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Years in the making, R. Kelly sex abuse trial gets underway in New York

R Kelly
Posted at 11:57 AM, Aug 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-18 12:05:10-04

NEW YORK, N.Y. — A prosecutor has introduced a jury to the sex abuse claims against R&B star R. Kelly, saying the criminal trial is “about a predator" who used his fame to manipulate children and women.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez delivered the opening remarks Wednesday at the long-anticipated federal trial arising from years of allegations that Kelly sexually abused women and girls.

It came more than a decade after Kelly was acquitted in a 2008 child pornography case in Chicago. That acquittal was a reprieve that allowed his music career to continue until the #MeToo era caught up with him, emboldening alleged victims to come forward.

In the New York City sex trafficking trial, the singer is facing an anonymous jury made up of seven men and five women. The panel was sworn last week after dozens of potential jurors were screened by U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly in federal court in Brooklyn.

The judge in the case sought assurances from prospective jurors that they could remain impartial given all the bad publicity swirling around Kelly since his 2019 arrest.

The trial comes two years after Kelly was charged with abusing women and girls for nearly two decades. He's charged with leading what prosecutors call a criminal enterprise of managers, bodyguards and other employees who allegedly helped him recruit women and girls for sex.

The 54-year-old defendant denies the charges against him. Defense lawyers have said Kelly’s alleged victims were groupies who only started accusing him of abuse years later when public sentiment shifted in the #MeToo era.

The trial is not being televised. The New York Times reports that the press and public will watch the proceedings from two overflow rooms in the courthouse.

Kelly came to prominence in the late '80s and early '90s. He has had a number of hit songs, but most people know him for “I Believe I Can Fly,” the 1996 sing-along that became an inspirational anthem played at school graduations, weddings and advertisements.