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R Kelly trial news: Prosecutor calls singer ‘predator’ as defence slams female accusers’ ‘mess of lies’

Both sides set out their opening arguments in the long awaited case against the 54-year-old

Gino Spocchia
Thursday 19 August 2021 10:11 BST
R Kelly Accused Of Sexually Abusing Teenage Boy

R&B star R Kelly appeared in court on Wednesday as opening statements were made in a case involving decades of alleged sexual abuse carried out by the “I believe I can fly” singer during the height of his fame.

The 54-year-old, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, has strongly denied sexually exploiting and humiliating underage girls and boys, who prosecutors say were recruited by members of his entourage. The singer and his supporters were both accused of involvement in an “enterprise” that allowed the abuse to occur.

Kelly also faces charges of coercion, racketeering and bribery, as well as breaking US federal law by transporting girls for “immoral” acts. The trial, which could takes weeks, comes two years after his arrest by federal investigators in Chicago on other charges, with the Brooklyn trial delayed by Covid.

A jury made up of seven men and five women will ultimately decide his fate, in what his victims say has been a long wait for justice in the #MeToo era. It follows his acquittal of child pornography charges 13 years ago.

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Hello and welcome to The Independent’s coverage of the federal trial against R&B singer R Kelly, which begin in court in Brooklyn, New York, on Wednesday

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 10:43

How the #MeToo era caught up with R Kelly

R Kelly had been handed a reprieve when he was was acquitted in a 2008 child pornography case in Chicago, that allowed his music career to continue for nearly a decade more.

That was until the arrest of Hollywood figure Harvey Weinstein in 2017, whose arrest on charges of sexual assault birthed the #MeToo era, and the fight for women’s rights in the face of alleged assault by high profile male stars.

A number of women who accuse R Kelly of having sexually abused them in their youth came forward, leading to the R&B singer’s arrest in 2019 on charges of racketeering, coercion and bribery — among other charges.

The women's stories received wide exposure through the documentary “Surviving R Kelly”, that showed how R Kelly’s enabled his alleged exploitation of minors for decades. Its release was closely followed by his arrest.

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 11:11

Who is on the jury?

A jury consisting of seven men and five women will ultimately decide whether or not R Kelly is imprisoned on nine counts, which includes accusations of racketeering and bribery.

They were sworn in by judge Ann M Donnelly last Wednesday, after questioning on their awareness of R Kelly and the accusations against him. Judge Donnelly will preside over the trial at Brooklyn’s Federal District Court this afternoon.

Among the 12 jurors are a flight attendant, a mother of two school-aged children, and a fraud investigator who is an active member of her local church, according to The New York Times. Others include a woman who has family members imprisoned, and a hotel employee. All will remain anonymous.

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 11:37

R&B singer reportedly asked for STD charges to be dismissed

R Kelly reportedly asked the court ahead of his trial to dismiss charges that he knowingly exposed two people to a sexually transmitted disease (STD), and allegedly failed to tell women about it.

His legal team, according to court documents seen by TMZ, said herpes was a virus and not a bacterial venereal disease, and so he should not be charged for spreading it, and that he was unaware of having herpes at the time.

Federal prosecutors added the charges to the case in March, and accused R Kelly of having unprotected sex with two women without informing them of having herpes, as The New York Times reported. Prosecutors obtained his health records.

One of the women, identified only as “Jane Doe No. 6”, allegedly ended her relationship with the singer in 2018 after learning she had contracted an “infectious venereal disease”. It was not clear if the charges were thrown from the case.

R Kelly wants STD charges dropped from criminal case

Singer has pleaded not guilty to racketeering, bribery, coercion, enticement and sex trafficking

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 12:05

How long will the trial last?

The trial, which will take place at Brooklyn’s Federal District Court, is expected to last a month, and is expected to include lurid details about R Kelly's alleged wrongdoing.

Testimonies from several female accusers and a male accuser are also expected, according to reports. The R&B singer, who released his last album in 2016, denies the claims.

Covid restrictions had delayed the trial until now, with measures in place for the hearing in the courtroom. R Kelly was first arrested by federal investigators in 2019.

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 12:29

Women were allegedly required to call him ‘Daddy’

Among the allegations against R Kelly are that his managers, bodyguards and other employees helped him recruit women and girls — and sometimes boys — for sexual exploitation, and would organise their transport to visit him in New York and elsewhere.

When the women and girls arrived at their lodgings, a member of R Kelly's entourage would set down rules about not speaking to each other, how they should dress and how they needed permission from Kelly before eating or going to the bathroom, prosecutors say. Also, they allegedly were required to call him "Daddy."

Many of the alleged victims who will appear during the trial have never spoken out before, The Associated Press reports.

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 13:01

What are the allegations involving Aaliyah?

Lawyers for R Kelly last week backtracked on a statement that the R&B singer had “sexual contact” with American singer Aaliyah when she was underage.

Thomas A Farinella, one of the lawyers defending R Kelly in his forthcoming trial, appeared to admit for the first time to having “underage sexual contact” with Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash in 2001. She was aged 22.

Mr Farinella told The Independent in an initial statement that “The defence does concede that Mr Kelly had underage sexual contact with Jane Doe #1”.

His lawyers had dismissed allegations involving the woman identified as “Jane Doe #1”, who had died in 2001, so was “legally unavailable”.

The pair were rumoured to have been married in an illegal ceremony when Aaliyah was only 15, although R Kelly has disputed the allegation.

R Kelly’s lawyers backtrack on statement that singer had ‘underage sexual contact’ with Aaliyah

Thomas Farinella has now said Kelly did not have sex with singer when she was underage

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 13:44

Gloria Allred arrives at court

Gloria Allred, a well known women’s rights attorney, has been seen walking into the court in Brooklyn this morning along with the mother of one of R Kelly’s former girlfriends, according to a CBS journalist.

Ms Allred is known to represent at least one R Kelly accuser, Lizzette Martine, who said in the “Surviving R Kelly” documentary that the R&B singer “told me to perform sexual acts while his friends were in the backseat. It was like he owned me”. He has denied all allegations.

Ms Allred is said to be representing three of the women who accuse R Kelly of sexual abuse, Buzzfeed’s Julia Reinstein reports. Long queues formed outside the court.

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 14:17

Federal prosecutors arrive in court

As well as Gloria Allred, federal prosecutors were also seen walking into court this morning. The trial and opening statements are expected to begin at 9.30am ET (14.30 BST).

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 14:20

What other charges is R Kelly facing?

The trial that has got underway in Brooklyn this morning is not all of the legal trouble facing R Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, who is involved in a number of state and federal charges in the US.

Among the allegations made against the 54-year-old are sexual assault, abuse of a minor, making indecent images of minors, racketeering and obstruction of justice. He has denied them all.

Federal investigators arrested R Kelly in Chicago in 2019 on allegations of sexual trafficking, in what was the R&B singer’s third arrest that year for allegations of sexual abuse and related activity.

He was transferred to New York ahead of Wednesday’s trial, which also alleges sexual trafficking and of the singer being at head of an “enterprise” that recruited underage girls and boys. He has denied this.

A timeline of the abuse allegations against R Kelly

R&B singer is facing charges for being the ringleader of a scheme where he recruited women and underage girls for sex

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 14:53

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