NEW YORK: The R&B superstar R. Kelly goes on trial on Wednesday in Brooklyn on charges he was the ringleader of a two-decade scheme where he recruited women and underage girls, including demanding they demonstrate “absolute commitment” and call him “Daddy”.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers are expected to deliver opening statements to a jury of seven men and five women, who will decide the 54-year-old Kelly’s fate.
Kelly, a three-time Grammy winner, whose songs include “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Bump N’ Grind,” has pleaded not guilty and strongly denied wrongdoing.
The trial, delayed several times by the pandemic and expected to last about one month, is expected to include lurid details about Kelly’s alleged abuses, including testimony from some female accusers and at least one male accuser.
Prosecutors will argue that Kelly used an entourage of managers, bodyguards and others to recruit women and girls.
Kelly was accused of requiring victims to obey strict rules, including that they eat or go to the bathroom only with his permission, wear baggy clothing outside his presence, and not look at other men.
The trial is the culmination of years of suspicions and accusations against Kelly, many discussed in the 2019 Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly.”
The trial also comes nearly four years after the start of the #MeToo era, when more women began speaking out about abuse from famous and powerful men.
Kelly last released a studio album in 2016. His career stalled following the Lifetime documentary and the latest charges, and Kelly’s lawyers said this month his “funds have been depleted.” (Reuters)