R&B singer R. Kelly could spend the rest of his life behind bars after being convicted of running a decades-long sex trafficking ring -- one that included children as victims -- following a high-profile trial full of graphic testimony.
The guilty verdict returned by seven male and five female federal jurors in Brooklyn on Monday "forever brands" Robert Sylvester Kelly, 54, 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, the acting US attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Kasulis told the victims -- both male and female -- that their "voices were heard and justice was finally served."
She called the singer "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."
Kelly was found guilty of nine counts -- one of racketeering and eight of violating the Mann Act, a federal law the prohibits transporting people across state lines "for any immoral purpose." Jurors deliberated for nine hours following a six-week trial.
Kelly, who's remained in custody since he was formally charged in 2019, betrayed little emotion when the verdicts were read, in contrast to previous viral video clips of him openly weeping.
Defense attorney Deveraux Cannick accused federal prosecutors of "cherry-picking" evidence against the "I Believe I Can Fly" hit maker that would "support the continuation of [their] narrative."
Kelly's defense attacked his accusers as "groupies" who leveraged the #MeToo movement to take down a famed and beloved performer.
They got that wrong, said attorney Gloria Allred, who represented three of the six victims who testified.
Kelly was the one who "used the power of his celebrity to recruit vulnerable underage girls for the purpose of sexually abusing them," she said.
"These were not May-October relationships, which is what his defense attorney wanted the jury to believe," Allred said. "These were crimes against children and some adults."
A total of 45 prosecution and five defense witnesses testified during the trial.
Some of the witnesses told jurors they'd been recruited and groomed for sex, with Kelly and his associates arranging trips for them to concerts and other events across the country.
Others testified about Kelly's relationship with the singer Aaliyah, who was 15 when she married Kelly in August 1994. He was 45 at the time while the marriage license, application and certification listed her age as 18 at the time, the government said.
Former Demetrius Smith told jurors that he bribed a worker at a Chicago-area welfare office with $500 in cash to create a bogus ID for Aaliyah, who died in 2001.
A victim who wasn't identified by her full name testified that she told Kelly that she was 17 after he invited her to his studio, but he "said it was fine," sexually abused her and even recorded them having sex.
A former radio intern told jurors that a Kelly associate put her in a room "locked from the outside" after she travelled to Chicago to interview him, then kept here there for several days, allowing occasional bathroom and shower breaks.
She told jurors she blacked out after her first meal in days and woke up to find Kelly adjusting his pants.
"I was sexually assaulted," the woman testified. "There was something in me that wasn't wanted."
She wasn't the only victim confined and forced to follow rules, federal prosecutors said. Among the audio they played during the trial was a clip in which a man they identified as Kelly is heard ordering a crying woman to keep her eyes closed.
"I'm a dumb white bitch, daddy," the woman is heard saying, apparently after being slapped. "I want you to fix me."
A video shown to jurors but not released publicly showed Kelly grabbing a victim by the hair and forcing her into oral sex on another man, a federal prosecutor said.
U.S. District Court Judge Judge Ann M. Donnelly scheduled sentencing for May 4, 2022.
Kelly's legal ordeal isn't over, however. He also faces federal child pornography and obstruction charges in Illinois, as well as criminal charges of engaging in prostitution with a minor in Minnesota and aggravated criminal sexual abuse charges in state court in Illinois. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.
The 13-count federal indictment in Illinois accuses Kelly of videotaping himself having sex with at least four girls younger than 18. It also accuses him and associates of paying "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to several people to recover the videos after discovering them missing.
The state indictment in Illinois accuses him of sexually abusing four victim, three of them younger than 17. The charges in Minnesota include two counts of prostitution with a minor under 18.
Convictions in some if not all of the pending prosecutions, in tandem with whatever sentence Donnelly hands down next year, would guarantee that Kelly never tastes freedom again.
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