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A decision has been made in the Brooklyn trial of R. Kelly. The former R&B singer was found guilty of all counts by a federal jury in Brooklyn, the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York announced on Monday.
Born Robert Sylvester Kelly, the singer faced one count of racketeering and eight violations of the Mann Act. The charges date back decades and involve six complaining witnesses, including the late singer Aaliyah, who died in a 2001 plane crash at 22. The 54-year-old has also been accused of knowingly infecting some accusers with a sexually transmitted disease, bribery, kidnapping, forced labor and producing child pornography.
R. Kelly has been convicted of racketeering by a federal jury in Brooklyn
The verdict comes after five weeks of testimony from more than 45 witnesses. Kelly, however, did not testify. Since being indicted by a grand jury in February 2019, the singer has maintained his innocence in all charges, with his defense depicting his accusers as groupies lying about their relationship with him.
Kelly's lawyer Thomas A. Farinella responded to the verdict on Twitter, calling it an "aberration."
"We are disappointed with the verdict. The use of the RICO statute in this manner is an aberration. As proved, the RICO 'Enterprise' was based on a series of independent relationships & events the gov’t patched together like different types of fabrics and passed it off as silk," he wrote.
We are disappointed with the verdict.The use of the RICO statute in this manner is an aberration. As proved, the RICO “Enterprise” was based on a series of independent relationships & events the gov’t patched together like different types of fabrics and passed it off as silk.
In total, the defense called five witnesses, including a former Chicago police officer who pleaded guilty to felony forgery charges; John Holder, an accountant who worked for Kelly a year before the singer's arrest; a former musical collaborator, Dhanai Ramnaran, who testified he was never on Kelly's payroll but worked with him for 15 years; and Jeff Meeks, a former assistant for Kelly who testified that he once saw a woman attempting to leave Kelly's studio.
Federal prosecutors, meanwhile, called 45 witnesses to the stand, with 11 of them being Kelly's alleged accusers and eight former employees. Prosecutors described Kelly as a "predator," and accused him of leading "a criminal enterprise" of managers, bodyguards and other employees who allegedly helped the singer recruit women and underage girls for sex and pornography and to cross state lines for that purpose.
The prosecution's witnesses included Jerhonda Pace, who accused Kelly of sexually and physically assaulting her after inviting her to his Chicago-area mansion in 2010. Anthony Navarro, a former employee, testified that although he never saw the singer sexually abuse anyone, some of Kelly's "girlfriends" were confined to the singer's home and prohibited from eating or leaving without Kelly’s permission.
Demetrius Smith, a former tour manager of Kelly’s, testified that fake IDs were used to clear the way for Kelly to marry a then-15-year-old Aaliyah after he began a sexual relationship with her and believed she had become pregnant. Prosecutors said that Kelly wanted to use the marriage, which was reportedly later annulled, to shield himself from criminal charges related to having sex with a minor and prevent Aaliyah from testifying against him.
One woman, identified anonymously as Jane Doe, accused Kelly of sexually abusing her on his tour bus and in hotel rooms after asking the aspiring singer to "audition" for him in private and forcing himself upon her. The witness, now 23, testified that the singer knowingly infected her with herpes, repeatedly struck her with a shoe and forced her to smear feces on her face, among other forms of abuse.
Sentencing is now set for May 4. Kelly faces decades in prison on these charges.
Outside of New York, Kelly faces multiple charges in Illinois and Minnesota, including aggravated sexual abuse, child pornography, enticement of a minor, obstruction of justice, prostitution and solicitation of a minor.