R. Kelly's Sex-Trafficking Conviction Is Only the Beginning of His Legal Troubles
Following six weeks of damning testimony, closing arguments and deliberation, a jury found R. Kelly guilty in the singer’s Brooklyn federal trial on Monday, where Kelly faced charges of sex trafficking and racketeering. After being found guilty on all counts, Kelly faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and up to life when he is sentenced on May 4th.
The Brooklyn trial included testimony from 45 witnesses, including 11 accusers – some of whom first went public with their experiences in Surviving R. Kelly and articles that preceded that docuseries – and witnesses who spoke about Kelly’s brief marriage to a then-underage Aaliyah; that latter incident helped solidify the racketeering charges against Kelly, as he ordered his associates to bribe an Illinois county clerk in order to obtain a marriage license for the illegal marriage.
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“When someone commits a crime as part of a group, he’s more powerful, more dangerous,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Geddes said during closing arguments, noting that Kelly was “more than just a part of an enterprise… He was a leader, and he used the others to achieve his goal.”
Prosecutors also mapped out how Kelly’s network helped the singer “groom girls and boys for sexual activity despite the fact that they were too young to consent,” including distributing his phone number to underaged women at concerts, driving women to appointments with Kelly, and keeping them under surveillance.”
While Kelly’s Brooklyn trial has now come to a close – one of his lawyers on Monday said he is considering appealing the verdict – the disgraced singer’s legal problems are just beginning.
In the near future, depending on the pandemic, Kelly will likely return to Chicago to face an additional 13 charges against him in a separate federal trial; while the Brooklyn trial brought forth allegations of racketeering and sex trafficking, the Illinois indictment is comprised of 13 counts of child pornography, enticing a minor into illegal sexual activity and a conspiracy to obstruct justice, the latter relating to Kelly’s previous child pornography trial.
Following a Covid-19 delay that pushed it from April 2020 and then — after authorities discovered a hidden cache of 100 electronic devices belonging to Kelly — October 2020, the Chicago federal trial was scheduled to begin September 13th of this year. However, that date was dependent on the conclusion of the Brooklyn federal trial.
The Chicago federal indictment “charges Kelly with producing and receiving child pornography, and enticing minors to engage in criminal sexual activity. The charges accuse Kelly of engaging in sex acts with five minors and recording some of the abuse on multiple videos,” the Northern District of Illinois said in July 2019. “The indictment also charges Kelly with conspiring to intimidate victims and conceal evidence in an effort to obstruct law enforcement, including an investigation in the 2000s that resulted in his trial in 2008 in Cook County on state child pornography charges.”
Outside the Chicago federal charges, Kelly also faces Cook County, Illinois state charges that — at the time of the February 2019 arrest — included 10 counts of sexual assault and abuse drawn from separate indictments from four different victims, three of whom were allegedly underage at the time of the incidents. Three months later, an additional 11 charges were added to the state case.
“Let us be clear: this is not just about surviving R. Kelly. For most victims, it’s about surviving a less famous abuser, a trusted adult, or a total stranger,” Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx said in a statement after the Chicago state charges were filed.
However, the status of the State of Illinois’ case — now over two-and-a-half years old — is murky. The case has been gestating so long that, at its onset, one of the alleged victims named in the indictment was represented by now-disgraced celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, who has since been arrested, charged, pled guilty and sentenced to 30 months in prison for attempting to extort Nike. There’s also the possibility that – if the government is successful in both federal trials and Kelly is already facing a life sentence – the State of Illinois saves time and resources and drops its charges against Kelly.
Kelly has one more pending and longshot criminal case against him: A criminal charge of soliciting a minor for sexual purposes and soliciting prostitution from someone under 18 that awaits him in Hennepin County, Minnesota. That alleged incident occurred in July 2001, with the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office saying Kelly offered an autograph-seeking fan “$200 to take off her clothes and dance for him. After accepting the $200, she got naked and they proceeded to dance.”
Kelly’s former lawyer Steve Greenberg called the Minnesota charge “absurd” in August 2019. “Some girl comes in and starts dancing and says he touched her? What’s she doing there dancing? It’s enough already,” Greenberg said at the time. “The idea of a statute of limitations is after a certain amount of time, you don’t charge people. I’m not going to waste my time on that case at this point. Until [the District Attorney’s Office] can get Mr. Kelly to Minnesota, I’m not going to burn one brain cell on him.”
Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all charges in all the remaining cases against him.
Some of Kelly’s associates also face a legal reckoning: In July 2019, Kelly’s former manager Derrel McDavid and former employee Milton “June” Brown were charged in connection to the Chicago federal indictment, which claims that the singer and both men spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to recover missing videotapes from the singer’s “collection” that allegedly showed Kelly having sex with underage girls. (Both McDavid and Brown were mentioned frequently by prosecutors during the Brooklyn federal trial, though Kelly remained the sole defendant.)
The New Yorker reported that other individuals who worked for Kelly might also be charged in connection to both the Brooklyn and Chicago federal cases.
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