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The Rise and Fall of R.Kelly: Guilty Verdict Is In



Yesterday’s guilty convictions of R&B singer R.Kelly marks a three-decade milestone for victims across the nation.  Robert Kelly also known as R.Kelly, was found guilty of racketeering and sex trafficking on Monday, September 27th. The 54-year-old singer had extensive charges that stretch over a span of 24 years from 1994 to December 2018 including one act of bribery, three acts of sexual exploitation of a child, one act of kidnapping, three acts of forced labor and six acts of violating the Mann Act. He now faces up to 10 years to life in prison.

R.Kelly’s trial began a month ago in a Brooklyn federal court were prosecutors detailed how the singer was running an “enterprise” explaining how he used his star power to exploit and recruit underage girls, and young women and men to engage in sexual activities against their will. Throughout the trial, prosecution gave an intimate look into R.Kelly’s actions over the years by showing hundreds of pieces of evidence, and 45 witnesses to show reasonable doubt of the star. Amongst those who testified were 11 victims who emotionally spoke about the years of physical, sexual, mental, and emotional abuse inflicted on them from the singer. Assistant US Attorney Elizabeth Geddes gave her closing argument with a powerful statement naming all of R.Kelly’s victims saying, “It is now time for the defendant, Robert Kelly, to pay for his crimes, Convict him!” Jurors deliberated for nine hours, delivering a guilty verdict that seemed like a long time coming.

Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune / Tribune News Service via Getty Images

While we all sat back and watched R.Kelly’s rise to fame as a singer, songwriter and record producer we also saw the fall of one of the most loved R&B singers of our time. R.Kelly was known for his sultry lyrics, and soulful voice. He took the music industry by a storm. It wasn’t until 1994 when the 27-year-old singer illegally married 15-year-old singer Aaliyah that the world would see the rise of a predator too. The trial brought forth many secret details about his relationship with the late singer, who died in a plane crash when she was 22. One of the victims by the name of Angela detailed how she once walked in on R.Kelly performing oral sex on Aaliyah who would have been 13 or 14 at the time. Angela would then go on to be a backup dancer for Aaliyah. For years the Kelly and his associates denied that the two were married but when his former manager Demetrius Smith was subpoenaed to testify against the singer, he confirmed that the singers were in fact married to help Aaliyah avoid having to have her parents’ consent to an abortion after had a pregnancy scare.

The marriage would go on to be annulled a few months later but it left people wondering how exactly the singers obtained a government marriage license. Smith stated that he bribed a welfare office employee with $500 to get a fake ID for Aaliyah saying she was 18 at the request of R.Kelly. A testimony from the minister who married them showed Nathan Edmond did not know either of the singers when he officiated the wedding as a favor to a mutual friend.  Following the marriage to Aaliyah, R.Kelly would go on to be accused of child pornography in 2002 when a video surfaced allegedly showing Kelly engaging in sexual intercourse and urinating on underage girl. At the time of this trial, the allege victim did not testify causing reasonable doubt on the case. The jurors didn’t believe that the man on the tape was R.Kelly and secret settlements were circulating as well. Although found not guilty on all 14 counts at the time, some people felt the courts missed the mark on putting away a serial predator. Over the years we would see multiple women come forward with the same tale of events and experiences with R.Kelly.

The trial did not stop there. Various women testified about their sexual encounters with Kelly as teenagers. One woman by the name of Jerhonda, who was originally a supporter of R.Kelly during the 2002 trial with the 14-year-old, told her story of how her and the singer began a relationship when she was 16 that lasted for 6 months. She gave insight to R.Kelly the monster when she said one day she didn’t greet the singer fast enough which caused him to fly into a rage. She said he slapped her, choked her, forced her to perform oral sex and then ejaculated on her. She showed the T-shirt she was wearing at the time of the incident which was tested and proven a match for his DNA.

Another witness, “Jane” talked about her 5-year relationship with Kelly which began when she was 17. She told the jurors about the abortion he made her get against her will because he wanted her body right. She also explained that one time he made her film a video of her playing in her feces as a punishment. The video was shown to the court with the victim saying, “It makes me wet playing in my shit Daddy.”

R.Kelly would often use threats and intimidation tactics to prevent victims from speaking out. Sonja, who was a radio intern at the time said that she was locked in a studio for days with no food and water. When finally, being let go she says they made her a sign an NDA and also took information on her family and friends. Faith, another victim who would go on to appear on the documentary Surviving R.Kelly said that his associates would contact her to scare her into not speaking by showing her the naked photos they obtained of her. She would also be one of the victims who tested positive for genital herpes in which she claims she got from the singer who has had the STD since the 2000’s. His physician testified that R.Kelly knowingly performed unprotected sex with these girls after finding out about his diagnosis.

Fast forward to January of 2019 when Lifetime aired a six-part documentary titled Surviving R.Kelly. The series detailed sexual abuse and misconduct allegations against Kelly by multiple victims of his. This documentary would be the door needing to be opened by prosecutors to finally bring justice for the women.

R.Kelly’s team of defense lawyers use the act of victim shaming to discredit the evidence at hand and call the victims liars. His head lawyer, Deveraux Cannick, asked why the victims didn’t call the authorities or leave sooner. Evidence was shown to prove Kelly had actually paid off many police officers over the years. Cannick’s closing argument was of the lawyer stating how the victims were trying to profit off of R.Kelly. “A lot of people watched Surviving R. Kelly, and now a lot of people are surviving off R. Kelly,” he said.

R.Kelly’s case seemingly became a staple for the MeToo movement which is a social movement against sexual abuse and sexual harassment that encourages victims to speak up about their experience and let them know they are not alone. With yesterday’s conviction, we see a sigh of relief for many victims who felt like their voices went unheard because of the status of the predator. R.Kelly is scheduled to be sentenced May 4th by the same judge presiding over his case. The real question now is posed to streaming platforms as to will they remove the artist music from all digital platforms. If they do it would be the last puzzle piece in the fall of a once beloved star. R.Kelly’s case will ultimately change entertainment culture forever in shining a light on the unspoken behaviors and activities of people in positions of power in which has been a long time coming.