NEW YORK — R. Kelly’s stunning fall from grace came to its bitter end Monday as jurors found the R&B superstar guilty at his federal sex trafficking trial.
The jury did not even deliberate for a full day before reaching its verdict. Kelly faces a maximum of life in prison at sentencing.
Jurors listened to the testimony of 11 accusers and more than 40 witnesses.
One after another, Kelly’s accusers and employees described a strange, alternate universe that existed behind the looming gates of R. Kelly’s mansion in the Chicago suburbs, where “Rob’s Rules” were the laws of the land.
“It was almost like the Twilight Zone,” said Anthony Navarro, who worked for Kelly from 2008 to 2009 at the mansion. “Once you went into the gate. … It’s just a strange place.”
Born Robert Sylvester Kelly, the 54-year-old singer rose to superstardom in the 1990s as his albums topped the charts. But accusations of sexual misconduct dogged the “Sex Me” singer as he toured the country.
His 1994 illegal marriage to R&B teen phenom Aaliyah — she was 15 and he was 27 — unnerved some of Kelly’s staunchest allies.
Demetrius Smith — Kelly’s former tour manager, who bribed an official for a fake ID that showed Aaliyah was 18 and legally able to marry the older singer — told The Daily News that despite his role, he did not approve of the unlawful union.
“She gave me a look like I let her down,” Smith recalled in an interview.
Kelly’s disgrace was sealed when the 2019 documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” featured numerous women describing their abusive relationships with the singer over decades. He was charged with sex crimes in Brooklyn, Illinois and Minnesota later that year.
And in Brooklyn federal court over a 25-day span, women testified to the cruelty and violence that came with dating Kelly.
He beat girls and women with shoes, cords or his fists and delivered vicious spankings that left bruises when they broke his rules, the women testified.
Kelly referred to his spankings as “chastisements,” accusers recalled.
“The defendant saw chastising as teaching,” said one victim, Jane, who dated Kelly from 2015 to 2019, starting when she was just 17. “It was to help me … remember the way to act and be.”
Chastisements could occur if Kelly’s girls looked at other men, lied to him or were caught texting people he did not approve of, they testified. Kelly forced the women and girls to call him “Daddy,” made them wear baggy clothes when out in public, and sometimes forced them to remain in rooms for days at a time until he granted them permission to leave, the women claimed.
But despite the mountains of testimony against him, Kelly’s lawyers had tried to argue their client was the real victim, targeted because of his celebrity status by girls and women who sought to leach off of him.
“They’re all working on those paydays,” defense attorney Deveraux Cannick said, referencing lawsuits women have filed against Kelly. “These folks are capitalizing. … You can’t blame folks for trying to make a living, but that’s totally separate from trying to take away someone’s liberty.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadia Shihata countered that the evidence in the case weighs against Kelly, and that it would take a conspiracy of dozens of lying witnesses for the singer to be innocent.
“He was just the unluckiest guy in the world. He doesn’t have just one person lie about him, he has upwards of 40, apparently,” she said sarcastically.
“He’s not unlucky, ladies and gentlemen, he’s guilty,” she said.
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