an Illinois official testified September 15 that, generally, a person has to be at least 18 to obtain that particular type of ID.

Nathan Edmond, a minister who married the two, spoke publicly for the first time about the marriage while testifying September 1 said he met the couple the day he married them.

“I didn’t think it was anybody special. I didn’t understand it at all,” Edmond testified.

Jurors also heard from a woman who identified herself only as Stephanie, who said she met Kelly at an event in Chicago in 1999 when she was 17, and that he eventually invited her to his studio.

“I remember him asking me my age,” Stephanie testified. “When I said I was 17, he said it was fine.”

Stephanie testified that Kelly sexually abused her when she was 17, and recorded them having sex. He paid for her travel to Florida to meet him on her 18th birthday and she stopped speaking with him shortly after the trip. She described fearing his angry outbursts, saying he would yell at her in public places.

A former radio intern who identified herself as Sonja testified September 9 that Kelly invited her to travel to Chicago to interview him at his studio in 2003 when she was 21 and that once she arrived, an employee put her in a room that Sonja quickly realized was “locked from the outside.” She said she was kept in the room for several days, occasionally let out to go to the bathroom and shower.

“The door was locked. I wanted to get out,” Sonja testified.

Sonja testified she lost consciousness after eating her first meal in days and saw Kelly adjusting his pants when she woke up. She testified that she believed he sexually assaulted her when she was unconscious.

“I was sexually assaulted,” Sonja testified. “There was something in me that wasn’t wanted.”

The media was not allowed into the courtroom for the trial and only allowed to listen to some of the graphic audio introduced as evidence while the jury was deliberating.

In one of those clips, a voice that prosecutors said was Kelly’s is heard directing a woman to keep her eyes closed. “Eyes open, guess what? You start over,” the man says.

The woman is heard crying and a noise resembling hitting is heard. Sometimes, as the woman cries, she can be heard saying, “I’m a dumb white bitch, daddy, I want you to fix me.” The man’s voice can then be heard professing love and demanding respect.

Kelly’s legal problems are not over

Kelly still has legal battles after this trial. In the Northern District of Illinois, he faces more federal charges including child pornography and obstruction charges. He also faces criminal charges in Minnesota, for two counts of engaging in prostitution with a minor, and Illinois state charges for aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and denies any wrongdoing.

The 13-count indictment released in July 2019 in the Northern District of Illinois accused Kelly of videotaping himself having sex with at least four girls younger than 18 beginning in 1998. A few years later, after Kelly learned that some of those videos were missing from his “collection,” he and others began paying “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to several people to recover them, the indictment says.

Also in 2019, a grand jury in Cook County, Illinois, indicted Kelly on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four alleged victims, three of whom were listed as younger than 17.

That indictment was followed a few months later by another one from a Cook County grand jury on 11 counts ranging from aggravated criminal sexual assault and criminal sexual assault to aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

In August 2019, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office in Minnesota announced Kelly was charged with two counts of prostitution with a person under 18. According to the criminal complaint, a woman said the incident happened in 2001, when she was 17.

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CNN’s Mark Morales, Melanie Schuman and Rob Frehse contributed to this report.

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