R. Kelly convicted of attracting underage women and girls for sexual purposes
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NEW YORK, Sept. 27 (Reuters) – R. Kelly was convicted on Monday by a federal jury in his sex trafficking trial, where prosecutors accused the R&B singer of exploiting his stardom for a quarter of a century to attract women and underage girls in her orbit for sex.
Jurors in Brooklyn Federal Court deliberated for just over a day before voting to convict Kelly, 54, on the nine counts he faced, after a five-and-a-half-week trial.
Kelly kept her head down as the verdict was read, her face shielded by a white mask.
Also read: Relief and disbelief greet R. Kelly’s guilty verdict
A woman watching from a busy courtroom cried as the verdict was read, as did others who had waited to learn of Kelly’s fate in a park adjacent to the courthouse. A fan played the singer’s music there, including the song “Shut Up”.
Deveraux Cannick, an attorney for Kelly, told reporters the defense was disappointed. âI’m sure we’ll appeal,â he said.
Kelly faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years behind bars and could face life in prison upon his conviction on May 4, 2022.
The singer, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is one of the most prominent people on trial on sexual charges during the #MeToo movement, which has amplified the accusations that have haunted him since the early 2000s.
Like Kelly, many of his accusers were black, setting the case apart from the recent #MeToo convictions of comedian Bill Cosby and film producer Harvey Weinstein. Cosby’s conviction was overturned in June.
Kelly also had black supporters.
One, Sylvia Tumusiime, said in an interview that the verdict had left her “angry and upset and seeing that he was a white American.” White America â, after attending the entire trial.
“I will try to raise funds for him to try to start this appeal process,” said Tumusiime, of the state of Georgia. “I’m going hard and I’m not giving up. I’m not.”
Kelly had been charged with one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits the transport of people across state borders for the purpose of prostitution.
The racketeering charge gave prosecutors leeway to present evidence that might otherwise be too old to prosecute.
“We hope that today’s verdict will bring some comfort and closure to the victims,” ââacting US lawyer Jacquelyn Kasulis told reporters.
SHARE THEIR STORIES
Prosecutors said Kelly used her fame and charisma to recruit victims, some torn from the crowds at her concerts, with the help of people around her.
Witnesses said some victims had hoped Kelly could revive their careers, only to find that he demanded their strict obedience and would punish them if they failed.
Testimonies at the trial of 45 government witnesses described, often in graphic detail, an improper side of Kelly’s 30-year musical career, whose highlights include the 1996 Grammy hit “I Believe I Can Fly”.
Kelly has repeatedly denied the accusations of sexual abuse.
His alleged victims included the late singer Aaliyah, whom Kelly briefly and illegally married in 1994 when she was 15. Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001.
Numerous charges against Kelly were included in the January 2019 Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly”.
âWe commend the survivors for their bravery in speaking out and sharing their stories,â Lifetime and the documentary’s producers said in a joint statement. “They opened up important conversations about the sexual abuse that was to take place.”
Several witnesses said Kelly instills fear if her victims do not meet all of her needs, sexual and otherwise.
Jurors heard how Kelly would force victims to follow “Rob’s rules” including calling him “Dad” and getting permission to eat or use the bathroom.
Witnesses said Kelly urged accusers to write “letters of apology” to potentially absolve him of wrongdoing and concealed prior to sex that he contracted herpes.
‘NO MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.’
A witness, who identified herself as Sonja, said she had hoped to interview Kelly for a radio station where she was interned, when he locked her up for at least two days without food or water, and then the assaulted.
“I hid from Robert Kelly out of fear,” Sonja said in a statement read by her lawyer Gloria Allred. “I am ready to begin living my life without fear and to begin the healing process.”
Allred alluded after the verdict at Cannick’s oral argument where he invoked civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. to urge jurors to be courageous and acquit Kelly.
“Despite the fact that he thought he could control all of his victims, he was wrong,” Allred told reporters, referring to Kelly. “Based on the evidence, the jury must have concluded that R. Kelly is not Martin Luther King Jr.”
Kelly did not testify in her defense.
His lawyers had sought to portray Kelly’s accusers as former fans who felt helpless when they fell from grace and their sex with Kelly was consensual.
They also tried to show how some accusers stayed with Kelly long after the alleged abuse began, and wondered why they didn’t go to the police or waited years to come forward.
In addition to conviction, Kelly still faces federal charges in Chicago for child pornography and obstruction, and state charges in Illinois and Minnesota.
Reporting by Tyler Clifford and Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Howard Goller