Who is R. Kelly?
Robert Sylvester Kelly, 54, is one of the most influential singers and producers in the R&B genre. He grew up in Chicago, in the dangerous neighborhood of Bronzeville, and at thirteen he began to excel in high school singing classes playing Stevie Wonder. After founding the group Public Announcement, in 1993 R. Kelly launched his solo career.
Singer R. Kelly is convicted of organized crime and sex trafficking
Later came the Grammy nominations, the mentions in Rolling Stone magazine and the number one on Billboard. But the biggest takeoff was with the song I Believe I Can Flyin 1996, which was part of the soundtrack of the film Space jam. This earned him three Grammy Awards, industry applause, and 38 million records sold. During his career R. Kelly has collaborated with Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Jay-Z or Notorious Big, and has composed songs for Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and numerous R&B artists.
Why have they condemned him?
The District Attorney for the Eastern District of New York this Monday has attributed the crimes of organized crime, coercion and sex trafficking of women and girls for more than two decades. The jury deliberated for nine hours and declared that Kelly acted as a predator taking advantage of his fame to abuse underage women, children and girls, and to destroy the lives of the people who worked for him.
The trial lasted four weeks in which the Prosecutor’s Office has questioned several women who accuse the artist of sexual abuse and 45 witnesses, some of whom detailed a continuous pattern of coercion and abuse. The report accuses him of being a violent and controlling person. Throughout the process, he has flown over the previous R. Kelly trial in Chicago, in 2008, from which he escaped unpunished. Prosecutors investigated a videotape that showed him having sex with a 14-year-old and urinating on her. R. Kelly was acquitted of all charges because the victim refused to testify.
When did the suspicions rise?
Kelly was arrested in 2019 on charges of sexual abuse of four women, three of them minors, but the scandals date back almost two decades earlier. In his role as producer he sponsored the singer Aaliyah in 1994. Together they released the first album of which he would later become an R&B star, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number. She was 15 years old and he was 27 and that same year they secretly married.
The music world looked the other way, but those rumors became reality in the documentary Surviving R. Kelly (Netflix), where a member of the team acknowledges that the singer came to falsify Aaliyah’s documentation. Kelly feared that the artist was pregnant and could be accused of child abuse. She passed away in 2001 in a helicopter accident while returning from recording a video clip.
What was discovered later was even worse, related by his second wife and the mother of his three children, Andrea Lee. According to her account, she had to ask her permission before eating any food and would constantly lock her in a small room in the house without having contact with the outside. A year after marrying Lee and releasing the famous song by Space jam, one of the young aspiring singer who kept under his orbit denounced him for rape and sexual abuse. Tiffany Hawkins accused him of organizing orgies with children under 15 like her. The lawsuit was settled by check, but years later she participated in the documentary and said she did it because no one believed her. That same year, 1998, Kelly won three Grammy Awards for I Believe I Can Fly.
2002: possession of child pornography
In 2002, a video came to light in which Kelly had relationships with two underage girls. One of them came to urinate on him. While the Police investigated the facts, the singer presented the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics that year. In 2003 he was arrested for possession of child pornography, but a judge noted that the police did not have a warrant and dropped the charges. Finally, the trial was carried out with more evidence in 2008, but the victims did not come to testify and the court found Kelly not guilty after being unable to identify them.
While the scandals for possession of child pornography were happening, his wife Andrea accused him of mistreatment and even asked for a restraining order. In 2006, R. Kelly’s brother leaked to the press that the singer offered him $ 50,000 and a record deal if he claimed he was the star of the sex tape. Kelly and Andrea made the divorce official in 2009.
The #MeToo effect that silenced Kelly
In 2017, journalist Jim DeRogatis posted on BuzzFeed an article in which the families of three young men accuse Kelly of keeping their daughters as sex slaves. The singer would have created a kind of “cult” in which he retained and abused women between 17 and 21 years old. The mothers of these girls participated again in Surviving R. Kelly. Some of them were still being held when the documentary was published. In 2018, the campaign Time’s Up I help boost the credibility of the victims. The artist chose young people who attended his concerts, who approached him at the end and who he sexually assaulted behind the scenes. “The victims are not groupies no gold digger. They are human beings, ”said one of the prosecutors.
In 2018, pushed by the #MuteRKelly campaign, Spotify, Apple and Pandora withdrew Kelly’s discography from their platforms and some of his former collaborators, such as Lady Gaga and Cèline Dion, turned their backs on him. On February 22, 2019, the artist was arrested on ten counts of aggravated sexual abuse, but the lawsuit was delayed due to the pandemic.
In the trial that has been resolved this Monday, according to The New York Times, they have declared friends and relatives of the victims; eight of his former employees; the person who officiated your marriage to Aaliyah; a doctor who treated you for herpes for more than a decade; and various investigators at the Chicago trial in 2008. A woman identified as Kate testified that she settled a $ 200,000 settlement with R. Kelly in 2001 after he knowingly passed herpes to her.
What happens now?
During the trial, R. Kelly refused to testify. According to chronicles in the New York media, he remained seated in a blue suit, sunglasses and a white mask. “R. Kelly is the worst sexual predator I have ever seen in my long professional career. To begin with, she used the power of her celebrity status to recruit vulnerable minors in order to sexually abuse them, ”said the prosecution attorney, Gloria Allred. The sentence is not yet decided, but the maximum penalty would carry 20 years in prison.