NEW YORK – The fate of R. Kelly is now in the hands of a jury after weeks of grim testimony in his sexual misconduct trial.
The panel of seven men and five women began deliberating on racketeering and sex trafficking charges against the R&B superstar on Friday.
Hours after deliberations began, jurors sent the judge a note asking him to review a transcript of testimony and evidence regarding a woman who claimed Kelly sexually assaulted her in 2003 while she was an intern at radio at the age of 21. She testified that she was locked in a recording studio for days and drugged before the assault.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers completed their oral arguments this week. The 54-year-old singer is accused of running a Chicago-based criminal enterprise that recruited people for rape and psychological torment.
Witnesses said Kelly subjected them to evil and sadistic whims when they were minors. He denied any wrongdoing.
Kelly “felt that music, fame and fame meant he could do whatever he wanted,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadia Shihata said in Brooklyn federal court in a fiery rebuttal of defense pleading which portrays Kelly as a victim of false accusations.
But, she added, “He’s not a genius, he’s a criminal. A predator.” She added that the people accusing her “are not groupies or gold diggers. They are human beings.”
Kelly, perhaps best known for the smash hit 1996 “I Believe I Can Fly”, has pleaded not guilty to racketeering charges accusing her of abusing women, girls and boys for over two decades .
He is also charged with multiple violations of Mann’s Law, which makes it illegal to transport anyone across state lines “for immoral purposes.”
Prosecutors say their evidence proves how Kelly, with the help of some loyal members of her entourage, used “predator’s playbook” tactics to sexually exploit her victims.
The tactics included isolating them in hotel rooms or his recording studio, subjecting them to degrading rules like forcing them to call him “Daddy” and making video recordings – some seen by the jury in the evening. trial – of them having sex with him and others as a way to control them, prosecutors said.
In his conclusion, defense lawyer Deveraux Cannick told the jury that the testimony of several accusers was full of lies and that “the government let them lie.”
Cannick argued that there was no evidence that Kelly’s accusers were ever forced to do anything against their will. Instead, Cannick said, Kelly’s girlfriends stayed because he spoiled them with free plane trips, shopping sprees and fancy dinners – a treatment that belied the predator label.
“He gave them a lavish lifestyle,” he said. “That’s not what a predator is supposed to do.”