YouTube on Wednesday said it removed two official channels belonging to singer R. Kelly, who was recently convicted of operating a sex crimes ring that saw him abuse women and children for decades.
“We have terminated two channels linked to R. Kelly in accordance with our creator responsibility guidelines,” a YouTube spokesperson told AFP in a statement.
The “I Believe I Can Fly” singer, who for years reigned over the world of R&B, still has music available on YouTube music, where 137,000 people subscribe to the disgraced star, and third-party uploads of his songs are still allowed.
The removal follows years of protest from the #MuteRKelly movement. Long before the singer was indicted in four separate jurisdictions, the effort called to ban his music over long-standing abuse allegations.
His catalogue is still available on major platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music.
Kelly, 54, was found guilty in September of nine criminal counts, including the most serious of racketeering, following six weeks of disturbing testimony accusing him of systematically recruiting women and teenagers for sex, before grooming and brutally abusing them.
He is currently incarcerated and faces up to life in prison, with his sentencing hearing scheduled for May 4.
Kelly is also slated for prosecution in three other jurisdictions, including Illinois federal court.
For decades women and girls, most of them Black, sounded the alarm over R. Kelly’s web of abuse, only to hear their voices silenced.
Weeks of devastating testimony threw the severity of Kelly’s crimes into stark relief, but to many advocates, the harrowing pattern of abuse was nothing new — it was just the first time police, the justice system and society at large had taken it seriously.
Now, the multi-platinum R&B singer’s conviction as the boss of a decades-long sex crimes scheme offers a measure of justice to long-dismissed victims and activists.
“For years, I was trolled for speaking out about the abuse that I suffered at the hands of that predator,” wrote Jerhonda Pace, who was among those who testified against Kelly in Brooklyn federal court, on Instagram after the verdict dropped.
“People called me a liar,” said Pace, whose testimony included searing descriptions of Kelly choking her until she passed out when she was a teenager, before demanding sex when she came to.
Kenyette Barnes, who co-founded the #MuteRKelly movement in 2017, said that the prosecution that many people have called long-overdue was down to the “blood, sweat and tears of Black women who would not stop beating that drum.”
Well before viral hashtags, she said Black women and allies tried to shed light on Kelly’s abuse only to be “silenced” and “threatened.”
“On the surface,” Barnes told AFP, “Black women and girls are not rapeable. They’re not believable.”
The first documented cases of Kelly’s abuse date back to the early 1990s. But for decades the women and girls whose lives were traumatically upended by the powerful celebrity were seen as punchlines — if they were seen at all.
Kelly’s 2008 trial on child pornography — he was acquitted — centered around a sordid tape that included footage of Kelly have sex with and urinating on a child, which became colloquially known as the “pee tape.”
Bootleg copies of the nearly 27 minutes of footage were hawked on street corners, and provided fodder for comedians and late-night sitcoms.
Chicago music critic Jim DeRogatis, who received the tape from an anonymous source and turned it over to law enforcement, has been reporting on Kelly’s systematic abuse for years.
A middle-aged white man, DeRogatis thought the tape — “the most horrifying thing I’d ever seen,” he told AFP — would be enough to take Kelly down.
But he watched in bafflement as the public turned a blind eye.
It became increasingly clear, he said, that in American society “no one matters less than young Black girls.”
The stakes are high for any sexual assault survivor to come forward, but LaShanda Nalls — director of trauma therapy at the Chicago-based Resilience, which advocates for sexual violence survivors — said it can be even more “isolating” for women of color.
“So many Black girls are just denied services, not believed, and just put in this category like they don’t matter,” she said.
The singer Sparkle, now 46, long decried Kelly’s disturbing behavior — only to lose out on career opportunities and see close ones shun her.
She testified at his 2008 trial that the girl in the infamous video was her 14-year-old niece.
“It felt like I was carrying this on my back alone,” she said this week in an interview with New York Magazine.
“Even when Me Too came around, I didn’t think it was for Black women. We are so marginalized. We don’t get that same support white women do — we’re treated as the bottom of the bottom.”
Black girls also face obstacles of “adultification” and “hypersexualization” from a young age, research shows, making them more susceptible to abuse and subsequent dismissal in a country whose history of racial subjugation runs deep.
A 2017 Georgetown study found that Black girls are seen as needing less protection and nurturing than their white peers.
The study from the university’s Law Center on Poverty and Inequality canvassed adults whose responses indicated that Black children are viewed as “more adult” and more knowledgable about sex beginning as early as age five.
What those misguided perceptions translate to, Barnes said, is “no protection.”
Barnes said she hopes the Kelly verdict helps survivors begin “healing.”
“Speaking out about abuse is not easy,” wrote Pace, who is now 28. “No matter what you think of me or how you feel about things; today, I MADE HISTORY.”
“I’m happy to FINALLY close this chapter of my life.”
R. Kelly on Monday was convicted of leading a decades-long sex crime ring, with a New York jury finding the superstar singer guilty on all nine charges, including the most serious of racketeering.
After six weeks of disturbing testimony, the jury deliberated just nine hours before finding the incarcerated 54-year-old celebrity guilty of systematically recruiting women and teenagers for sex, before grooming and brutally abusing them.
Wearing a light blue tie, pinstriped navy suit and a white mask, Kelly sat largely motionless, holding his head down and periodically closing his eyes behind black-rimmed glasses.
He faces up to life in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for May 4.
To convict Kelly on the most serious charge of racketeering, jurors had to find him guilty of at least two of 14 “predicate acts” — the crimes elemental to the wider pattern of illegal wrongdoing.
Lurid testimony intended to prove those acts included accusations of rape, druggings, imprisonment and child pornography.
The jury of five women and seven men found that all but two of the acts had been proven.
Kelly was also convicted on all eight charges of violating the Mann Act, an anti-sex trafficking law.
“We’re disappointed with the verdict,” Kelly’s attorney Deveraux Cannick told journalists outside the courtroom.
He said they would be “considering” an appeal.
Kelly still faces prosecution in three other jurisdictions, including Illinois federal court.
One of the 1990s’ brightest stars whose hits included “I Believe I Can Fly,” the disgraced Kelly was long trailed by abuse allegations, but evaded them for decades.
Following 21 days of evidence including 50 witnesses and hours of searing testimony, jurors on Friday began considering whether internationally famous singer, R. Kelly orchestrated a sex crimes ring for nearly three decades.
The case, delayed over a year by the pandemic, is seen as a landmark for the #MeToo movement as it is the first major sex abuse trial where the majority of accusers are Black women.
The prosecution painstakingly wove the threads of alleged wrongdoing into an intricate pattern of crimes they say the artist born Robert Sylvester Kelly perpetrated with impunity, capitalizing on his fame to prey on young women and teenagers for his own sexual gratification.
The state was tasked with proving the 54-year-old singer is guilty of racketeering, a serious charge commonly associated with the mafia that casts Kelly as the boss of an enterprise of associates who facilitated his abuse.
He is also charged with eight counts under the Mann Act, a law prohibiting transportation of people across state lines for sex.
To convict Kelly on racketeering, jurors must find him guilty of at least two of 14 “predicate acts” — the crimes elemental to the wider pattern of illegal wrongdoing.
Disturbing testimony intended to prove those acts included accusations of rape, druggings, imprisonment, and child pornography.
Accusers’ stories ran in parallel: many of the alleged victims described meeting the singer at concerts or mall performances and being handed slips of paper with Kelly’s contact by his entourage.
Several said they were told he could bolster their music industry aspirations.
But all were instead “indoctrinated” into Kelly’s world, according to prosecutors, groomed for sex at hiss whim and kept in line by “coercive means of control” including isolation and cruel disciplinary measures.
“He’s not a genius. He’s a criminal. He’s a predator,” said Nadia Shihata, the assistant US attorney told jurors.
“Writing hit songs and performing for audiences on stage doesn’t give you license to commit crimes.”
The defense painted a drastically different portrait of the superstar, arguing he was a “sex symbol” and “playboy” who was being attacked by scorned exes and money-hungry superfans.
“They’re all working on these paydays,” said attorney Deveraux Cannick.
Shihata attacked that argument in her rebuttal, telling jurors that witnesses — nine women and two men detailed devastating abuse on the stand — “relived some of the worst periods of their lives for you.”
The indictment centers around six women: Jerhonda, Stephanie, Faith, Sonja and a woman who testified under a pseudonym, along with the R&B star Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash in 2001.
Several more victims alleging abuse were allowed to testify as part of the prosecution’s bid to detail a criminal pattern, though their testimony is not part of the charges.
Six of the alleged victims were underage when Kelly initiated sex with them. Many victims also said the singer routinely filmed the encounters, which in several of the cases would constitute child pornography.
Sonja traveled from Utah to Kelly’s Chicago studio believing he would give her an interview for the radio show she was interning for.
Instead, she said his associates trapped her in a windowless room for days, before giving her food and drink that caused her to quickly fall asleep. She awoke with her underwear mysteriously removed, and saw Kelly putting his pants back on.
Another woman said Kelly coerced her into getting an abortion because he had impregnated her while she was underage. Four said they contracted herpes after sexual contact with the singer, who did not disclose that he carried the incurable venereal disease.
Core to the government’s case has been Kelly’s relationship with Aaliyah.
Kelly wrote and produced her first album — “Age Ain’t Nothin’ But A Number” — before illegally marrying her when she was just 15 because he feared he had impregnated her.
His former manager admitted in court to bribing a worker to obtain fake identification allowing the union, which was later annulled.
Prosecutors also showed the jury video recordings that were not viewable to the public but which they described as containing chilling footage of Kelly threatening, hitting and humiliating women and children.
Kelly, a major R&B star of the 1990s and early 2,000s known for hits including “I Believe I Can Fly,” denies all charges.
He remained largely stoic during the proceedings, though during the prosecution’s marathon closing arguments he appeared to grow agitated, shaking his head.
Abuse accusations have long trailed the wildly successful recording artist but he evaded them for decades. He faces prosecutions in three additional jurisdictions, including Illinois federal court.
R. Kelly’s defence team on Thursday dubbed the singer a “sex symbol” who led a “playboy life” during its closing arguments against charges he led an abusive sex crime ring for decades.
Casting the artist’s alleged victims — whose accusations included rape, druggings, imprisonment, and child pornography as well as physical and emotional abuse — as money-hungry groupies, attorney Deveraux Cannick said the government was vying to criminalize behavior he argued is common among international superstars.
“His label started marketing him as a sex symbol, as a playboy, so he started living a sex symbol, playboy life,” the lawyer told the jury.
‘Where’s The Crime In That?’
The defense attorney’s summation followed six hours of meticulous closing arguments from the prosecution, which painted a picture of a crime boss who inflicted chilling abuse on women and teenagers for decades with the support of his employees and entourage.
After he finished assistant US attorney Nadia Shihata began delivering the prosecution’s rebuttal, calling the defense’s tactics “absurd” and “shameful.”
“Don’t let them gaslight you,” she said, saying the defense was insinuating that “all of these women and girls were asking for it and they deserved what they got.”
Cannick used a mocking tone when referring to alleged victims’ testimony — nine women and two men took the stand saying Kelly had sexually abused them — poking at their credibility and dismissing them as just “working on those paydays.”
“A lot of people are surviving off of R. Kelly,” he argued, making a play on the name of the “Surviving R. Kelly” docuseries that reignited focus on the long history of accusations against the singer.
In a bizarre opening, Cannick began his feverish remarks by evoking Martin Luther King Jr., saying Kelly was only trying to “protest injustice” as the iconic civil rights leader had.
He went on to tell jurors “it’s not a crime, kinky sex” and that “some people just like” relationships between an older man and a “younger female.”
“You heard about a man who treated these women like gold,” Cannick said. “He bought them bags more expensive than cars.”
The artist born Robert Sylvester Kelly faces one count of racketeering and eight violations of the Mann Act, which bans transporting people across state lines for sex.
The singer of “I Believe I Can Fly” fame denies all charges.
The prosecution’s rebuttal will continue into Friday, and the jury is expected to soon begin deliberating Kelly’s fate.
The passing week has been a very eventful one globally with the world still battling COVID-19 and trying to adjust to the new reality.
Nigeria is never left a week without drama, as events continue to take different turns, leading the authorities to take certain drastic actions that got tongues wagging.
Having reviewed most of the major stories from the passing week, both locally and on the foreign scene, here are top quotes that tend to paint a vivid picture of what transpired and perhaps give us a hint of some things we must expect in the coming days:
1. “If I follow APC for this length of time, and they don’t give the Southeast an opportunity, I will feel bad.”
Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, says he will feel bad if the All Progressives Congress (APC) does not give the South-East a chance at the presidency, come 2023.
2. “I remain committed to his agenda for our great Nation and shall continue to support him in any way possible.”
Former Minister of Power, Sale Mamman, declares his support for the Muhammadu Buhari administration following his sack by the President.
3. “Today at the executive meeting, (party) president Suga said he wants to focus his efforts on anti-coronavirus measures and will not run in the leadership election.”
Secretary General of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Toshihiro Nikai, reveals that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will not run for re-election as party leader in September.
4. “The sooner the Taliban will enter the family of civilised people, so to speak, the easier it will be to contact, communicate, and somehow influence and ask questions.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin says he hopes the Taliban will behave in a “civilised” manner in Afghanistan so the global community can maintain diplomatic ties with Kabul.
5. “I am the landlord, I didn’t give myself, the constitution gave me that power.”
Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku issues a stern warning to residents of the Mambilla Plateau, urging them not to sell lands to “selfish politicians” who storm the area in order to benefit from compensations meant for the Mambilla hydroelectric power project site.
6. “The report of the audit committee showed that there are over 13,000 abandoned projects in the Niger Delta and even before the submission of the report, some contractors have returned to site on their own and completed about 77 road projects.”
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio says the Forensic Audit Report of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) indicates that there are over 13,000 abandoned projects within the coastal region.
7. “Nigeria has 10.6 million cannabis users, this is the highest in the world, isn’t it sad?”
9. “This is to confirm to you that suspected kidnappers at about 06:45hrs along Lagos-Benin expressway, by Isuwa, kidnapped five unidentified persons and in the process shot to death one Sowore Felix Olajide, male, a pharmacy student of Igbinedion University, Okada.”
The Edo State Police Command confirms the murder of Olajide Sowore, brother to Sahara Reporters Publisher, Omoyele Sowore by suspected kidnappers.
10. “The trajectory into the future is bright. If you see some of the things we have been able to do under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari to exit recession in record time, most established democracies are still battling with the recession.”
Despite the current challenges facing Nigeria, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, is optimistic that the nation’s trajectory is good.
11. “For us to reach the level of development that we need in our country, every part, segment and strata of the society must have a developed, deliberately focused leadership, so that what we do at the local level compliments what we do at the state level and from there, terminating at the apex – at the Federal level.”
Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, attributes leadership deficit as one of the factors preventing Nigeria from achieving sustainable economic growth and development, and addressing insecurity and other socioeconomic problems.
12. “We apologize to anyone who may have seen these offensive recommendations.”
Facebook apologizes and disables its topic recommendation feature after it mistook Black men for “primates” in video at the social network.
13. “The committee is to identify grazing routes and work with states and map them. It is not to recover grazing routes, it is to identify the scale of the problem.”
Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu, argues that mapping out grazing routes will help to identify the scale of the herder-farmer crisis.
14. “Police have located the man and he has been shot. He has died at the scene.”
Authorities in New Zealand speak after police shoot dead a man who wounded six people in an attack at an Auckland supermarket.
18. “If you look at the President’s statement, in no place will you see that; not at all. In no place will you see those words that performance was weak, he didn’t say that.”
President Buhari’s media adviser, Femi Adesina, makes clarifications regarding the sacking of two ministers.
19. “Well, it happened because, perhaps for the first time in the history of the country, and of the NNPC, there is a President who is not using the place like a personal Automated Teller Machine (ATM).”
The Media Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari, Femi Adesina, explains why the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) recently declared profit.
R. Kelly asked a teenage boy what he “was willing to do for music” before sexually abusing him, according to testimony from the first male to speak out against the singer accused of sex crimes.
In bombshell testimony, Monday, the now 32-year-old man said that he became associated with Kelly’s entourage and pleaded guilty in 2021 to attempting to bribe a woman who would potentially testify against the musician.
But more than a decade prior, Louis — using a pseudonym — said he first encountered Kelly in 2006, when he was a 17-year-old working the night shift at a suburban Chicago McDonald’s.
He told the Brooklyn federal courtroom Kelly slipped him his phone number.
After he and his parents attended a party at Kelly’s home, the singer told him “maybe it would be best some time if I came to the party by myself,” and said he could perform at his studio and maybe get some industry tips.
Invited under the guise of working on his music, Louis said at one point he met Kelly at his home and they proceeded to the detached garage, which had a boxing ring and a gym.
“He asked me what I was willing to do for music,” the witness said, describing the singer asking if he had “fantasies” before performing oral sex on him.
Louis said Kelly told him to “keep it between me and him” saying “we family now, we brothers.”
He said Kelly requested Louis call him “daddy” — as multiple women have said the singer demanded they do — and would routinely film their sexual encounters.
Louis was testifying Monday as part of a cooperation agreement he entered into in February 2021, under which he hopes to avoid jail time of up to 15 years.
He had offered money to a potential witness against Kelly, who was arrested in 2019, hoping the person would “not cooperate” with federal prosecutors.
Louis said he was concerned that the unnamed witness possessed sex tapes of him and Kelly.
It was unclear where Louis procured the sum of at least $200,000 he hoped to pay the witness off with, but he told the court that Kelly had no knowledge of his bribery attempt.
– ‘Uncomfortable’ – Prosecutors have been presenting searing testimony from accusers to paint a picture of more than two decades of physical, sexual and emotional abuse by Kelly.
The 54-year-old denies all charges and faces between 10 years and life in prison if convicted on all counts.
Kelly has remained stoic throughout the proceedings but on Monday appeared agitated, rubbing his forehead, clasping his hands at his chin and fidgeting with his mask.
Louis recalled an episode of nonconsensual sex involving him and another person, saying Kelly “snapped his fingers” before “a young lady came out from under the (boxing) ring.”
“She crawled over to him” before performing oral sex on both Kelly and Louis, the court heard.
“It was uncomfortable,” Louis said, describing another instance when he passed out from drinking at a party and woke up alone with the defendant, unsure whether they’d had a sexual encounter.
Louis is not identified in the indictment against Kelly, which charges him with racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery and forced labor between 1994 and 2018.
The racketeering count allows prosecutors to present evidence of potential crimes outside the scope of the charges, even if it’s beyond the statute of limitations.
Also on Monday a woman identified as Addie, who is not among the alleged victims in the charges, said Kelly raped her in front of her friend backstage at a 1994 concert when she was 17.
“I was in complete shock,” she said. “I just went blank.”
She said she feared going to the police: “I didn’t even know if they would believe me,” she said, adding that “I didn’t want to be victim-shamed” or “blacklisted” in the industry.
The trial, now in its third week, is expected to last at least a month.
R. Kelly’s former tour manager on Friday said he bribed a worker at a public aid office to get false identification saying the late singer Aaliyah was of age, so she could marry the R&B star now on trial for sex crimes.
Testifying under a grant of immunity from later prosecution, Demetrius Smith — who worked for Kelly for more than a decade in the 1980s and 1990s — said he paid a worker $500 to secure the then-15-year-old Aaliyah Haughton a fake ID, used shortly thereafter to wed Kelly, who was then 27.
“I went to the welfare office, and I walked in, and I said, ‘Hey wanna make some money?'” Smith, now 65, said during the dramatic afternoon at the Brooklyn courthouse where Kelly is on trial for crimes including racketeering, bribery and sexual exploitation of a child.
Smith told the jury Kelly and his associates hatched the wedding plan because Aaliyah had said she was pregnant — and Kelly feared “jail.”
He believed marriage could stop her from testifying against him if criminal charges were ever filed over his relationship with the teenager.
It was “to protect himself; to protect Aaliyah,” Smith said.
He testified that he and Kelly left his tour and flew back to Chicago for the whirlwind 1994 marriage, which was later annulled.
Smith said he had urged the star not to marry Aaliyah, then Kelly’s protege with whom he forged a “playful” and “flirtatious” relationship, according to the witness.
I said “he couldn’t marry her and she was too young,” Smith said, adding that the singer’s associates were encouraging the union as a solution.
“He asked me whose side I was on.”
Smith said he feared “I was getting ready to be pushed out the loop” of Kelly’s career, so “I wanted to make it happen.”
The witness grew exasperated several times during the questioning, which will continue Monday, telling the court he wished to leave and saying “I feel like I’m on trial.”
“I’m truly uncomfortable,” he said. “We’re continuously talking about Aaliyah. Her parents aren’t here.”
Aaliyah — whose debut album “Age Ain’t Nothin’ But A Number” Kelly produced — died in a plane crash in 2001, when she was 22.
The first week of the long-anticipated trial that included searing testimony from one of his accusers has offered a glimpse into the sprawling web of of physical, sexual and emotional abuse Kelly, now 54, is accused of steering for more than two decades.
A woman told R. Kelly’s trial Thursday that the disgraced R&B star choked her until she passed out during a six-month sexual relationship they had when she was a teenager.
Jerhonda Pace, now 28, wept as she read aloud from a journal entry describing how Kelly slapped her, saying “If I lied to him again, it’s not going to be an open hand next time.”
“He choked me during an argument” before she had sex with him, wrote the then 16-year-old Pace, who said that after having sex with Kelly for the last time she “became fed up, and I went home and confessed.”
Pace also said Kelly had requested she dress as a Girl Scout and do her hair in pigtails during sex, which he filmed.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Deveraux Cannick aimed to present Pace as a “groupie” who was “stalking” Kelly after their relationship’s end, which Pace denied.
The accuser also told Cannick that if she was on Kelly’s “bad side” she sometimes waited up to three days for permission to use the restroom.
Pace is among the women who have accused Kelly of spreading herpes to her without disclosing that he had contracted the virus.
Kelly’s doctor for 25 years, Kris McGrath, testified Thursday that he prescribed the musician medication to treat symptoms of genital herpes as early as 2007.
McGrath — who also socialized with Kelly –- said he prescribed the singer herpes medication “so often that I memorized the phone number” of the pharmacy.
Kelly, 54, is charged with racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery and forced labor between 1994 and 2018.
He denies the charges, but faces between 10 years and life in prison if convicted on all counts.
The trial, expected to last a month, finally got underway in a Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday after a delay of more than a year caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Prosecutors described R. Kelly as a “predator” who used his fame to groom minors for sex, as an accuser told the opening day of his much-anticipated New York trial Wednesday the disgraced R&B star used to slap her for violating his “rules.”
The Grammy-winning artist — wearing a gray suit, purple tie and glasses — sat silently, his head down at times as the prosecution laid out a pattern of violent abuse inside the Brooklyn federal courtroom.
Assistant US Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez described Kelly as “a man who for decades used his fame, his popularity and a network of people at his disposal to target, groom and exploit young girls, boys and women for his own sexual gratification.”
The 54-year-old is charged with racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery and forced labor between 1994 and 2018.
He denies the charges, but faces between 10 years and life in prison if convicted on all counts.
The trial, expected to last a month, finally got underway after a delay of more than a year caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The government’s first witness, identified as Jerhonda, said Kelly would film their sexual activity when she was 16, below the age of consent.
The now-28-year-old said the musician said he was going to “train me how to please him sexually.”
Her testimony came after prosecutor Melendez said Kelly’s celebrity status meant he “had his pick of young fans” and that he hoarded his victims “like objects.”
During opening statements, she said he used “every trick in the predator handbook,” approaching minors, grooming them and their families with promises he could help their careers before sexually abusing them.
Melendez added that the singer used bodyguards, drivers, runners, lawyers and accountants to cover up crimes.
He bribed his victims by photographing and filming them having sex with him and then threatening to release the tapes, she said.
Kelly “exacted cruel and demeaning punishments” to those who violated demands, including “violent spankings and beatings,” the prosecutor added.
For decades, musician-born Robert Sylvester Kelly has faced accusations, including making child pornography, sex with minors, operating a sex cult, and sexual battery.
Despite the unsettling claims and several out-of-court settlements, the singer known for hits like “I Believe I Can Fly,” “Bump ‘N Grind” and “Ignition (Remix)” maintained a staunch fan base, continuing to tour worldwide.
His career began to crumble in January 2019 after the release of the explosive docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly,” which renewed focus on the R&B luminary’s checkered history in a post-#MeToo era.
The New York trial is the first to put Kelly on the stand in connection with a raft of indictments, including sex crimes cases in Chicago and Illinois.
– ‘Recruits’ – Kelly is accused of operating a crime ring that systematically recruited women and young girls for sexual relations, locking them in their rooms at hotels when he was on tour, instructing them to wear baggy clothing when not with him, “to keep their heads down” and to call the singer “daddy.”
Many of the “recruits” were under 18 years old, say prosecutors, who among other allegations say Kelly’s “enterprise” facilitated sex without disclosing herpes the singer had contracted.
The indictment also says part of the ring’s job was to isolate girls and women, and make them “dependent on Kelly for their financial well-being.”
The prosecution’s case centers on six unnamed women, including the singer Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash at age 22 in 2001.
The indictment alleges that Kelly paid an Illinois government employee in 1994 to obtain a fake ID to marry an underage Aaliyah when she was 15 and he was 27, a union that was later annulled.
Opening for the defense, attorney Nicole Blank Becker said the victims were aggrieved groupies who consented to sex before becoming “spiteful” after the relationships ended.
“He didn’t recruit them. They were fans, they came to Mr Kelly,” she said, adding some of the relationships were “beautiful” and “long-term.”
A jury of seven men and five women will decide Kelly’s fate.
R. Kelly has been transferred from prison in Chicago to a jail in New York ahead of his sex crimes trial next month, records showed Wednesday.
The singer is now being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.
The artist born Robert Sylvester Kelly was arrested on sex-trafficking charges in July 2019.
He is accused of systematically recruiting girls for sex while touring and coercing them into sexual activity.
Kelly, 54, faces charges including racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery and forced labor. They span from 1994 to 2018.
Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all charges and jury selection is due to start on August 9.
The singer known for hits like “I Believe I Can Fly” has a decades-long history of abuse allegations, especially of underage girls.
He also faces federal charges in Chicago linked to his alleged sexual abuse of minors.
Chicago prosecutors say Kelly filmed himself having sex with minors and that he paid potential witnesses in his 2008 trial — in which he was acquitted of child pornography charges — to ensure their silence.
Kelly added a new lawyer to his legal team this week: New York attorney Deveraux Cannick.
The singer R. Kelly should learn when he will stand trial on sexual assault charges before the end of the year after delays caused by Covid-19, a judge said Tuesday.
Kelly’s trial had been originally due to begin on Tuesday in Chicago but was postponed when several witnesses reported problems travelling to the Midwestern city from out of state.
At a hearing at a federal court, District Judge Harry Leinenweber said he expects to set a new trial date for Kelly on December 16.
Kelly did not appear at the hearing, which was held by phone Tuesday.
While Kelly’s attorney and prosecutors agreed to wait until December for the trial to be set, Vadim Glozman, an attorney for Darrell McDavid, Kelly’s former manager who is charged with child pornography and obstruction of justice, asked Leinenweber to set a trial date immediately.
The judge denied Glozman’s request, saying the court needs more time to find an open courtroom for the trial.
“Because of the pandemic and a lot of cases that were backed up, it’s been hard to schedule courtrooms,” Leinenweber said.
Also on Tuesday, Kelly’s attorney Michael Leonard said he will be filing motions seeking bail for the seventh time and for an evidentiary hearing regarding an attack on Kelly in August by another inmate at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, where Kelly has been held since July 2019.
Kelly is facing federal charges in Chicago and Brooklyn, New York, and local charges in Cook County, Illinois, and Hennepin County, Minnesota. The federal case in Chicago alleges child pornography and obstruction of justice, while the feds in Brooklyn have alleged racketeering. No date for either case has been set.