R Kelly could face life in prison after guilty verdict: ‘He used his fame to prey on the young’

R Kelly attends a hearing on his sex abuse case on 22 March 2019

R Kelly could face the rest of his life behind bars after being found guilty on all counts in his racketeering and sex trafficking trial in New York.

The jury found Kelly, best known for his 1996 hit song “I Believe I Can Fly”, guilty on all nine counts on Monday (27 September) at the end of a gruelling trial. The 54-year-old singer, who was born Robert Sylvester Kelly, was convicted of running a scheme to prey upon and sexually abuse women and children, the BBC reported.

Sentencing is due on 4 May ,2022, and there are mixed reports about how much prison time R Kelly could face.  The BBC said Kelly “could spend the rest of his life behind bars, however the Guardian, the New York Times and CBS News report between 10 and 20 years, up to life.

Eleven accusers, nine women and two men, took the stand over the course of the trial to detail their allegations against the R&B singer.

When announcing the verdict, acting US attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis said it “forever brands R Kelly as a predator, who used his fame and fortune to prey upon the young, the vulnerable and the voiceless for his own sexual gratification”.

“A predator who used his inner circle to ensnare underage teenage girls, and young women and men, for decades, in a sordid web of sex abuse, exploitation and degradation,” Kasulis said, according to Sky News. “To the victims in this case, your voices were heard, and justice was finally served.”

Deveraux Cannick, a lawyer for Kelly, said the defence was “disappointed” after the verdict.

“I think I’m even more disappointed the government brought the case in the first place given all the inconsistencies,” Cannick added.

R Kelly victims reveal history of violence and abuse

Warning – contains descriptions of abuse

Jerhonda Pace was one of the first women to publicly accuse R Kelly of sexual abuse, according to Reuters, and was among those who testified in court. She described how the singer videotaped himself sexually abusing her when she was 16 and sometimes wanted her to “dress like a Girl Scout”.

Pace also testified that Kelly made her abide by “Rob’s rules” which included being forced to ask his permission to use the bathroom, addressing Kelly when he entered a room and calling him “daddy”.

At one point during the trial, Pace read a diary entry from January 2010 in which she wrote that Kelly “slapped me three times”, choked her and had sex with her, Reuters reported.

Another witness, who was identified only as “Jane Doe” in court, said she was only 17 when she met Kelly while he was on tour. She said she had no romantic interest in the singer but wanted his input on her own music career.

According to the Guardian, she told the court that Kelly offered her an audition but said he needed to ejaculate before it happened. She also said they began to regularly have sex and that Kelly frequently videotaped them.

Jane Doe also told the court about an incident where Kelly went into a rage because she texted a friend about him. She said the singer grabbed a sneaker and “hit me all over” as she was “running from him and fighting back”.

Pace shared her mixture of relief and disbelief after R Kelly’s guilty verdict. She wrote on Instagram that “speaking out about abuse is not easy, especially when your abuser is high profile”.

“For years, I was trolled for speaking out about the abuse that I suffered at the hands of that predator,” Pace wrote. “People called me a liar and said I had no proof. Some even said I was speaking out for money”.

She added that she is “grateful to be a voice” for people who “didn’t have the courage” to speak out and was “thankful to stand with those who were brave enough to speak up”.

“I’m happy to FINALLY close this chapter of my life,” Pace said.

Male victims testify against R Kelly

During the trial, two men also took the stand to testify about the abuse they suffered during their encounters with the singer.

One man, who testified under the pseudonym Louis, said he first met R Kelly in 2006 when he was a 17-year-old working at McDonald’s in the Chicago area. He told the court that Kelly slipped him his phone number, invited him to his house and said he could perform in his music studio.

At one point, Louis said Kelly asked him what he was “willing to do” for his music career.

On another occasion, he said Kelly asked him if had “any fantasies” involving men. He alleged the singer then “crawled down on his knees and proceeded to give me oral sex”.

Louis said he was instructed by the singer to keep the encounter “between him and me”, saying “we family now, we brothers”.

The witness also told the jury that Kelly asked him to call him “daddy” and would film their sexual encounters.

According to the BBC, another man, who testified under the pseudonym Alex, testified in court that he met Kelly when he was in high school before starting a relationship with the singer at the age of 20.

He said Kelly forcibly kissed him on one occasion and told him to “just be open-minded”. Alex also said Kelly would find women for him to have sex with while Kelly watched and filmed it or even sometimes joined in.

He said he was forbidden from speaking to the women or knowing their names and even described them as “zombieish”.

Alex also said that Kelly would refer to him as his “nephew”, but the two were not related.

According to CNN, Kelly also faces charges in at least two other states. He faces federal charges, including child pornography and obstruction charges in the Northern District of Illinois.

Kelly also faces criminal charges in Minnesota for two counts of engaging in prostitution with a minor and further state charges in Illinois for aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and denies any wrongdoing in the cases, CNN reported.