R. Kelly found guilty on multiple counts in sexual abuse trial

The 55-year-old singer has been convicted of six counts of child pornography and enticing minors for sex

R. Kelly, in June 2019, leaving a Chicago courthouse.
R. Kelly, in June 2019, leaving a Chicago courthouse.SCOTT OLSON (AFP)

R&B singer R. Kelly was found guilty on Wednesday on multiple charges of child pornography and luring underage girls to have sex with him, but not guilty of obstructing a 2008 state case that ended with his acquittal. In his latest trial, Kelly – whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly – was found guilty by a jury on six out of 13 counts, prosecutors said.

He was found guilty of three child pornography counts and three counts of enticing minors for sex, but acquitted of seven other charges that included obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to receive child pornography. In Chicago, a conviction of just one count of child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. The verdict of the jury in US District Court in Chicago came after jurors deliberated for 11 hours over two days.

In June, Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison on his conviction in a New York federal court on racketeering and prostitution charges. During that five-week trial, the jury heard from 45 witnesses, who described the R&B singer as a powerful man who used his fame to weave a network of abuse, often committed against minors. Two men and seven women accused him of sexual abuse. His conviction was seen as another milestone in the #MeToo movement in the United States.

On Wednesday, the 55-year-old singer, best known for the song I Believe I Can Fly, appeared in court in a navy blue suit and black sunglasses, as he listened unfazed to the verdict. Both his co-defendants Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown were acquitted on charges they conspired to receive child pornography.

The accusations against Kelly date back to 2000, when Chicago music journalist Jim DeRogatis received an anonymous videotape allegedly showing Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old. When the case went to trial in 2008, the victim lied in court, and said she was not the girl in the video, and that she had never had sex with Kelly. As a result, the singer was acquitted of child pornography charges. But the victim – known by the pseudonym Jane – had been in a relationship with the artist for years, and did not decide to speak out until hearing from other women share their story in the documentary Surviving R. Kelly (2019).

According to the indictment, Kelly and his team told Jane and the other victims not to cooperate with prosecutors. Several witnesses testified that the singer desperately tried to recover the sex videos he recorded with minors, and which he would carry in a gym bag and distribute across the city. In the Chicago federal trial, the prosecution said that he offered up to $1 million to recover the evidence of his crimes.

Kelly was one of the biggest R&B stars of the 1990s. But despite his fame, it was common at that time to spot him at a McDonald’s in Chicago, where he lured students from a nearby secondary school. Jane was one of those girls. She was a member of a musical group, and met Kelly when she was in high school. She visited his recording studio with an aunt, who was a professional singer. Shortly after that meeting, Jane told her parents that Kelly was going to be her godfather. When her parents learned of the sex video, Kelly knelt before them and begged them for forgiveness, according to Jane’s testimony. She implored her parents not to take action against the musician because she “loved” him. In the Chicago trial, Jane, now 37, admitted publicly that she was the girl on the videotape.

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