R. Kelly demanded absolute loyalty from the many underage women and girls he dominated in a two-decade-long racketeering scheme, a federal prosecutor said Wednesday as the star’s sexual abuse trial began. R&B.
Kelly’s defense team responded that the government’s case had “loopholes” and that the 54-year-old singer’s accusers were disgruntled former fans who wanted revenge on him because his relationships weren’t working.
In her opening statement, Assistant United States Attorney María Cruz Meléndez told the Brooklyn jury of seven men and five women that Kelly used “lies, manipulation, threats, and physical abuse” to control her victims and often filmed her sexual encounters.
The indictment describes Kelly’s alleged dealings with six women and girls, four minors at the time. Among them is the late singer Aaliyah, who was 15 when she married Kelly “This case is about a predator,” Meléndez said. “This case is not about a celebrity who likes to party very much.”
Kelly’s attorney, Nicole Blank Becker, rejected prosecutors ‘claims, saying the accusers’ relationships with Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, were consensual.
“They knew exactly what they were getting into,” Becker said Kelly, a three-time Grammy winner whose songs include “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Bump N’ Grind, “has pleaded not guilty to a nine-count indictment that includes bribery and extortion charges. She has vigorously denied wrongdoing.
Prosecutors say Kelly used an entourage of managers, bodyguards, and others to recruit victims, and threatened to blackmail them if they fled.
The first prosecution witness, Jerhonda Pace, 28, testified that she had once been a fan of Kelly. She also said that she had her name tattooed on her left breast, at his suggestion.
But Pace said her relationship turned difficult, and Kelly demanded that she call him “daddy” and that she get permission from her to go to the bathroom, and it ended after he strangled her until she passed out. her.
Known as Jane Doe No. 4 in the indictment, Pace said Kelly knew she was 16 when they had sex because she had shown him ID, but she told him to pretend she was 19.
“She told me that she was going to train me to please him sexually,” testified Pace, now married, and that she is soon expecting her fifth child Pace also testified that Kelly gave him herpes, while prosecutors said DNA evidence from a shirt she was wearing matched his.
When she was asked if she still had the tattoo, Pace said, “He’s covered with a black heart. Pace’s testimony will continue on Thursday. Other female accusers and at least one male accuser are expected to testify for the government as well, some using only their first names.
The trial was delayed multiple times by the coronavirus pandemic and is expected to last about a month It is the culmination of years of suspicions and accusations against Kelly, many of which were discussed in the 2019 Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” and nearly four years after the #MeToo era began.
Kelly has been incarcerated for more than two years and could face decades in prison if he is convicted Even if he is acquitted, he still faces sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota, where he has also pleaded not guilty.
Melendez said another accuser, Sonja, was sexually abused nearly two decades ago at Kelly’s Chicago studio, where the 22-year-old hoped to interview him for a radio station where she interned.
The prosecutor said that Sonja was locked in a study room for three days and that she once lost consciousness after being fed Upon awakening, Sonja felt the wetness between her legs, saw Kelly buttoning her pants, and realized that she had been sexually assaulted, Melendez said.
Later in the trial, prosecutors will attempt to show that Kelly bribed an Illinois official in 1994 to obtain a false ID for Aaliyah, who is Jane Doe No. 1 on the indictment and whose marriage license showed she was 18 years old so that they could marry.
According to prosecutors, Kelly believed he had impregnated Aaliyah and hoped that marriage would prevent him from having to testify against her. Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001.
Eight counts in the indictment allege violations of the Federal Mann Law, which makes it a crime to transport people across state lines for prostitution Rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry is among other well-known individuals convicted under that law.
Actor and filmmaker Charlie Chaplin was acquitted of charge Kelly was acquitted of porn charges of child spelling in a 2008 trial in Illinois The last time she released a studio album was in 2016. Kelly’s career stalled after the Lifetime documentary and the latest charges.