From one of R&B’s biggest stars to a disgraced predator, R. Kelly was found guilty by jurors on Monday, Sep. 27 in New York. Convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking, Kelly could spend decades in prison and still faces multiple federal charges in Illinois and Minnesota. After jurors heard over 50 personal testimonies from his victims, it became evident that Kelly could no longer hide behind his fame and facade.
Renowned for his smash hits “Ignition-Remix” and “I Believe I Can Fly,” Robert Sylvester Kelly used both his celebrity status and lavish wealth for his own gain. By recruiting his entourage to assist him in his decades-long trafficking operation, he was able to maintain even more power over his victims.
Sonja, one of the many victims who testified against him, spoke about her traumatizing experience with Kelly back in 2003. A former radio intern, 21-year-old Sonja was asked by Kelly to interview him at his studio. When she arrived for the meeting, she was escorted to a room by one of his employees, was locked in for days, and was only allowed to leave to use the restroom and shower. She explained during her testimony that she went unconscious after eating her first meal in days since she had been kidnapped, and when she awoke, she noticed Kelly fixing his pants. At that moment, Sonja believed that he had sexually assaulted her. “I was sexually assaulted,” Sonja testified. “There was something in me that wasn’t wanted.”
Jurors also were made aware of his time with the late R&B singer Aaliyah, who passed away in 2001. Kelly bribed a government worker to falsify her age so that he could legally marry her. At the time, he was 27 years old while young Aaliyah was only 15 years old. During the trial, prosecutors not only showed these illegal marriage documents but also called his former tour manager and the minister who married them to the stand. Demetrius Smith, his tour manager, admitted that he bribed the welfare office employee with $500 into creating Aaliyah a false welfare ID. While this is an obvious example of grooming and sexual exploitation of a minor that was known by the public for years, Kelly was never held accountable for these actions until now.
Jacquelyn Kasulis, who is the prosecuting attorney from the Eastern District of New York, was very pleased by the outcome of the trial. “Today’s guilty verdict forever brands R. Kelly as a predator, who used his fame and fortune to prey on the young, the vulnerable and the voiceless for his own sexual gratification. R. Kelly is a predator who used his inner circle to ensnare underage girls and young men and women for decades, in a sordid web of sex abuse, exploitation and humiliation,” Gloria Allred, an attorney who has practiced law for 47 years and represented three of his victims during this trial, stated. “Of all the predators that I have pursued, Mr. Kelly is the worst.”
While many were elated that justice had been served, Kelly’s defense attorney Deveraux L. Cannick was very upset by this loss, as he told reporters, “Of course we are disappointed in the verdict. I am even more disappointed in the prosecution for bringing this case as it was replete with inconsistencies.” Kelly faces sentencing on May 4 of 2022, and due to his ongoing criminal charges, there is the possibility he could face a life sentence in prison.