- Jurors are expected to begin deliberating Friday in R. Kelly’s federal sex crimes trial in New York.
- The singer is accused of running an enterprise that helped him recruit and groom victims for sexual abuse.
- The jury is partially sequestered, and is expected to review trial evidence before returning its verdict.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Jurors are expected to begin deliberations Friday in R. Kelly’s federal sex crimes trial.
Seven men and five women will decide whether Kelly is guilty of running an enterprise that assisted him in recruiting, grooming, and sexually abusing boys, girls, and women for more than two decades.
A judge began to instruct the jury on their role in the case Friday morning. While jurors have been presented with a dense package of evidence and testimony, they’d only need to agree that Kelly committed two alleged offenses in order to convict him of racketeering, a statute most commonly used to prosecute mobsters and organized criminals.
A majority of the allegations against Kelly fall under a single racketeering charge. He is accused of 14 individual acts of racketeering, including crimes of bribery, sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, transportation of minors and other individuals for the purpose of engaging in illegal sexual activity, illegal coercion and enticement of individuals, and forced labor.
Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, also was indicted on eight counts of violating the Mann Act. The statute criminalizes bringing women and girls across state lines for the purpose of illegal sex acts.
The singer has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
A lengthy trial heads to its conclusion
Jurors heard testimony from 50 witnesses over the course of five weeks at the Brooklyn Federal Court Building.
Prosecutors called 11 accusers to the stand, along with dozens of former employees, associates, and experts, to build a case around the theory that the singer used his inner circle and entourage to further and maintain his predatory behavior.
Jury instructions began following a rebuttal from Assistant US Attorney Nadia Shihata. She urged jurors to believe testimony from accusers in the trial, and said that other witnesses and the hundreds of pieces of evidence prosecutors filed all corroborated their stories.
“The defendant’s victims aren’t groupies or gold-diggers,” Shihata said. “They’re human beings. They’re daughters, sisters, some of them are now mothers. And their lives matter.”
As a part of the racketeering and Mann Act case, Kelly is accused of having an employee bribe an Illinois official to obtain a fake ID for 15-year-old Aaliyah. Kelly believed he impregnated Aaliyah, witnesses testified, and wanted to marry her so that she could obtain an abortion.
In addition to transporting his young victims – many of them only teenagers at the time – across state lines for sex, prosecutors also allege that Kelly knowingly had sex with several girls and young women without disclosing his positive herpes diagnosis. Several of his sexual partners testified that they contracted the incurable virus during their relationships with him.
His accusers also testified that the singer has an explosive temper, and was physically and mentally abusive toward them when they didn’t follow his strict set of rules.
The defense case, which spanned just three days of testimony, included five witnesses who knew Kelly and said they didn’t see him abuse or control women when they were around.
Prosecutors say Kelly ran an enterprise
In the prosecution’s closing argument, Assistant US Attorney Elizabeth Geddes told jurors they didn’t need to believe that every person in Kelly’s entourage had criminal intent, or even liked Kelly’s behavior, in order to find he ran an enterprise. The mere existence of the group made Kelly more powerful and assisted him in getting away with his crimes for as long as he did, she said.
“The law recognizes that when someone commits a crime as part of a group, he’s more powerful, more dangerous,” Geddes said. “Put simply, racketeering means that the defendant was part of a group of people who were working toward a common goal.”
In closing arguments for the defense, Kelly’s attorney, Deveraux Cannick, argued that the singer’s relationships with his many “girlfriends” were consensual and that the accusers were all liars who sought to profit from their stories.
“His label marketed him as a sex symbol, a playboy. So he started living that lifestyle,” Cannick said Thursday. “It’s a lifestyle, not a crime.”
Shihata said Cannick’s arguments amounted to victim-blaming, and that he wanted the jury to give Kelly “a pass” because of his celebrity.
“Writing hit songs and performing for audiences on stage doesn’t give you the license to commit crimes,” she told jurors Friday.
The jury, which is partially sequestered, is expected to review trial evidence and transcripts of testimony before returning its verdict.