Years in the making, R. Kelly’s sexual abuse trial begins

NEW YORK (AP) – R&B star R. Kelly is a predator who lured girls, boys and young women with his fame and dominated them physically, sexually and psychologically, a prosecutor said Wednesday, while a defense attorney warned the members of the jury who will have to do it. sift through the lies of accusers with agendas to find the truth.

The different perspectives came as the long-anticipated trial began to unfold in a Brooklyn courthouse where multiple prosecutors were expected to testify next month about the Grammy-winning singer and multi-platinum seller whose career has been derailed by charges that have left him incarcerated while going broke.

“This case is not about a celebrity who likes to party very much,” Assistant US Attorney María Cruz Meléndez told the Brooklyn jury as she explained the evidence that will be revealed in her federal trial. “This case is about a predator.”

She said he distributed behind-the-scenes passes to entice children and women to join him, sometimes at his home or studio, where he then “dominated and controlled them physically, sexually and psychologically.”

The prosecutor said Kelly used to record sex acts with minors while running an organized crime company of people loyal and dedicated to him, eager to “comply with each and every one of the defendant’s wishes and demands.”

“What brought it its success and popularity was access, access to girls, boys and young women,” he said.

But Kelly’s attorney, Nicole Blank Becker, described her client as a victim of women, some of whom enjoyed the “notoriety of being able to tell their friends they were with a superstar.”

“He didn’t recruit them. They were fans. They came with Mr. Kelly, ”he said, urging jurors to closely examine the testimony. “They knew exactly what they were getting into. It was no secret that Mr. Kelly had several girlfriends. It was pretty transparent. “

It would be an exaggeration to believe that he orchestrated an elaborate criminal enterprise, like a mob boss, the lawyer said.

Becker warned jurors that they will have to sort out “a mess of lies” from women with an agenda.

“Don’t assume that everyone is telling the truth,” he said.

Defense attorneys have argued in pretrial court documents that Kelly’s alleged victims were groupies who appeared on his shows and made it known that they “were dying to be with him.” The women only began accusing him of abuse years later when public sentiment shifted against him, they said.

Kelly, 54, is perhaps best known for his smash hit “I Believe I Can Fly,” a 1996 song that became an inspirational hymn played at school graduations, weddings, announcements, and elsewhere.

The vacancies came more than a decade after Kelly was acquitted in a 2008 child pornography case in Chicago. It was a respite that allowed his music career to continue until the #MeToo era caught up with him, encouraging alleged victims to come forward.

The women’s stories got wide exposure with the Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly.” The series explored how an entourage of supporters protected Kelly and silenced his victims for decades, foreshadowing the federal racketeering conspiracy case that landed Kelly in jail in 2019.

Brooklyn prosecutors have lined up several female accusers, most of whom are referred to in court as “Jane Does,” and former cooperating associates who have never spoken publicly about their experiences with Kelly before.

They are expected to provide testimony on how Kelly’s managers, bodyguards and other employees helped him recruit women and girls. and sometimes guys – for sexual exploitation. They say the group selected the victims at concerts and other venues and organized a trip to see Kelly in the New York City area and elsewhere, in violation of the Mann Act, the 1910 law that made it illegal. ” transporting any woman or girl “across state lines” for any immoral purpose. “

When the women and girls arrived at their accommodation, a member of Kelly’s entourage set rules about not speaking to each other, how they should dress and how they needed Kelly’s permission before eating or going to the bathroom, prosecutors say. Also, they were allegedly asked to call him “dad”.

A anonymous jury consisting of seven men and five women he took the oath to hear the case. The trial, which comes after several delays mainly due to the pandemic, is taking place under coronavirus precautions that restrict the press and the public from flooding courtrooms with videos.

The New York case is just one part of the legal danger facing the singer, born Robert Sylvester Kelly. He also pleaded not guilty to sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota.

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