The trial of US R&B singer, R. Kelly started at a court in Brooklyn, New York on Wednesday, August 18, and details have started pouring in over what transpired during the hearing .
The ‘i believe I can fly’ hitmaker is accused of racketeering, sexual abuse and bribery; charges which he has repeatedly denied but could spend decades in jail if he is found guilty by the jury.
Some of the allegations made against the singer date back more than 20 years.
Kelly faces charges that he was the ringleader of a two-decade-long scheme where he recruited women and underage girls for sex.
Prosecutors described Mr Kelly as “a man who used lies, manipulation, threats and physical abuse to dominate his victims and to avoid accountability for years”.
“This case is about a predator,” Assistant US Attorney Maria Melendez said in her opening statement.
“This case is not about a celebrity who likes to party a lot.”
The first witness during the hearing, Jerhonda Johnson Pace, told the jury, R. Kelly knew she was underage (16) in 2009 when they had intercourse in Chicago, where the age of consent is 17, according to the New York Times.
Johnson Pace now 28, testified that she had initially told Kelly she was 19, but had revealed her real age on the day they had sex for the first time.
“I felt uncomfortable. I felt like it wasn’t right, that I should tell him my age.
“He asked me, ‘What is that supposed to mean?’ and told me to tell everyone I was 19 – and to act 21,” said Ms Pace, who admits she was a fan of the singer.
In her opening argument, Kelly’s lawyer Nicole Blank Becker claimed the alleged victims are aggrieved groupies, who originally consented to sex before later becoming “spiteful”.
Ms Becker portrayed her client as a victim of women, saying some enjoyed the “notoriety of being able to tell their friends that they were with a superstar”.
Kelly was wearing a grey suit, purple tie, and glasses as he sat silently, with his head down at times as the prosecution opened its case.
Continuing her prosecution, Ms Melendez said Mr Kelly’s celebrity status meant he “had his pick of young fans” and that he hoarded his victims “like objects” and used “every trick in the predator handbook”.
She also alleged he bribed victims by photographing and filming them having sex and then threatening to release the tapes.
The trial of Kelly was delayed several times by the pandemic.
Even if he is acquitted, Mr Kelly still faces sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota, where he has also pleaded not guilty.
He has been in jail for the last two years.