R. Kelly trial nears end as singer’s lawyers defend against sexual abuse allegations
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NEW YORK, Sept.21 (Reuters) – R. Kelly’s sex trafficking trial entered the home stretch on Tuesday, with the presiding judge predicting that pleadings could begin the next day and jurors could soon deliberate on the fate of the R&B star.
Kelly, 54, has been on trial in Brooklyn federal court since Aug. 18 for attacking women and girls he lured into his entourage in the mid-1990s.
The singer, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly and is perhaps best known musically for his 1996 Grammy-winning song “I Believe I Can Fly”, has pleaded not guilty to racketeering and illegal transport charges. of persons for the purpose of prostitution.
Prosecutors spent 4.5 weeks testifying to several accusers, including women who claim they were underage when Kelly abused them, and people who worked for the singer.
They sought to portray Kelly as an intemperate predator who used his fame to attract admirers whom he would later force into having unwanted sex.
Several witnesses said Kelly also punished the victims for breaking her rigid rules governing banalities such as when to eat or use the bathroom, or who to watch or who to talk to.
Four witnesses have testified for Kelly since her defense began on Monday, in an attempt to show jurors that those employed by Kelly knew nothing about her allegations of abuse.
Two other witnesses could testify on Wednesday, including a friend of Jerhonda Pace, the first accuser to testify at the trial.
Kelly is not obligated or expected to testify. His alleged victims also included the late singer Aaliyah.
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly told her courtroom that oral argument could begin Wednesday after testimony ends, with jury deliberations starting as early as Thursday.
One of Tuesday’s witnesses was Jeff Meeks, who told Kelly’s attorney Calvin Scholar that he had never seen women locked in rooms or knocking on doors in the roughly 15 years he had been there. worked for the singer in several roles, including in his studio.
Federal prosecutor Maria Cruz Melendez countered by trying to show jurors that Meeks was not unaware of Kelly’s conduct, asking if he recalled telling federal agents once that he was “relieved” to see a woman. girl leave the studio.
“I’m not sure,” Meeks said. “I was a lot of things. Relieved is one of them.”
A former Kelly accountant also testified in the defense, claiming that the girls around the singer dressed “appropriately” and that he did not recall Kelly raising his voice angrily in his presence.
Prosecutors also showed jurors an organizational chart of Kelly’s management company, RSK Enterprises, which was shaped like an octopus with tentacles addressing people to whom the singer owed money, including the tax bill. once reached eight digits.
Although Kelly has been sued with abuse charges for nearly two decades, his music career only stalled after close scrutiny during the #MeToo movement and after Lifetime aired the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” in January 2019.
Kelly has been jailed for over two years and also faces sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota.
Reporting by Tyler Clifford in New York, editing by Rosalba O’Brien