Twenty years after he was first hit with a litany of abuse and misconduct charges, but ultimately not convicted, R&B singer Robert Sylvester Kelly (better known as R. Kelly) has been found guilty on a similar raft of new crimes and now faces potential life in prison.
Billboard’s Neena Rouhani reported that on Monday, Sept. 27, Kelly “was found guilty of all nine charges brought against him by the government, including racketeering and sex trafficking.”
The five-week trial included arguments, physical evidence and testimony from more than 45 witnesses, all of whom painted Kelly as a horrific predator who preyed on young, fragile victims, luring them with promises of money and fame. After two days of deliberation, a jury of seven men and five women reached their verdict.
According to Rouhani, the victims in the trial — eight women and two men — “recounted horrific episodes with Kelly, including experiencing and witnessing gruesome abuse. His previous employees and associates, many of which stood back as the crimes occurred, corroborated the testimonies from the victims.”
The trial also brought up details of Kelly’s marriage to the musician Aaliyah, a protégé of Kelly’s that he infamously wed in an illegal ceremony when he was 27 at the time, and she was just 15.
“During the five-week trial, the prosecution held the burden of proof, arguing to convince a jury that Kelly was knowingly using his musical ‘enterprise’ as a vehicle for crime,’ mainly involving sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors,” Rouhani said. “This point was crucial in hammering down the racketeering charge, at the heart of the case.”
In contrast, the defense tried to poke holes in the government’s case by painting the victims of Kelly’s abuse as “disgruntled groupies,” claiming that, among other things, because Kelly is rumored to be illiterate, he is unable to “run a criminal enterprise.”
In addition to the racketeering conviction, Kelly was also found guilty of eight violations of the Mann Act — a law created in 1910 that “criminalizes the trafficking of women for prostitution or ‘immoral’ purposes.”
In a press conference following the announcement of the verdict in the case, acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis said, “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 — a predator who used his inner circle to ensnare underage girls and young men and women for decades in an assorted web of sex abuse, exploitation and humiliation.”
“To the victims in this case, your voices were heard, and justice was finally served. I applaud their courage in revealing in open court the painful, intimate and horrific details of their lives with him,” Kasulis added. “No one deserves what they experienced at his hands or the threats and harassment they faced in telling the truth about what happened to them. We hope that today’s verdict brings some measure of comfort and closure to the victims.”
Kelly’s sentencing is currently scheduled for May 4, 2022. He is also set to stand trial in two additional trials in the coming months. In Illinois, he has been charged with child pornography and obstruction; in Minnesota, he also faces a charge of child prostitution.