R. Kelly portrayed as a sexual “predator” on day one of his trial

R. Kelly portrayed as a sexual “predator” on day one of his trial

He has long escaped justice despite accusations and a sulphurous reputation, but he must now be held to account: the American singer R. Kelly, fallen star of R&B, was portrayed this Wednesday, August 18 as a “predator” by the prosecution on the first day of his sexual abuse trial in New York.

The 54-year-old singer, known worldwide for his hit I Believe I Can Fly , appeared silent, sometimes with his head bowed, in the courtroom of Brooklyn Federal Court, where he is on trial for extortion, sexual exploitation minor, kidnapping, corruption and forced labor, over a period from 1994 to 2018.

According to the indictment, R. Kelly, winner of three Grammy Awards in 1998, ran a network that recruited and groomed young girls to have sex with him, locking them in their hotel rooms when he was in. tour, asking them to wear loose clothes when they weren’t with him, to “keep their heads down” and to call him “daddy”.

The first alleged victim called to testify at the bar by the prosecutor’s office, identified as Jerhonda, claimed that the singer was filming their sexual relations when she was only 16 years old, that is to say below the age of the consent in the United States.

The now 28-year-old woman explained that R. Kelly had told her he was going to “train her to satisfy him sexually”. 

From ten years to life imprisonment

“We are talking about a predator (…) A man who for decades has used his fame, popularity and a network of people at his disposal to target, groom and exploit young girls, boys and women to satisfy his sexual desires ”, launched, at the opening of the proceedings, the prosecutor Maria Cruz Melendez in front of the accused, gray suit, purple tie.

She described a sophisticated system, in which R. Kelly would have used “all the techniques of the predator” to approach minors or their families, but also used his entourage, bodyguard, drivers, lawyers, accountants, to protect himself, with threats in particular.

If found guilty on all charges by the jury, seven men and five women selected last week, R. Kelly, currently in custody, faces ten years in life imprisonment.

The singer pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against him. “You will hear the whole story and justice will be done,” promised one of his lawyers, Nicole Blank Becker.

In court, she argued that all sexual relations were “consensual” and that some witnesses or victims at trial were driven by a spirit of revenge. 

“He did not recruit anyone … they were fans, who came to him,” said the lawyer.

For more than 25 years, the singer from Chicago with his voice tinged with gospel influences and hyper-sexualized lyrics or postures, had dominated the R&B scene, despite a sulphurous reputation, because he surrounded himself with very young people. girls, and accusations of sexual abuse. But he had continued to make a career, with amicable settlements and a 2008 trial for child pornography , which ended in an acquittal.

Charged in three states

It wasn’t until January 2019, with the release of the documentary series Surviving R. Kelly , that the legal stranglehold really tightened. Now, the singer is indicted in four proceedings in three different states (Illinois, New York, Minnesota).

The identity of the victims has not been revealed by the New York court but among them is the singer Aaliyah , who died 20 years ago in August 2001 in a plane crash at the age of 22.

The indictment indeed accuses R. Kelly of having bribed an official of the State of Illinois in 1994 to obtain false documents and marry a minor. An accusation that refers to the marriage, finally canceled, of the singer with the young star of R&B. She was then 15 years old. According to the prosecution, R. Kelly wanted to marry her to prevent her from testifying against him because he had made her pregnant.

The prosecutor also referred to the case of Sonia, 22 at the time of the events, in 2003, an intern in a radio station and who hoped to obtain an interview with the singer after meeting him in Salt Lake City. According to the prosecution, the young woman was taken to Chicago, where she was locked in a room for three days and was sexually abused by the singer, then threatened not to speak.

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