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. Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, was found guilty of working with others in his inner circle in a plot to lure, entice or coerce women for the purposes of sex. Several of his victims testified that they were children when he sexually abused them.
The singer – most famous for the award-winning song I Believe I Can Fly – was also found guilty of sex trafficking across state lines.
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.
The testimony that secured Kelly’s conviction
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.
“Of all the predators that I have pursued, Mr Kelly is the worst.” 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.
“No matter how long it takes, the long arm of the law will catch up with you,” said Ms Kasulis.
The verdict comes 13 years after Kelly was acquitted of child pornography charges after a trial in the state of Illinois.
Many of the allegations heard in the trial were first laid out in the 2019 documentary Surviving R Kelly.
Victims were sometimes selected from his concert audiences, or were enticed to join him after being offered help with their fledgling music careers after chance encounters with the singer.
But after joining his entourage, they found that they were subjected to strict rules and aggressively punished if they violated what his team had dubbed “Rob’s rules”.
Along with 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.
During the federal trial, the court also heard how he had illegally obtained paperwork to marry underage singer Aaliyah, who died in a plane accident in August 2001 after marrying Kelly at age 15.
Kelly’s lawyer Deveraux Cannick told reporters that the singer did not expect to be found guilty.
“The government cherry-picked their version that they thought would support the continuation of the narrative,” said Mr Cannick. “Why would he expect this verdict given all the inconsistencies that we saw?”
Kelly is separately facing trial in Chicago on child pornography and obstruction charges. He is also due to face sex abuse charges in Illinois and Minnesota.