Home Crime R. Kelly is going to prison. Why did it take so long?

R. Kelly is going to prison. Why did it take so long?

R. Kelly is going to prison. Why did it take so long?

Mr. Kelly’s conviction marked a stunning fall for a man who was once one of the biggest names in R&B music. It came after the first Me Too-era trial in which most of the victims were Black women. Singer R. Kelly has been found guilty of exploiting his superstar status to run a scheme to sexually abuse women and children over two decades. 

Eleven accusers – nine women and two men – took the stand over the searing six-week trial to describe sexual humiliation and violence at his hands.

After two days of deliberation, the jury found the US star guilty on all nine charges he was facing. Sentencing is due on 4 May and he could spend the rest of his life behind bars. The jury found Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, was the ringleader of a violent and coercive scheme that lured women and children for him to sexually abuse.

The singer – most famous for the hit songs I Believe I Can Fly and Ignition (Remix) – was also found to have trafficked women between different US states. Along with eight counts of sex trafficking, Kelly was found guilty of racketeering – a charge normally used against organised crime associations. During the trial, prosecutors detailed how his managers, security guards, and other entourage members worked to assist him in his criminal enterprise.

The court also heard how Kelly had illegally obtained paperwork to marry Aaliyah when she was 15 in 1994, seven years before the singer died in a plane crash. The certificate, leaked at the time, listed Aaliyah’s age as 18. The marriage was annulled months later. Her 1994 debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number was produced and written by R. Kelly. One woman who testified that Kelly imprisoned, drugged, and raped her said in a written statement after the verdict that she had “been hiding” from Kelly due to threats made against her since she went public with her accusations. 

But the verdict also prompted an obvious question: Women have said that the singer’s abuses began as early as the start of the 1990s — why did it take three decades for the singer to receive criminal punishment?

Here are a few possible answers: The entertainer had an expansive network of enablers around him, federal prosecutors said, from his closest confidantes and employees to many in the music industry who knew of the concerns about his behavior but did not intervene. The government drew attention to what has been described as the “settlement factory” that kept his accusers quiet, offering evidence of Mr. Kelly’s payments to women who made accusations in exchange for their silence. 

And when that was not enough, Mr. Kelly “used his henchmen to lodge threats and exact revenge,” blackmailing women with nude photographs of themselves or embarrassing information, one prosecutor, Elizabeth Geddes, said in closing arguments.

Federal prosecutors also accused Mr. Kelly of paying witnesses to not cooperate with the authorities in the lead-up to his 2008 trial and acquittal. They said the singer let some witnesses know they could be “subject to physical harm” if they proceeded. 

At a news conference outside the court, prosecutor Jacquelyn Kasulis said that the jury had sent a message to other powerful men like Kelly.” No matter how long it takes, the long arm of the law will catch up with you,” said Ms. Kasulis. The verdict comes 13 years after Kelly was acquitted of child pornography charges after a trial in the state of Illinois.

Author: Bunmi Johnson

New York, USA



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