He has sung, performed, and wrote many hit songs, but Robert Sylvester Kelly will now sing a new tune: convict—perhaps for the rest of his life.
A federal jury in New York convicted the R&B superstar—better known as R. Kelly—on multiple counts of racketeering and sex trafficking charges.
The singer, 54, faced nine counts and 14 underlying acts, including sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery, and sex trafficking charges.
Kelly also faced eight additional violations of the Mann Act, a law that punishes predators for taking minors across state lines for sexual purposes.
When Kelly receives his sentence, scheduled for May 4, 2022, he could get life in prison. He still faces trial for similar accusations in Chicago and Minnesota.
His lawyers said he would appeal the verdicts.
“He believed he could lie,” Kimberlé Crenshaw, law professor and executive director of the African American Policy Forum, noted in an apparent take on one of Kelly’s biggest songs, “I Believe I Can Fly.”
“But the truth finally caught up with him,” Crenshaw continued. “It shouldn’t have taken this many women, and this many years, for Black women to be believed and valued. Now [is] time for soul searching.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis offered that the verdict “forever brands R. Kelly as a predator who used his fame and fortune to prey on the young and vulnerable.”
Kelly had dodged allegations for decades, all the while making music that includes hits like “Home Alone” and “Trapped in the Closet.” He wrote “You Are Not Alone,” the No. 1 single off Michael Jackson’s 1995 “HIStory” album. Jackson’s last No. 1 single became the first to debut in the top position on the Billboard charts.
In 2008, a jury in Chicago acquitted Kelly of child pornography charges after playing a sketchy video that purportedly showed the singer with a girl they believed was his goddaughter. That trial came after a 2002 indictment on charges Kelly videotaped himself engaging in sex with his goddaughter sometime between 1998 and 2000.
Prosecutors alleged at the time that the girl’s age was 13. During a 2002 grand jury appearance, his goddaughter, now 23, also denied her involvement in the tape at the indictment. After the trial, several of the jurors said that they believed Kelly was the man in the tape, but they couldn’t be sure of the identity of his female accuser, who refused to testify.
In the end, Kelly’s conviction on Monday, September 27, had everything to do with the documentary series, “Surviving R. Kelly,” The 2019 documentary catapulted back into the spotlight the decades-long sex allegations against Kelly.
His appearance on CBS’ morning show with Gayle King, where he famously stated that he’s “fighting for my life,” also raised the ire of his accusers.
Over several conversations from January to May of 2020, one of Kelly’s former live-in girlfriends described her life with the superstar to this reporter. She said she met Kelly shortly after being released from a hospital for “mental issues.” Her parents had insisted she go to an old school concert in Florida, which Kelly headlined.
“I had known his music, and I had listened to his music, but I wouldn’t say that I was a die-hard fan, you know like if I were to see LL Cool J or Drake, then you know you’re going to get excited because they’re someone that I grew up with,” the young woman told this reporter. “Robert was the 90s.”
At the concert, she said once Kelly hit the stage, his eyes were on her. “It was like the entire show was for me,” she recalled. “He sang almost exclusively to me like I was his girlfriend. He grabbed my hand and stuff. I felt good, but I was like, I look like a mess. I wore some baggy ripped-up jeans. I wore a crop top, and I had on a baseball cap. I didn’t look like I belonged; everyone else is dressed.”
Kelly’s entourage still picked the young woman, 17, out of the crowd, and they later exchanged phone numbers. The aspiring singer wanted to audition for the superstar, and he arranged a meet at a Florida hotel. “Immediately, he’s like ‘come sit on my lap,’” the young woman, whom we won’t name, stated.
“He said ‘we can kiss,” she continued.
The young woman went on to detail that Kelly asked for “unusual sexual favors,” promising that he’d let her sing for him only afterward.
She pleaded with Kelly that she was sweaty, had just gotten out of school, and had to practice.
“He had a response for everything,” she said, before acknowledging that she finally gave in and allowed him to carry out the sex act that was nearly interrupted by police. Her parents sent officers to the hotel to check on her.
“The cops asked to check my identification,” her story continued. “Robert had pure fear on his face, and he said to me, ‘You are 18, right?’ I said yes, and he said, ‘Please don’t be lying to me.’ He felt better. The cops only looked at the year of birth and not the date. It was April; I wasn’t going to turn 18 until the end of the year.”
She said the couple celebrated at a local McDonald’s where Kelly “told everybody. He told his assistant and his security. He kept talking about it. I guess it gave him a rush.”
Kelly continues to maintain his innocence.
— Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire senior national correspondent