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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

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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Has R Kelly experienced a ‘social death’?

According to analysis of R Kelly’s streaming statistics in the US, the R&B singer — who is on trial for allegedly sexually exploiting underage girls and boys as part of an “enterprise” — his popularity with music listeners has remained largely stable since allegations were aired in 2019’s documentary “Surviving R Kelly”.

The 54-year-old still accounts for more than 780 million streams on music platforms since that show, and on Spotify, roughly 5 million listen to R Kelly a month, The New York Times found.

Dream Hampton, a filmaker and the executive producer of “Surviving R Kelly,” said the singer has experienced what he calls a form of “social death,” in which individuals still listen to an artist, but that wider society and corporations switch-off.

His last album, “12 Nights of Christmas”, was released in 2016.

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 15:21

Laywers for R&B star allowed printer in courtroom

The judge presiding over the trial against R Kelly has reportedly allowed his lawyers to bring a printer into the courtroom at Brooklyn’s Federal District Court.

The request, which was filed a day before the trial began on Wednesday, argued that a printer was necessary due to the “voluminous” amount of material involved in the case against the 54-year-old, which was said to be almost 3,500 pieces of evidence.

It added that “the printer will be kept in silent mode".

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 15:37

Judge dismisses request to throw out charges

While the judge has reportedly allowed R Kelly’s lawyers to bring a printer into the courtroom, a request for the charges facing the singer to be thrown out, has been rejected.

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 15:53

Prosecutors allege sexual contact with underage boy in 2006

In addition to several underage women and girls who say they were victims of R Kelly and his “enterprise”, an underage boy was also allegedly targeted by the R&B singer in 2006.

Prosecutors revealed in documents ahead of today’s trial that he allegedly met a 17-year-old boy at a McDonald’s around December 2006, and invited him to a party. When the teen showed up with his mother and stepfather, Mr Kelly allegedly asked him to come alone next time.

After that, prosecutors say he invited the boy, identified as “John Doe #1”, to his studio, “under the guise of helping and mentoring John Doe #1 with his musical aspirations”. R Kelly denies doing so.

“Kelly also asked John Doe #1 what he was willing to do to succeed in the music business and clarified that he wanted John Doe #1 to engage in sexual contact with Kelly,” it was alleged. “With that backdrop, Kelly then engaged in sexual contact with John Doe #1, in violation of Illinois law.”

R Kelly sexually abused underage boy, say prosecutors

R Kelly accused of sexually abusing underage boy

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 16:10

"This case is about a predator," said a judge as the case against R Kelly opened on Wednesday.

Explaining the evidence to be revealed at the trial, which is expected to stretch for weeks, assistant US Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez said the 54-year-old was a “predator”. who used his fame to abuse young women and girls, and even boys.

"What his success and popularity brought him was access, access to girls, boys and young women," she said. "This case is not about a celebrity who likes to party a lot”.

Prosecutors are set to allege that Kelly and his entourage — which has been described in court documents as an “enterprise” — organised for his victims to travel across state lines to meet him, which was in violation of federal law.

Some also allegedly were made to call Kelly “Daddy”, and others were filmed, in what she said was a racketeering enterprise of individuals who were loyal to him, and eager to "fulfil each and everyone one of the defendant's wishes and demands."

Lawyers for Kelly were set to deliver their opening remarks to the courtroom after Ms Cruz. Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 16:43

What is being alleged against R Kelly?

The singer is facing a nine-count indictment in court in Brooklyn, with prosecutors describing his alleged abuse of five women, identified in court documents as “Jane Does”, and three of whom were underage at the time.

At least one of the accusers, according to Reuters, told prosecutors that R Kelly engaged in unprotected sex with her without revealing he had herpes. He has denied the claim, and all others made against him.

Prosecutors will also try to show that Kelly bribed an Illinois official in 1994 to obtain fake identification for the singer Aaliyah, who died in a place crash in 2001, because she was aged 15 at the time.

A marriage license showed Aaliyah's age as 18, prosecutors said. Aaliyah, She has been identified as “Jane Doe #1” in court documents.

A number of women, some of whom have not spoken before in public, are set to testify after the opening statements are finished by both sides on Wednesday.

Kelly also faces charges of racketeering, bribery and extortion, as well as violations of the Mann Act, which prohibits the transport of women and underage girls across state lines for “immoral” acts.

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 17:04

What will the defence say?

Lawyers for R Kelly, who are set to deliver their opening remarks in today’s trial, have characterised his accusers in legal documents as "disgruntled groupies" who wanted the attention of the R&B singer, and only revealed their allegations years later.

Similar arguments are expected after prosecutors described the 54-year-old as a “predator” who “manipulated” and “controlled” his victims, and which he denies.

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 17:20

Defence says accusers were ‘family’

According to reports from inside the courtroom where R Kelly is on trial, lawyers for the R&B star have said he and his accusers — identified in court as “Jane Does” — "all became like a family" and "when the relationships went sour...these individuals became angry, resentful and even spiteful."

The lawyer, Nicole Blank Becker, went on to say the allegations against Kelly were a “mess of lies” and that there were a number of “untruths”.

He denies claims that he sexually abused and exploited women, girls, and at least one boy during the height of his fame, as well as charges of bribery, racketeering and coercion.

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 17:35

Inside the courtroom in Brooklyn

Cameras and broadcasting is banned inside the federal courtroom where R Kelly is on trial.

Fortunately, sketches of the scene as assistant US Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez set out the prosecution’s opening arguments show what is happening inside the room.

Assistant US Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez points at R Kelly

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 17:45

‘He didn’t recruit them. They were fans’, says defence

Nicole Blank Becker, a lawyer for R Kelly, explained in court that the allegations against her client were a “mess of lies”, as the defence set out their opening arguments in the case.

"He didn't recruit them. They were fans,” Ms Becker alleged in court. “They came to Mr Kelly.”

The lawyer added that some of his accusers — who prosecutors allege were “manipulated” and “controlled” and engaged in sexual acts with the singer — were women who enjoyed the "notoriety of being able to tell their friends that they were with a superstar."

"Don't assume everybody's telling the truth," said Ms Becker to the 12 person jury. "They knew exactly what they were getting into. It was no secret Mr Kelly had multiple girlfriends. He was quite transparent."

That argument followed the federal prosecution and assistant US Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez calling the star a “predator” who was at the head of an “enterprise” that allegedly exploited his victims, who included women and children.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Gino Spocchia18 August 2021 17:50

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