After just 9 hours of deliberation, a federal jury found Kelly guilty on nine counts including racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery, sex trafficking, and a violation of the Mann Act. But what are these charges exactly?
Racketeering. There are more than twenty crimes which can support a racketeering charge, including bribery, kidnapping and murder, and most of those crimes are felonies by themselves. Racketeering refers to a criminal enterprise which profits from committing certain crimes. Government prosecutors alleged that R. Kelly was the leader of a criminal enterprise consisting of himself and an entourage of individuals who served as managers, bodyguards, accountants, drivers, personal assistants and runners for the defendant. As the leader of the Enterprise, Kelly used his fame to recruit women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity with him.
Sexual exploitation of a child. 18 U.S.C. § 2251 makes it illegal to persuade, induce, entice, or coerce a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for purposes of producing visual depictions of that conduct. Prosecutors alleged that Kelly coerced at least three underage girls to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing video recordings.
Kidnapping. Kidnapping becomes a federal crime when the defendant is alleged to have crossed state or international lines. 18 U.S.C. Section 1201 prohibits unlawfully seizes, abducts, or carries away and holds another person for ransom or reward across state lines.
Bribery. Bribery generally involves giving some item of value, such as a gift or money, in order to gain influence with the recipient. Bribery becomes a federal crime when it involves any public official, including state officials. Prosecutors alleged that Kelly bribed a state employee to create a fake identification card for a 15 years old girl, so that Kelly could marry her because he believed she was pregnant and that the marriage would keep him out of jail.
Sex trafficking/Forced labor. Prosecutors alleged that Kelly used the threat of physical harm and restraint to ensure that his victims performed sexually at his command.
Mann Act violations. Kelly was convicted of numerous Mann Act violations, which includes the offense of knowingly transporting any individual in interstate or foreign commerce or in any territory or possession of the United States for the purpose of prostitution or sexual activity which is a criminal offense under the federal or state statute or local ordinance. For example, prosecutors alleged that he arranged for several victims to fly to his residences in various states to engage in illegal sexual activity with him. The sexual activity was illegal because Kelly knew he had an incurable sexually transmitted disease (“STD”) and did not inform them about the STD prior to engaging in sexual intercourse with them.
Kelly is considered to be one of the most successful R&B artists since the mid-1980s. He is also one of the best-selling music artists in the United States, with over 30 million albums sold. Prosecutors alleged that the entourage of managers and aides who helped Kelly meet girls — and keep them obedient and quiet — amounted to a criminal enterprise.
Kelly had an illegal marriage to the R&B phenom Aaliyah in 1994 when she was just 15 and he was 27. One of the final witnesses described seeing him sexually abusing her around 1993, when Aaliyah was only 13 or 14. He was also arrested in 2002 and accused of making a recording of himself sexually abusing and urinating on a 14-year-old girl. Kelly had been tried once before, in Chicago in a child pornography case, but was acquitted in 2008.
However, widespread interest and public condemnation didn’t come until a widely watched Lifetime docuseries, “Surviving R. Kelly,” helped make his case a signifier of the #MeToo era.
Within weeks, Kelly launched a Facebook page where he sought to discredit the accusers who appeared in the docuseries. Facebook removed the page for violating their standards as it appeared to contain personal contact information for his accusers. The second season titled Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning premiered on January 2, 2020.
His accusers said they were under orders to call him “Daddy,” expected to jump and kiss him anytime he walked into a room, and to cheer only for him when he played basketball. The accusers alleged they were ordered to sign nondisclosure forms and were subjected to threats and punishments such as violent spankings if they broke what one referred to as “Rob’s rules.” Others testified that Kelly kept a gun by his side while he berated one of his accusers as a prelude to forcing her to give him oral sex; Kelly giving several accusers herpes without disclosing he had an STD; Kelly coercing a teenage boy to join him for sex with a naked girl who emerged from underneath a boxing ring in his garage; and Kelly shooting a shaming video of one alleged victim showing her smearing feces on her face as punishment for breaking his rules. Jurors were shown homemade videos of Kelly engaging in sex acts that prosecutors said were not consensual.
Kelly, has been jailed without bail since 2019. He also has pleaded not guilty to sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota. Trial dates in those cases have yet to be set. Kelly will not be sentenced until next year May 2022.
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