R. Kelly's sex trafficking trial started today in Brooklyn and his team came out swinging against the alleged victims.
“This case is about a predator who for decades used fame, popularity and a network of associates to groom girls, boys, and young women for his own sexual purposes,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez said during the first day of the federal trial.
“The sexual conduct was illegal, he engaged with minors in their teens and recorded it to produce child pornography and crossed state lines and exposed them to incurable herpes.”
The 54-year-old R. Kelly denied any wrongdoing at the trial, according to NBC News. R. Kelly has been in federal custody since 2019, and he pleaded not guilty to charges of racketeering, bribery, coercion, enticement, and sex trafficking Wednesday morning.
According to NBC News, R. Kelly also pleaded not guilty to sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota.
Cruz Melendez claimed R. Kelly used his personal inner circle to cover up his alleged crimes and even went so far as to use lawyers to distribute “hundreds of thousands of dollars in hush payments,” NBC News reported.
But while Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez stated her case to the jurors, R. Kelly’s own attorney Nicole Blank Becker fired back with her own defense of her client.
“He didn’t recruit them. They were fans. They came to Mr. Kelly,” R. Kelly’s attorney told the jurors. “They knew exactly what they were getting into. It was no secret Mr. Kelly had multiple girlfriends. He was quite transparent.”
“There will be so many untruths told to you that even the government will not be able to untangle the web of lies. “Witness will tell you all these negative things, they’re going to form a picture that basically Mr. Kelly is this monster,” Becker also told the jurors.
According to the Chicago Tribune, a jury of seven men, five women and six alternates was selected sometime last week.
R. Kelly’s trial is expected to last multiple weeks. According to the prosecutors, R. Kelly could face anywhere from 10 years to life in prison if found guilty on all counts.