R. Kelly, the superstar American R&B singer known for his anthem “I Believe I Can Fly,” was convicted Monday in a sex-trafficking trial after decades of avoiding criminal responsibility for numerous allegations of misconduct with young women and children.
A jury of seven men and five women found Kelly guilty of racketeering on their second day of deliberations. Kelly remained motionless; eyes downcast as the verdict was read. The charges were based on an argument that the entourage of managers and aides who helped the singer meet girls amounted to a criminal enterprise. Kelly’s lawyer plans to file an appeal.
“Of course, Mr. Kelly is disappointed,” said Deveraux Cannick, R. Kelly’s attorney. “He did not anticipate this verdict because based on the evidence, why should he anticipate this verdict? When you go with the discovery you saw witness after witness is giving three, four, five different versions as to what they said happened here.
Widespread public condemnation didn’t come until a widely watched docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly” helped make his case a signifier of the #MeToo era, and gave voice to accusers who wondered if their stories were previously ignored because they were Black women.
Tarana Burke, founder of the “#MeToo” Movement, says Kelly’s conviction shows women of color that they matter.
“This has been a very long time coming,” said Burke. “So, not only the survivors, but for the organizers and activists and writers. And just like, plethora of Black women and some of our allies who have been at this for the longest time, who have been ringing the alarm for the longest time. It felt like, gosh, this is not always the way justice will be served if we can call it justice, but at least it feels like something.”
Kelly was also convicted of criminal counts accusing him of violating the Mann Act, which makes it illegal to take anyone across state lines “for any immoral purpose.”
For years, the public and news media seemed to be more amused than horrified by allegations of inappropriate relationships with minors, starting with Kelly’s illegal marriage to the R&B phenom Aaliyah in 1994 when she was just 15 years old.