US singer R Kelly has been found guilty of exploiting his superstar status to run a scheme to sexually abuse women and children over two decades.
Eleven accusers, nine women and two men, took the stand over the searing six-week trial to describe sexual humiliation and violence at his hands.
After two days of deliberation, the jury found Kelly guilty on all the charges he was facing. Sentencing is due on 4 May and he could spend the rest of his life behind bars. The jury found Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, was the ringleader of a violent and coercive scheme that lured women and children for him to sexually abuse.
The singer – most famous for the award-winning song I Believe I Can Fly – was also found to have trafficked women between different US states and produced child pornography.
Along with eight counts of sex trafficking, Kelly was also found guilty of racketeering – a charge normally used against organised crime associations. During the trial, prosecutors detailed how his managers, security guards and other entourage members worked to assist him in his criminal enterprise.
One woman who testified that Kelly imprisoned, drugged and raped her said in a written statement after the verdict that she had “been hiding” from Kelly “due to threats made against me” since she went public with her accusations. “I’m ready to start living my life free from fear and to start the healing process,” the woman, identified in court as Sonja, added.
Legal documents also revealed the mental torment Kelly subject his victims to. They were not allowed to eat or use the bathroom without his permission, he controlled what clothes they wore and made them call him “Daddy”.
Gloria Allred, a lawyer who represented several victims, told reporters: “I’ve been practicing law for 47 years. During this time, I’ve pursued many sexual predators who have committed crimes against women and children.
At a news conference outside the court on Monday, prosecutor Jacquelyn Kasulis said that the jury had sent a message to other powerful men like Kelly.