Learn all about R. Kelly’s high-profile sex trafficking trial, which commenced on Aug. 18 with the jury selection and opening statements.
R. Kelly, 54, is officially on trial for racketeering and sex trafficking charges that could land him in prison for several decades. The singer appeared in a Brooklyn courthouse on Wednesday, August 18 for the start of the high-profile trial, which is likely to last between six and eight week, according to CNN. R. Kelly is facing multiple allegations of sexually abusing several women and underage girls and boys over the last decades, but he has denied any wrongdoing and has pled not guilty to the charges of racketeering, bribery, coercion, enticement and sex trafficking. He’s been in federal custody since his arrest in July 2019.
Below, HollywoodLife has rounded up what transpired during the opening day in court of R. Kelly’s ongoing trial, including the jury selection and opening statements from the prosecution and defense. Plus, learn about the specific charges the rapper is facing and a history of his criminal past.
Opening statement for R. Kelly’s trial were delivered on Wednesday to the jury of 12 at a Brooklyn courthouse. The prosecution spoke before the defense, and assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez accused the singer of being “a predator” in her scathing statement. “This case is about a predator who for decades used fame, popularity and a network of associates to groom girls, boys and young women for his own sexual purposes,” Cruz Melendez said, NBC News reported.
Cruz Melendez also reportedly accused R. Kelly of using his money and celebrity status to “hide his crimes in plain sight.” She also claimed that he used bodyguards, drivers runners, lawyers, and accountants to cover up his alleged crimes, and even allegedly bribed his victims by photographing and filming them having sex and then threatening to release the tapes, according to BBC News.
During Cruz Melendez’s statement, R. Kelly was dressed in a gray suit, purple tie, and glasses as he sat silently with his head down at times, according to reports. R. Kelly’s defense team questioned and challenged the credibility of the sexual abuse claims against the star, and according to NPR, defense lawyer Nicole Blank Becker claimed to the court that the alleged victims have been lying and were actually in consensual relationships with R. Kelly.
“They’re going to tell you Mr. Kelly is this monster. You’re also going to hear that some of these relationships were beautiful,” Becker reportedly said in her opening statement.
New Jurors Sworn In
A 12-person panel was anonymously selected as the jury for R. Kelly’s trial. The 12 individuals, seven men and five women, were sworn in by U.S. District Judge Ann M. Donnelly on Wednesday. There are also six alternate jurors, according to Page Six.
The jurors all sat in the courthouse and witnessed the opening statements of the trial. They will reportedly remain anonymous and will be partially sequestered throughout the ongoing trial, reports state.
R. Kelly is facing charges of racketeering, bribery, coercion, enticement and sex trafficking across several states. In Illinois, he’s been hit with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse over incidents that allegedly took place between 1998 and 2010 and involved four victims, three of whom were underage. Each of those counts carries a sentence of three to seven years, according to the Washington Post.
In New York, the “I Believe I Can Fly” singer is facing a five-count indictment of allegedly leading a racketeering enterprise for two decades. He’s also been hit with five more indictments of racketeering and four indictments related to violations of the Mann Act, per reports. Those indictments have not yet resulted in any additional charges.
R. Kelly is also facing sex-related charges in Minnesota, which, like his other alleged crimes, he has plead not guilty to. Also in his current trial, the singer is facing allegations that he and others conspired to create a fake ID for late R&B singer Aaliyah so that they could marry in 1994 when she was only 15 years old. R. Kelly is being accused of abusing Aaliyah while they were married, before she died in Aug. 2011 at age 22 in a plane crash.
All of these charges against the Grammy winner were explored in the 2019 Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly, which featured testimonies from some of his alleged accusers.
R. Kelly’s Criminal Past
R. Kelly has a lengthy criminal history. In fact, he was previously on trial for 13 counts of child pornography, but was acquitted of those charges in 2008 when he was 41 years old. The accusations of sexual abuse and misconduct against R. Kelly date all the way back to 1998, when he settled a lawsuit with an underage girl whom claimed the singer induced her to have group sex with other teenage girls. A few years later, R. Kelly was hit with the child pornography charges, followed by allegations of running a sex cult in 2017.
R. Kelly has maintained his innocence throughout his legal troubles. Following the airing of Surviving R. Kelly, he said in a March 2019 interview with CBS This Morning’s Gayle King, “I didn’t do this stuff! This is not me. I am fighting for my f***ing life!”