- Federal prosecutors rested their case against R. Kelly on Monday.
- More than 40 witnesses testified, describing harrowing allegations of sexual abuse and bizarre rules they say the singer imposed on his young “girlfriends.”
- Kelly’s attorneys will present his defense next.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Federal prosecutors rested their case against R. Kelly on Monday, following 19 days of harrowing allegations of sexual abuse and testimony from more than 40 witnesses about how the singer controlled the minute details of his accusers’ everyday lives.
On their final day marshaling factual witnesses, on Friday, prosecutors took testimony from Cheryl Mack – a former assistant for R. Kelly who recalled how the singer said people go “missing” when a teen girl threatened to sue him for sexual harassment – and Dawn Hughes, a psychologist who specializes in interpersonal violence.
Mack testified she was pressured to sign an affidavit that denied Kelly participated in any wrongdoing against “Precious,” a pseudonym for a 17-year-old singer Kelly worked with in 2009.
Many of the accusers who testified in the sex crimes trial said they had also been aspiring or early-career musical artists who had wanted to work with the kingmaker who helped turn Aaliyah into an R&B superstar.
Hughes, who began testifying on Friday afternoon and finished Monday, described how victims of interpersonal violence can cling to their abusers. Younger people in particular, she said, can be susceptible to “psychological entrapment” from powerful people.
“In this relational context, the victim may want to make peace with perpetrators, they may want to appease them [to] draw out the good person they once saw.”
Strict rules and an explosive temper
Prosecutors accused Kelly of sexually abusing numerous young women and two men, and of directing employees to procure women for sex in what amounted to a criminal organization.
Since opening statements on August 18, prosecutors have presented accusers, former employees, and other witnesses who testified in Brooklyn’s federal courthouse about how Kelly controlled the lives of his young “girlfriends” who often lived with him.
The accusers, whose experiences with Kelly spanned the course of about 25 years until his July 2019 arrest, described how the singer pressured them into sex. One woman said Kelly sexually assaulted her just moments after meeting her backstage after a concert. Others described being “trained” in sex and living with the singer over the course of several years. Kelly also gave several of them herpes, they testified, without disclosing that he had the incurable disease.
Kelly was said to exert control over his live-in “girlfriends” with strict rules. Accusers testified that they were expected to perform sex on demand, refer to Kelly as “Daddy,” wear baggy clothes, and they were not permitted to look at or speak to other men. They were not permitted to move between rooms without Kelly’s permission – not even to use the bathroom – and would sometimes pee in large plastic cups from gas stations when they didn’t receive it. Accusers said the singer obsessively took videos of every sexual encounter, and made many of them sign fake letters incriminating themselves to keep them in his orbit.
Throughout the trial, former employees testified about their roles in securing women for Kelly. Some said they handed out slips of paper with the singer’s phone number on it at concerts, or drove around his “girlfriends.” Male drivers would move up their rearview mirrors so the women in the back seat couldn’t look at them, some employees said.
Some of the employees also testified about Kelly’s explosive temper. Tom Arnold, the singer’s once-loyal studio and tour manager, testified about quitting after arranging a trip to Disney World. Kelly had demanded a female tour guide, and when Arnold could only get a male one, Kelly erupted and docked a week’s pay. Mack said she quit working for Kelly after the singer falsely accused her of spoiling a birthday surprise for another employee, pounding the table at a McDonald’s while he shared a meal with his entourage.
The trial also shed new light on Kelly’s 1994 sham marriage with Aaliyah, who was 15 at the time.
Former employees and a wedding minister described how Kelly, who was 27 at the time and believed Aaliyah was pregnant, concocted a scheme to marry her so that she could get an abortion. As part of the case against Kelly, prosecutors said he had an employee bribe a Chicago government official to produce a fake document showing Aaliyah was 18 years old. The marriage was annulled by Aaliyah’s parents a year later, and the young singer died in a plane crash in 2001.
Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him. His defense attorneys are expected to begin presenting their own witnesses Monday for about two days, before each team of lawyers presents their closing arguments.
As the Brooklyn trial heads toward its conclusion, the singer faces legal risk elsewhere. Federal and state-level prosecutors in Chicago each have pending cases against Kelly involving similar allegations, as does a district attorney’s office in Minnesota.