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R. Kelly Found Guilty of All Charges in Sex Trafficking and Racketeering Trial

R. Kelly, the infamous R&B artist, was found guilty on Monday on all nine counts against him, including racketeering and eight violations of an anti-sex trafficking law.

By September 28, 2021No Comments

R.Kelly could be facing decades in prison.

Kelly, multiplatinum R&B artist and the target of sexual abuse accusations for decades, was found guilty on Monday on all nine counts against him, including racketeering and eight violations of the Mann Act—an anti-sex trafficking law that prohibits the coercion and transportation of women and girls in interstate commerce to engage in illegal sexual activity.

Since 2019, sexual abuse allegations against 54-year-old Robert Sylvester Kelly have made top headlines—especially after that year’s September debut of Lifetime’s documentary miniseries Surviving R. Kelly, now on Netflix.

Alleged abuse spanned decades, with incidents dated back to the 1990’s.

Kelly was first charged with 21 counts of making child pornography in 2002, but the jury concluded they couldn’t prove the girl on tape was a minor and Kelly was found not guilty on all counts.

Then in 2019, Kelly faced an array of federal charges following allegations that he made videos of himself sexually abusing minors, paid minors and their families to lie to investigators about allegations against him, and even exposed multiple women to a sexually transmitted disease without their knowledge. Prosecutors say Kelly paid thousands of dollars to recover missing sex tapes and paid victims to lie about their abuse.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About R. Kelly’s Sexual Abuse Charges

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Kelly was also accused of leading “a criminal enterprise” of managers, bodyguards, and other employees who allegedly helped Kelly recruit women and underage girls for sex and pornography, crossing state lines to do so, and bribery, kidnapping, forced labor, and producing child pornography.

A five-count indictment filed July 10, 2019, in the Eastern District of New York accused Kelly of sexual exploitation with a child, kidnapping, forced labor, racketeering, and violation of the Mann Act. The indictment details alleged incidents across four states—Illinois, Connecticut, California, and New York.

Five Jane Does are referenced throughout the indictment—including three minors.

In July 2019, Kelly also faced a 13-count indictment in the Northern District of Illinois that alleges he made child pornography with as many as four underage girls, obstructed justice by paying people hundreds of thousands of dollars to not cooperate with authorities, and gave false testimony to a grand jury. Earlier this month, the judge at Kelly’s hearing in Chicago said a criminal case against Kelly will remain on hold until the trial in New York concludes.

Kelly denied all allegations of sexual misconduct and pleaded not guilty to all charges, claiming the accusers wanted to take advantage of his fame and money, and were turned against him with the rise of the #MeToo movement.

The victims, witnesses, and defense

The trial began in federal court in Brooklyn on August 18 with six weeks of testimony from more than 45 witnesses and other evidence.

Following closing arguments on September 21st, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Geddes said the government delivered on its promise to prove that for years, Kelly got away with sexually abusing his accusers by commanding close associates with an iron fist to help him target, groom, and exploit girls, boys, and young women.

“The defendant set rules, lots of them, and he demanded complete obedience,” Geddes said. “For many years what happened in the defendant’s world stayed in the defendant’s world—but no longer.”

Before closing arguments began, Kelly told the U.S. District Judge that he would not be taking the witness stand.

Kelly’s defense team relied heavily on a handful of former employees and associates of Kelly’s who attempted to discredit allegations, saying that while Kelly’s behavior was often bizarre and controlling, they didn’t see him first hand abuse his accusers.

Still, testimonies from dozens of witnesses called by prosecutors painted a stark picture of patterns of abuse.

Many backed up allegations that Kelly used a network of managers, bodyguards, and assistants to systematically recruit victims at his shows, malls, restaurants, and other locations. The accusers testified that they were groomed for unwanted sex and psychological torment—mostly when they were teenagers. Some of Kelly’s former employees confirmed they were paid off to look the other way or enable Kelly’s system of abuse.

Accounts from witnesses including explicit video and audio recordings documenting threats of violence towards his accusers.

“Angela,” a former backup performer for Kelly, told the jury he had sex with her when she was just 15.  She also alleged that in 1993, she opened a door on Kelly’s tour bus to find him performing a sex act on Aaliyah—the late R&B singer who was just 13 or 14 at the time. Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001 at the age of 22.

One of Kelly’s former employees testified that two fake IDs were used for Kelly to marry Aaliyah in 1994 after she became pregnant at age 15. The marriage license was put into evidence, falsely listing her age as 18. Prosecutors said Kelly used the marriage to shield himself from criminal charges related to having sex with a minor.

Demetrius Smith, Kelly’s former assistant and manager, was subpoenaed and given immunity from prosecution to testify. He said he helped facilitate Kelly’s marriage to Aaliyah.

Jerhonda Johnson Pace alleged she had sex with the singer when she was 16, and that Kelly recorded their sexual encounters—later showing her the recordings to point out where she could use “improvement.” She also said she ended up contracting herpes while she was with Kelly in 2009.

Kris McGrath, Kelly’s primary care physician for 25 years, testified under subpoena that he diagnosed Kelly with genital herpes and told him to inform his sexual partners.

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Pace also testified that on her last day with Kelly, he flew into a rage after she texted a friend and slapped, spit on, and choked her until she passed out. After performing oral sex on Kelly, she said she used her shirt to wipe semen from her face and saved it. While the defense questioned the origin of the shirt, DNA expert Yongfei Wu told the jury the DNA from the shirt and the sample taken from Kelly were “exactly the same.”

Related: What Would Happen If These 10 Porn Scenes Played Out In Real Life?

Another accuser, “Jane,” said upon meeting Kelly at an audition, he pressured her for sex. She said she moved in with him while she was just a junior in high school, that she was punished for various reasons during that time, and that Kelly forced her to have sex with another man while he recorded it on an iPad. She also alleged that on another occasion, Kelly forced her to rub feces on her face while he videotaped it, and that in 2017, Kelly coerced her into getting an abortion. Jane also contracted herpes after sex with Kelly, saying he hadn’t discolsed that he had a sexually transmitted disease.

“Stephanie,” another witness, said she connected with Kelly in 1999 to help a friend who wanted to pursue a singing career. Kelly allegedly subjected her to an abusive sexual relationship when she was 17, and frequently recorded their sexual encounters. She testified that Kelly’s demands and videotaping her in humiliating positions left her feeling “disgusted” and “less than.” He also told her that he liked “young girls” and that he didn’t understand why society viewed that as an issue.

“Faith” said she met Kelly when she was 19 at a backstage after party in 2017. He later paid for her flights and hotels to visit cities where he was having concerts, demanded sex from her, and exposed her to a sexually transmitted disease. She said she contacted Kelly after she was diagnosed with herpes, with no response.

Another witness testified that she went to Kelly’s home in the Chicago area for an interview, and that he allegedly locked her in a dark, windowless room for several days without food and raped her while she was unconscious.

In addition to the six complaining witnesses in the trial, the prosecution also called other witnesses accusing Kelly of sexual abuse but having yet to press charges. Their testimonies helped establish an alleged pattern of abuse and criminal behavior by Kelly.

One included “Louis,” a male who said Kelly performed oral sex on him in 2007 when he was 17 years old. “Addie” said Kelly raped her after a performance in Miami in 1994 when she was just 17. Another witness said she asked Kelly to use protection when they began having sex in 2001, but he said no. She alleged that Kelly paid $200,000 to settle a lawsuit she filed against him accusing him of giving her herpes without disclosing to her that he had it. Another unnamed witness said she had an ongoing sexual relationship with Kelly for 9 years that started when she was 15.

Technical witnesses were also called to testify about what they found on searches of various devices, like iPhones, iPads, and laptops.

The prosecution also called Dawn Hughes, an expert witness on abusive relationships, to the stand. She shared several studies that show how many abusers use means of control over their victims, including systematically isolating, demeaning, subjugating, and spying—all tactics allegedly demonstrated by Kelly. She also shared how it’s not uncommon for people in positions of power, like Kelly, to be surrounded by people who “knew about it and didn’t do anything.”

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The verdict

After the six-week-long trial and nine hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Kelly on all nine counts. He now faces the possibility of 10 years to life in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for May 4, 2022.

The acting U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, told reporters that the verdict sends a strong message to Kelly and others who abuse girls, women, and boys. She also spoke to the bravery of the 11 men and women who accused Kelly during the trial.

“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,” Kasulis said. “We hope that today’s verdict brings some measure of comfort and closure.”

Federal prosecutors say the conviction demonstrates that even the biggest stars and individuals with the most public influence are not untouchable by the law.

Mr. Kelly’s defense team said they will consider an appeal.

Fighting abuse, but consuming it in porn?

In 2019, after the allegations received renewed public interest, R. Kelly became a trending search on some of the world’s largest free porn sites like Pornhub and XVideos.

The allegations against Kelly are disturbing and horrific. But just as concerning is the surge in demand for pornographic content depicting the very crimes he’s been convicted of committing.

Kelly has been convicted of systematically and brutally abusing girls and women—but consider that there’s a very real demand for depictions of those crimes pornography.

How is it acceptable for society to condemn and fight abuse and exploitation, yet defend an industry that profits from real rape tapes with underage girls like Kelly’s on porn websites?

Related: Porn Gets A Free Pass To Profit From These 5 Unacceptable Categories

The TL;dr is this: Kelly, and many others, have been accused of raping underage girls and often filming the sexual encounters. And while society speaks out against this form of image-based sexual abuse, many in our society also consume abusive content on mainstream porn sites. Consider how the porn industry profits off of normalizing and fantasizing these very scenarios that are unacceptable, abusive, and criminal.

All it takes is a visit to the homepage of a mainstream porn website to discover dramatized, or sometimes real recorded abuse.

It’s one thing for there to be rightful uproar about the abuse allegations against individuals like Kelly, but quite another for porn websites to get a free pass to profit from this content.

If society is going to shine a light on sexual exploitation and hold abusers accountable, it must also acknowledge where it is normalized, glamorized, and hides in plain sight in mainstream porn.