R. Kelly convicted on all counts and faces life in prison

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R. Kelly enters the Criminal Court building on June 6, 2019. [Reuters]

R. Kelly was convicted by a federal jury on Monday in his sex trafficking trial, where prosecutors accused the R&B singer of exploiting his stardom for a quarter of a century to lure underage women and girls into his orbit at for sexual purposes.

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. A woman watching from a busy courtroom cried as the verdict was read.

Deveraux Cannick, an attorney for Kelly, told reporters outside the courtroom that the defense was “disappointed”. Kelly’s sentencing was scheduled for 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 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.

Members of the prosecution team arrive for the singer’s sexual abuse trial at Brooklyn Federal District Court in New York, the United States, September 27, 2021. [Reuters]

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.

Trial testimony from government witnesses described, often in graphic detail, an improper side of Kelly’s 30-year music career, whose highlights include the 1996 Grammy Award-winning smash “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”.

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.

A witness hoping to interview her for a radio station said he locked her up for at least two days without food or water before assaulting her.

R. Kelly sits with his attorneys as the jury deliberates in Kelly’s sexual abuse trial in Brooklyn Federal District Court in a courtroom skit in New York, United States, September 27, 2021 . [Reuters]

Witnesses also said Kelly urged accusers to write “letters of apology” to potentially absolve him of wrongdoing, and concealed prior to sex that he contracted herpes.

The racketeering charge gave prosecutors leeway to present evidence that might otherwise be too old to prosecute.

Kelly did not testify in her defense, which lasted about two days.

His lawyers have sought, including in cross-examinations of several witnesses, 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.

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