AFP, published on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 at 04:57
Fallen American R&B star R. Kelly, found guilty in September 2021 in New York of having led for years a “system” of sexual exploitation of young people, including minors, faces a 25-year prison sentence on Wednesday .
Nine months ago, the trial of the singer known worldwide for his hit “I Believe I Can Fly” was analyzed, four years after the start of the #MeToo era in the United States, as an indicator of sexual crimes in the African-American community.
In their last indictment, the prosecutors of the federal court of Brooklyn demand at least 25 years of criminal imprisonment because of the “danger” that R. Kelly, whose real name Robert Kelly, would represent for his victims and for public opinion.
The US prosecutor’s office considers him to be “an impudent, manipulative, controlling and coercive, showing no signs of remorse or respect for the law”.
– “Predator” –
During the six weeks of trial last August and September, the fallen singer had been portrayed by the prosecution as “criminal, predatory”.
Nine women and two men had accused him of having sexually abused them, describing rape, forced drug taking, situations of imprisonment or even child pornography.
The 55-year-old man was convicted at the end of September 2021 of all charges: extortion, sexual exploitation of a minor, kidnapping, trafficking, corruption and forced labor, over a period from 1994 to 2018.
R. Kelly has always denied the facts.
Throughout his trial, the former African-American R&B star had remained silent, and had shown no particular emotion at the statement of his guilt, contenting himself with lowering his head and closing his eyes. .
Already in detention and awaiting another federal trial in Chicago in August, R. Kelly is hoping through his lawyers for a maximum sentence in New York of 17 years in prison.
– #MeToo for black women –
This lawsuit was considered a major step in the #MeToo movement: it was the first time that the majority of plaintiffs were black women and they accused a black artist.
For Kenyette Barnes, who coined the hashtag #MuteRKelly (“Shut up R. Kelly”) in 2017 – the same year as the global #MeToo movement sparked by the fall of almighty Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein – the American justice made it possible for the first time to give an echo “to the blood, sweat and tears of black women” that American society until now did not want to see.
Long before sexual violence was a subject for the media and social networks in the United States, African-American women fought to alert the authorities and public opinion. But for part of society, “black women are neither likely to be raped nor credible”, denounced in September Ms. Barnes, who should speak again on Wednesday.
The trial had exposed the “system” of R. Kelly to attract very young women and sexually assault them, with the complicity of those around him, as in a kind of mafia enterprise, according to the prosecution. Many victims had recounted their meeting with their idol during concerts after which they were slipped a small piece of paper with the singer’s contact details.
– Drugged and raped –
He would do something for their musical career, they were promised.
Instead, they were “indoctrinated” into R. Kelly’s “sordid” milieu, coerced into sex, and kept in that “system” by “coercive measures,” according to the prosecution.
Six women were the main accusers, some of whom claimed to have been drugged to be raped, locked up for a few days, forced to have abortions and infected with sexually transmitted diseases.
For lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents three of the six plaintiffs, the verdict against R. Kelly – the day after the 20 years in prison pronounced by the Manhattan court against the former British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell for sex trafficking of minors – must serve as an example for celebrities who use their “notoriety to prey on their fans”.