Warning: This story mentions sexual abuse, which could be triggering to some readers.
R Kelly was found guilty.
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Since the 1990s, women and girls have accused the singer of sexual abuse, manipulation, and inappropriate relationships. But he's evaded the law, despite several women coming forward. And was also acquitted in 2008 of child pornography charges. But over a decade later, a bombshell documentary renewed the spotlight on sexual misconduct allegations against him. Kelly's trial started last month. He faced eight counts of sex trafficking and one count of racketeering – which included acts of kidnapping and bribery. Kelly's always denied the allegations. But yesterday, a jury – made up of seven men and five women – found him guilty on all counts.
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During the six-week trial, prosecutors brought forward 45 witnesses – including 11 accusers. In this case, he was charged for crimes directly related to six people he had abused. Their names are: Aaliyah (the famed R&B singer), Stephanie, Sonja, Jerhonda, Jane, and Faith. Some testified about Kelly's illegal marriage to Aaliyah when she was just 15. One woman testified that the R&B singer sexually abused her when she was 17. And recorded them having sex. A former radio intern said Kelly invited her to Chicago for an interview but was kept hostage for several days. She said she was abused by the singer after losing consciousness. Prosecutors called Kelly a "predator" who used his fame to groom and exploit girls. But the defense said the relationships were consensual, labeling accusers as “groupies.”
This is the highest-profile case to come after the first Me Too-era. And one in which most of the victims are Black women. Gloria Allred – a famous women's rights attorney who represented three of the survivors – said “of all the predators that I have pursued, Mr. Kelly is the worst.” But Kelly's attorney said the singer wasn't expecting the outcome. And are mulling an appeal. Kelly's sentencing is scheduled for May 2022. He faces 10 years to life in prison. But his time in court may not be over yet. Kelly faces federal charges in Chicago, along with state charges in Illinois and Minnesota. It’s unclear how his conviction will affect those cases.
There's been nearly 30 years of allegations against Kelly. But now victims are starting to get the justice they deserve. And while movements like #MeToo expose high-profile abusers, it's still taken longer for the voices of Black and Brown women to be heard – and taken seriously. Meaning, there's still a lot more work to do.
PS. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline here or by calling 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).