R. Kelly found guilty of all charges in racketeering and sex trafficking trial

The jury heard from 50 witnesses throughout the trial

CBS NEWS – Zoe Christen Jones

A New York jury on Monday found R&B singer R. Kelly guilty on all charges in his trial on racketeering and sex trafficking charges. Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, could face decades in prison.

Kelly, 54, was accused by multiple witnesses of targeting, grooming and exploiting young women and men “for his own sexual gratification” and running a “sex cult” by trafficking people across state lines. He also allegedly bribed a government worker to help him marry late R&B singer Aaliyah when she was 15 years old. 

“Of all the predators I have pursued, however, Mr. Kelly is the worst,” attorney Gloria Allred, who represented many of Kelly’s victim, said Monday after the verdict was announced. “R. Kelly thought he could get away with this, but he didn’t. I am very proud of my clients who agreed to testify in this case.”

The jury in Brooklyn federal court began deliberations on Friday, September 24, after hearing from 50 witnesses throughout the trial, only five of whom testified for the defense. Accusers testified that Kelly controlled their day-to-day lives, including when they could use the restroom, and forced them to complete sexual acts. 

R. Kelly /CBS NEWS

During Monday’s court session, Kelly was described as stoic and emotionless, only moving to shake his head “no” at some statements being made about him. 

He was charged with one count of racketeering, encompassing 14 specific acts, and eight counts of violating the Mann Act for allegedly coercing and transporting victims across state lines.

In closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Geddes said Kelly “used lies, manipulation, threats and physical abuse to dominate his victims” and took advantage of his “money and public persona to hide his crimes in plain sight.”

Kelly himself never took the stand. He has denied wrongdoing and his lawyers said the allegations were nothing more than “lie after lie after lie” from “disgruntled groupies” trying to bring him down. 

But prosecutors said Kelly followed “the predator playbook.” He “believed the music, the fame and the celebrity meant he could do whatever he wanted,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadia Shihata said in a fiery rebuttal to the defense’s closing arguments. 

“He’s not a genius, he’s a criminal. A predator,” she said. 

Known for his successful music career, Kelly spent decades building himself up as a top-notch producer as well as artist. The Chicago native has been nominated for 26 Grammys, winning three times in 1997 for “I Believe I Can Fly.” He also produced Aaliyah’s debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number.”

This isn’t the first time Kelly has been in trouble with the law. In 2002, he was indicted on 21 counts of child pornography. He could have faced up to 15 years in prison but left a five-week trial a free man — he was cleared on all counts. Allegations of sex trafficking and sleeping with underaged individuals have continued to follow him through his career. 

In an explosive 2019 CBS interview with Gayle King, Kelly denied all of the allegations against him, instead claiming the torrent of accusations were part of a grand conspiracy targeting him. 

“Believe me, man! This is not me! They lying on me! They’re lying on me! I’m cool, bro,” he screamed. 

“I’m cool. I’m good. I’m not afraid because I’m telling the truth. I’m not afraid because I’m telling the truth!”

Sentencing is now set for May 4. Kelly faces decades in prison on these charges. It is unclear how other cases being pursued against him in other states will play out.