Singer R. Kelly has been found guilty of using his fame to run a criminal scheme which sexually abused women and children.
He was convicted of one count of racketeering and eight counts of sex trafficking.
The R&B singer, 54, who was known for hits such as I Believe I Can Fly, Bump n’ Grind, and Ignition had been on trial in New York.
Kelly, 54, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, had maintained his denial of any wrongdoing.
He now faces decades behind bars after 11 accusers, nine women and two men, took the stand to describe sexual humiliation and violence they faced.
Several of his victims testified that they were underage when he sexually abused them.
What was he found guilty of?
Kelly was convicted by a federal jury in Brooklyn of all nine counts of an indictment charging him with racketeering.
This included sexual exploitation of children, forced labor and violations involving the coercion and transportation of women and girls in interstate commerce to engage in illegal sexual activity.
He identified the girls and women at concerts, and then directed members of his criminal scheme, which was referred to as the Enterprise, to escort them backstage following his musical performances.
Kelly exchanged contact information with girls and women so that he and other members of the Enterprise could arrange travel and lodging for them to visit him.
The verdict followed six weeks of trial before United States District Judge Ann M. Donnelly.
During the trial the court heard Kelly bribed a state employee to create an identification card for late singer Aaliyah, then 15 years old, so he could marry her.
Over the course of decades Kelly coerced some of his victims into sexually explicit conduct which he recorded using VHS video cameras, Canon camcorders, iPhones and iPads.
Kelly issued rules including that the women and girls were to call him “Daddy”; they were not permitted to leave their rooms to eat or visit the bathroom without receiving his permission.
They also had to wear baggy clothing when not accompanying Kelly to an event, and were told to keep their heads down and not look at or speak to other men.
He also isolated the women and girls from their friends and family and made them dependent on him for their financial well-being.
What did the prosecutors say?
Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI), announced the verdict and said it “forever” brands Kelly as a predator.
Acting U.S. Attorney Kasulis said Kelly was: “A predator who used his inner circle to ensnare underage teenage girls, and young women and men, for decades, in a sordid web of sex abuse, exploitation and degradation. To the victims in this case, your voices were heard, and justice was finally served. We hope that today’s verdict brings some measure of comfort and closure to the victims.”
“Robert Kelly is a serial sexual predator who used his fame and musical tours as his personal hunting grounds to find his victims,” stated HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Fitzhugh.
“Mr. Kelly ran a criminal enterprise whose mission was to serve his sexual gratification by setting up a complex organization of enablers and handlers. When his victims tried to escape, Mr. Kelly and his accomplices silenced them through bribery, intimidation, and physical violence. The brave survivors who overcame Mr. Kelly’s abuse deserve our upmost respect for telling their stories and bringing an end to his 30-year reign of terror over the young and vulnerable.”
What are his legal team saying?
One of his lawyer’s Thomas Farinella said: “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.”
Kelly had previously been represented by Steve Greenberg and Mike Leonard who withdrew from the case earlier this year.
Mr Greenberg said: “We are extraordinarily disappointed in the verdict was returned by the New York jury today. Mike Leonard and myself believe that the verdict was not supported by the evidence and instead is a reflection of the hysteria whipped up by a couple of TV shows.
“We intend to continue to fight on R Kelly’s behalf to ensure that everything is being done that can possibly be done.”
What was said in the trial?
The evidence at trial included the testimony of 45 government witnesses, including more than 10 victims, testimony from employees of Kelly, text messages, video and audio recordings, photographs, phone and travel records, DNA evidence and expert witnesses.
The latest witness in the singer’s sex abuse trial, known as Jane Doe #5, was 17 when she met Kelly. The pair met in 2015, and the witness was invited back to Kelly’s hotel room in Florida following a concert where he had paid “a lot of attention to her”.
Doe #5 said that she told Kelly that she was 18, which is the age of consent in Florida. As an aspiring singer, she said that she hoped to kick start her career by auditioning for Kelly.
However, Kelly said that she would need partake in sexual acts before she could audition for him.
She said: “I told him I did not come to please him. I came for an audition.
“I just wanted to sing. I genuinely wanted his input.”
When will R. Kelly be sentenced - and how long will he get in prison?
Kelly could be facing a minimum of 10 years up to life imprisonment. He will be sentenced on May 4 by the same judge who oversaw his federal trial.
Racketeering carries a maximum sentence of 20 years per count, a fine can also be imposed.