A jury has found R&B superstar R.Kelly guilty of being the ringleader of a decades-
long racketeering and sex trafficking scheme that preyed upon Black women and
children. risks life imprisonment, capping a trial that featured hours of graphic
testimony from the singer’s accusers.
Kelly, who has been in custody for much of the time since he was formally charged in
2019, was convicted on one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the
Mann Act, a law that bars the transport of people across state lines “for any immoral
Kelly, who faces decades in prison when he is sentenced on May 4, appeared stoic and
wore a mask as the verdict was read aloud in the Brooklyn federal courtroom.
Kelly, best known for the 1996 hit “I Believe I Can Fly,” pleaded not guilty to all
charges in the case. The singer, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, did not
take the stand in his own defense.
Gerald Griggs, a lawyer who said he represents several Kelly accusers and their
families thanked his clients for their “immense strength” and expressed his gratitude
“This is just the beginning. We’ve been fighting this battle since 2017 and many of
the victims have been fighting this battle for years,” Griggs said. “Finally, their voices
The prosecutors in the trial, which centered around the allegations of six people,
alleged that the singer was a serial sexual predator who abused young women as well
as underage girls and boys for more than two decades.
Prosecutors further alleged that the singer and his entourage led a criminal
enterprise that recruited and groomed victims for sex, arranging for them to travel to
concerts and other events across the U.S.
In a closing argument that lasted two days, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Geddes
accused Kelly and his entourage of using tactics from “the predator playbook” to
control his victims.
Kelly’s alleged tactics included confining victims in hotel rooms or his recording
studio, managing when they could eat and use the bathroom, and forcing them to
follow various “rules,” including demanding they call him “Daddy.”
“It is now time to hold the defendant responsible for the pain he inflicted on each of
his victims,” Geddes said Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn. “It is now time for
the defendant, Robert Kelly, to pay for his crimes. Convict him.”
Geddes characterized one of several explicit videos in evidence, which was seen by
the jury during testimony but not made available to the public. She said the video
showed Kelly grabbing a victim by the hair and forcing her to perform oral sex on
The woman’s “will had been broken,” Geddes said.
The singer’s lawyers attempted to portray his accusers as “groupies” who sought to
exploit his fame and take advantage of the #MeToo movement.
Deveraux Cannick, one of Kelly’s defense lawyers, argued that testimony from several
of his client’s accusers was false, saying in his closing argument: “Where is the
fairness to Robert? Where’s the integrity of the system?”
Cannick argued that a celebrity like his client would have no need for a criminal
enterprise to lure people for sexual activity. He “didn’t have to recruit women,”
Cannick told jurors.
He argued that Kelly’s accusers were never forced to do anything against their will.
They remained in his company, the lawyer argued, because the singer treated them to
expensive dinners, free air travel and other alleged perks.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Kelly was considered one of the kings of R&B. He was widely
credited with helping to redefine the genre with popular tracks like “Bump N’ Grind,”
“I’m a Flirt (Remix)” and the “hip-hopera” project “Trapped in a Closet.”
But the singer’s alleged behind-the-scenes behavior attracted greater public scrutiny
with the rise of the #MeToo movement, leading to the #MuteRKelly social media
campaign, boycotts of his records and protests across the country.
“Surviving R. Kelly,” a Lifetime documentary series released in 2019 that featured
testimony from several accusers, intensified calls for the singer to face legal
consequences for his alleged pattern of abuse.
Kelly was previously acquitted on child pornography charges in 2008.
The criminal proceedings in New York started Aug. 18, spanned about six weeks and
included testimony from more than 45 witnesses. The jury of seven men and five
women got the case on Friday and deliberated for a total of nine hours.
The singer also faces charges in Illinois and Minnesota