The criminal trial of disgraced singer R. Kelly began Wednesday in a federal district court in Brooklyn.
Kelly faces multiple charges related to sex crimes in four separate cases, including Cook County, Illinois. Wednesday’s trial is the first to put him on the stands for these charges.
In an opening statement, Assistant US Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez said “This case is about a predator. A man who, for decades, used his fame, his popularity and a network of people at his disposal to target girls, boys and young women for his own sexual gratification.”
As CNN reports, he has spent the “last two years in federal facilities in Illinois and New York awaiting trial. Separately from this case, Kelly faces federal child pornography and obstruction charges in the Northern District of Illinois, and faces state charges there for multiple counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.”
Claims of sexual abuse have publicly followed the singer since the 1990s, among the the most publicized was a a child pornography case that resulted in an acquittal in 2008. Most recently, details about his relationship with the late Aaliyah have emerged. Kelly was 27 when he married the then-15-year-old. Prosecutors in the federal criminal trial will try to show that Kelly bribed an Illinois official in 1994 to obtain a fake ID for the beloved R&B singer (identified as Jane Doe No. 1 in the indictment ). According to prosecutors, Kelly believed he had impregnated her, and hoped a marriage would keep her from having to testify against him, Reuters reports.
Public attention returned to Kelly after the airing of the “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary on Lifetime. It also prompted Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx to ask women who R. Kelly victimized to come forward, leading to his charges in 2019.
This federal case is separate from those charges he faces in Cook County, where he is charged with two counts of criminal sexual assault by force, two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse against a victim who’s between the ages of 13 to 16, and four counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault.
Kelly’s crimes go beyond just engaging in sexual abuse. Prosecutors in the federal trial argue he created an entire “‘criminal enterprise’ of managers, bodyguards and other employees, who allegedly helped Kelly to recruit women and underage girls for sex and pornography, and to cross state lines for that purpose.”
USA Today reports that the trial is projected to last about a month.