Live Updates: Final Arguments Begin in R. Kelly Trial

ImageKelly appeared in a Chicago courtroom in 2019.  His federal trial in Brooklyn is nearing its end.
Credit…Pool photo by E. Jason Wambsgans

After a five-week trial that included scorching allegations of physical, sexual and emotional abuse against superstar R&B singer R. Kelly, the prosecutors were preparing to deliver their closing plea on Wednesday.

While Mr Kelly has been dogged by sexual misconduct allegations for decades, the New York case is only the second to lead to a criminal trial. (He was acquitted of child pornography in 2008.)

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have constructed a sizable racketeering case, with evidence stretching from the last few years to the early 1990s that aims to portray the singer as the linchpin of a decades-long criminal enterprise that recruited women and girls for sex. Mr Kelly is also charged with eight violations of the Mann Act, an interstate anti-sex trafficking law.

mr. Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Here are some of the key moments in the case and trial:

  • Federal charges were first filed against Mr. Kelly in July 2019: Within months, more charges were filed, including allegations of a woman who had previously defended the singer. She testified at the trial under a pseudonym.

  • The pandemic delayed the trial by more than a year: While waiting, some of the singer’s allies were accused of using arson, bribery and other intimidation tactics to silence witnesses required to testify.

  • The trial began on August 18 with opening statements: Prosecutors said the singer “used every trick in the predator handbook” to mislead his accusers and their families. His lawyers argued that the prosecutors’ accounts would be under scrutiny.

  • The 20th anniversary of the death of R&B singer Aaliyah fell during the second week of the trial: The illegal marriage of Mr. Kelly with Aaliyah when she was 15 is central to the government’s case. Of the girls he allegedly abused, she was the youngest.

  • The persecution rested this week: After 45 witnesses testified before the government, Mr. Kelly’s lawyers offered their own smaller group of witnesses for two days. Observers watched closely to see if a friend of the singer who recently expressed support for him would testify, but she was not called to the booth.

Credit…Kamil Krzaczynski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

R. Kelly will not testify in his own defense during his trial in Brooklyn, the singer told the judge on Wednesday morning.

for mr. Kelly, whose long-awaited racketeering and sex trafficking lawsuit is nearing its end, would have been perilous to take the stand. After gaining legal scrutiny in 2019, he lost his cool in a much-watched interview with Gayle King of “CBS This Morning,” as he jumped out of his chair and banged his chest in front of the camera.

When asked if he understood the implications of his decision, Mr. Kelly: “Right.”

Earlier Wednesday, the 50th and final witness to the trial, Julius Darrington, who consulted about Kelly’s latest failed music project, testified for about 15 minutes. During his testimony, Mr Darrington first told the jury that he had worked with Mr Kelly for approximately 10 to 12 hours “every day, almost”, as of 2016 and lasted approximately four years (Mr Kelly was taken into custody in 2019) . and has been stuck ever since).

mr. Darrington, who took the position of the defense, said that he called Mr. Kelly had never seen his girlfriends abuse. But at cross-examination, he admitted that he knew little about Mr. Kelly.

“Basically, you don’t know what happened behind closed doors when you weren’t there, right?” asked Nadia Shihata, an assistant US attorney.

“Right,” said Mr. Darrington.

The testimony of Mr. Darrington underlined the abrupt demise of Mr. Kelly’s music career. Previous testimonials suggested Mr. Kelly had $12 million in debt in January 2018. Prosecutors said he performed only three shows in his last 18 months of freedom.

Credit…US law firm for the Eastern District of New York

Many of the allegations of sexual misconduct and violence against R. Kelly would normally be too old to prosecute under the statute of limitations.

But because Mr. Kelly is charged with racketeering, prosecutors have been able to provide evidence of uncharged criminal activity dating back decades, including Mr. Kelly with singer Aaliyah when she was 15.

But the racketeering charges also require prosecutors to show that Mr. Kelly was at the center of a criminal enterprise, and in the course of the trial, eight of his former employees testified against him, including some under subpoena.

The employees worked for the singer’s company, RSK Enterprises, a name taken from the initials of Mr. Kelly, and helped the singer turn his fame into an organized effort to ask young girls for sex, prosecutors said.

To illustrate that venture, prosecutors entered a document prepared by one of Mr. Kelly’s former accountants, John Holder. The document depicted a red octopus with “Robert S. Kelly” as the head, with his security and other employees as individual tentacles.

Diana Copeland, a former assistant to Mr. Kelly, who worked for him for about 15 years, said he wouldn’t allow his live-in girlfriends to get into an Uber if a man was driving. She told the jury that if a male driver stopped, “I would have to call another” — and would keep calling until a female driver showed up.

Ms Copeland also said that her salary was once deducted after she made arrangements for two of Mr Kelly’s live-in girlfriends at a nail salon where a man happened to work.

Tom Arnold, who worked for Mr. Kelly worked and sometimes brought female visitors to the singer, testifying that he was told to “turn up the rearview mirror” to avoid accidentally catching a glimpse of his passengers.

He also described his and other employees’ attempts to get women for Mr. Kelly by handing out the singer’s phone number so many times that they sometimes typed in the numbers and printed them out in bulk.

A former assistant, Anthony Navarro, testified that when he worked for Mr. Kelly started working, he got a list of rules.

One of the most prominent: “I wasn’t supposed to talk to any of the girls — the guests — who came into the house,” he said.

“It was almost ‘The Twilight Zone’,” he recalls the more than two years he spent working out of Mr. Kelly’s home. “You entered the gate and it was like another world, just a strange place.”

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