Today begins the start of R. Kelly’s long-delayed Brooklyn trial where he faces a host of criminal charges including Racketeering, Bribery, Kidnapping, Sexual exploitation of a child, Forced labor, and Mann Act violations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez, a prosecutor in the trial against R. Kelly, said the case was “about a predator” who used his fame to sexually abuse girls, boys and young women. Melendez opened by saying the government’s case will show R. Kelly “used his fame, power, and a network of people” as well as “lies, manipulation, threats, and physical abuse” to target and exploit his numerous alleged victims.
Kelly’s sexual conduct was brought to light during the height of the #MeToo movement. If convicted, Kelly could face up to 20 years in prison. The singer also faces federal sex crime charges in Illinois, and state child prostitution charges in Minnesota. Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all charges and has consistently denied accusations that he abused anyone.
The music industry has long ignored these allegations of sexual abuse, even when the “Step in the Name of Love” singer was indicted on 21 counts of child pornography in 2002. The case took more than five years to go to trial, and Kelly was acquitted in 2008. He continued to perform and make music during and after the trial. The singer has also settled outside of court with accusers and their families on numerous occasions.
In 2017, activists Kenyette Barnes and Oronike Odeleye, founder of the #MuteRKelly movement, which seeks to draw attention to the artist’s controversial past, pressured companies to cut ties with him. The two women were not the only ones on a mission to bring awareness to Kelly’s alleged harmful behaviors. In 2019, Lifetime released a six-part docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, which was produced by dream hampton.
Kelly, 53, has been in jail since last year, awaiting four trials in federal and state courts in three states on multiple sex crimes charges. See tweets below for an overview of how the trial began: