R. Kelly's conviction during his sex trafficking trial in New York was the first, but it may not be the last as the singer still faces multiple federal charges in Chicago.
Kelly was convicted Monday after a jury spent nine hours deliberating his fate in a Brooklyn courtroom.
But the Grammy Award-winner has also pleaded not guilty federal charges in Chicago accusing him of filming himself having sex with underage girls and of paying off potential witnesses at his 2008 trial to get them to change their stories.
A trial for those charges was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Kelly also faces state charges in Illinois and Minnesota, though he has denied ever sexually abusing anyone.
Attorney Raed Shalabi, who will represent the singer in the upcoming trial in Chicago, issued a statement Monday defending Kelly.
“I don’t believe the evidence presented was enough for a guilty verdict,” Shalabi said in a statement. “I believe that Mr. Kelly being such a public figure lead to an enormous amount of media coverage and television productions that had the court of public opinion already swayed in a direction that is difficult to rebound from. However, we are looking forward to Mr. Kelly having his trial in Chicago where his innocence can be proved.”
Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx called the conviction "the first step in a long journey towards justice and healing for many victims of these crimes."
"The implications of today’s verdict reach far beyond that of a megastar," Foxx said in a statement. "There are other predators amongst us, that may be revered by the community, who will no longer be made to feel insulated from justice. While today’s outcome may not have come as quickly as we’d like, I’m heartened to know that in this case, justice delayed was not justice denied. As a Black woman, mother, and survivor, my heart goes out to the victims of this case and countless others. I know firsthand how an already arduous task can be made even more difficult when compounded by race. As Cook County State’s Attorney, my office stands ready to support those who experience sexual violence and to prosecute those who perpetrate it.”
Reaction poured in from attorneys, reporters and public officials Monday after news of Kelly's conviction first broke.
“This guilty verdict forever brands R. Kelly as a predator who used fame and fortune to prey on the young, the vulnerable and the voiceless,” Jacquelyn Kasulis, acting U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District, said.
Jim DeRogatis, who ran his first story on allegations of sexual assault against the singer in Dec. 2000, was very emotional when the verdict was read in court on Monday.
“I got very emotional. I think of the women who trusted me and took 21 years to tell their story when no one else would listen,” he said.
The reporter, who penned the book “Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly,” says that justice came at least 25 years too late.
“Everyone in Chicago failed these young Black girls,” he said.
Testimony in the trial was often graphic, with Kelly demanding his victims to ask to use the bathroom, and locking them in rooms for days if they broke the so-called “Robert’s Rules.”
Kelly was acquitted for similar charges in a Chicago trial in 2008. In this case, racketeering charges normally used to convict mafia bosses allowed the government to introduce sexual abuse allegations outside of the statute of limitations.
The case was largely focused on music star Aaliyah’s relationship with Kelly. The two were married with falsified documents, stemming from when the late singer was 15 and Kelly was 27.
Even as future trials loom, and with appeals likely coming following the conviction, observers of the case say they are thankful that justice has been done.
“Nobody in the history of popular music has had a body count this extensive over so many years,” DeRogatis said. “He’s the worst predator in popular music.”
The singer will face sentencing on May 4.