R&B singer R. Kelly trials on charges he was the ringleader of a two-decade scheme where he recruited women and underage girls for sex, including demanding they demonstrate “absolute commitment” and call him “Daddy” started yesterday (Wednesday, 18 August).
The three-time Grammy winner pleaded not guilty and strongly denied wrongdoing. The singer and his supporters were both accused of involvement in an enterprise that allowed the abuse to occur.
The trial comes two years after his arrest by federal investigators in Chicago on other charges of coercion, racketeering, and bribery.
In 2008, Kelly had been handed a reprieve when he was acquitted in a child pornography case in Chicago, that allowed his music career to continue for nearly a decade.
Things went haywire when Hollywood figure Harvey Weinstein got arrested in 2017 for Sexual assault, it birthed the fight for women’s rights in the face of alleged assault by high profile male stars.
A number of women who accused R. Kelly of having sexually abused them came forward, leading to the 54-year-old singer’s arrest in 2019.
If the singer is convicted on all counts he could be sentenced to several decades in prison. His lawyer Nicole Blank Becker claimed the alleged victims are aggrieved groupies, who originally consented to sex before later becoming spiteful.
“He didn’t recruit them. They were fans. They came to Mr. Kelly,” she told the court. Prosecutors meanwhile described Mr. Kelly as, “a man who used lies, manipulation, threats, and physical abuse to dominate his victims and avoid accountability for years.”
Kelly, in a grey suit, purple tie, and glasses, sat silently, his face down at times as the prosecution opened its case.
The singer is best known for hits including Ignition, I Believe I Can Fly, Bump n’ Grind among others.