This story contains discussion of sexual violence. Please proceed with care.
Updated September 27, 2021: Months after being charged and indicted for nine grave federal crimes, R. Kelly is now facing a potential life sentence after a federal court in New York found him guilty of the charges.
The trial, which began in mid-August of this year, saw Kelly and his legal counsel attempting to push back against the laundry list of claims made over the past several years. Fifty different witnesses — 45 of whom were prosecution witnesses — testified in the trial, and after hearing the testimonies and Kelly's "not guilty" defense, the seven-person jury's deliberation found the singer guilty of one charge of racketeering and eight charges of sex trafficking (related to his violation of the Mann Act).
Official sentencing for Kelly has been set for May 4, 2022, and a judge could very well send him to prison for life. And although the New York state trial is coming to an end, Kelly is still set to be tried for his other charges in his home state of Illinois as well as Minnesota; in Illinois, he's been charged with 13 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and aggravated sexual assault, and in Minnesota, Kelly has been charged with two counts of engaging in prostitution with an underaged person.
This story was originally published on July 26, 2021.
The 2019 release of explosive documentary Surviving R. Kelly played an important role in the legal pursuit of the R&B singer, highlighting a laundry list of truly disturbing allegations of sexual violence that spanned the course of decades. Today, Robert Kelly is facing a host of local and federal charges in two states, and the most serious charges made against him are about to become even more egregious thanks to new evidence gathered by the state of New York.
In July 2019, federal prosecutors from both Illinois and New York indicted Kelly on a number of serious federal crimes including racketeering, kidnapping, child pornography production, and child sexual exploitation. Over the last two years, the prosecution has increased the charge count to 22, and now, new evidence of criminal behavior by the musician is raising the stakes for his Brooklyn-based trial.
Prosecutors in Brooklyn are appealing to the court to allow new evidence of Kelly’s misdeeds to be considered in his racketeering trial. Details from a recently filed motion claim include testimony from a woman that claims Kelly contacted her to request pornographic images of young boys for him. The filing also has evidence that Kelly threatened his sexual partners, sexually abused a young boy that he met at a McDonalds in 2009, and attempted to bribe multiple state and county employees so that they would look the other way.
Prosecutors claim that the evidence includes a recording in which Kelly’s crisis manager reveals that he “tipped” an Illinois court clerk $2,500 to get the singer a burner phone while he was behind bars. Another bribe detailed was a $500 payment that Kelly allegedly made to a state employee in 1994 in order to create fraudulent identification for a 15-year-old girl known only as "Jane Doe 1" so he could marry her at the time. We now know that the teenage girl involved was the late singer Aaliyah.
New York prosecutors believe that all of these actions further support the claims that Kelly and his team have been engaging in racketeering activity for decades now, and they’re hoping that the judge will allow the evidence to be considered in the upcoming criminal trial. If found guilty for racketeering with this new evidence, Kelly could be facing up to 25 years in prison — and that possible sentence doesn’t even include the numerous other felony charges he’s facing.
The trial is set to officially begin on August 18, giving the court just two weeks to select an unbiased jury for this high stakes legal proceeding.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).