The trial of R&B singer R. Kelly, full names Robert Sylvester Kelly, 54, has begun at a court in Brooklyn, New York.
Opening statements were delivered to a jury of seven men and five women on Wednesday afternoon, August 18. The jury will decide Kelly’s fate.
The multiple Grammy award-winning singer, songwriter and producer is accused of racketeering, sexual abuse and bribery; charges which he has repeatedly denied.
Some of the allegations made against the singer date back more than 20 years.
Kelly faces charges that he was the ringleader of a scheme for twenty years where he recruited women and underage girls for sex.
“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.”
She described Kelly as “a man who used lies, manipulation, threats and physical abuse to dominate his victims and to avoid accountability for years”.
The Grammy-winning artist – wearing a grey suit, purple tie, and glasses – sat silently, his head down at times as the prosecution opened its case.
Melendez said 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”.
Melendez alleged the singer used bodyguards, drivers, lawyers, and accountants to cover up many of his sexual crimes.
She also alleged that he bribed his victims by photographing and filming them having sex and then threatening to release the tapes.
Kelly is accused of requiring victims to demonstrate “absolute commitment” and obey strict rules, including that they eat or go to the bathroom only with his permission, not look at other men, and call him “Daddy.”
But Kelly’s lawyer Nicole Blank Becker claimed the alleged victims are aggrieved groupies, who originally consented to sex before later becoming “spiteful”.
“He didn’t recruit them. They were fans. They came to Mr Kelly,” she told the court, adding that some of the relationships were “beautiful” and “long-term”.
He has pleaded not guilty and strongly denies any wrongdoing.
If he is convicted on all counts he could be sentenced to several decades in prison.