Federal prosecutors came out swinging in opening arguments at R&B singer R. Kelly’s trial for sex crimes and racketeering on Wednesday.
Kelly, 54, was accused of being a “predator,” who used his fame to sexually exploit “girls, boys and young women” to dominate and control them “physically, sexually and psychologically,” according to Assistant US Attorney Maria Melendez.
“This case is not about a celebrity who likes to party a lot,” Cruz Melendez told jurors. “This case is about a predator who used his fame, popularity, and network to target, groom and exploit girls, boys and young women for his own sexual gratification.”
Kelly allegedly made victims refer to him as “Daddy,” knowingly infected them with the herpes virus, recorded sex acts with minors, and beat them, all with the help of his paid associates. “He used his money, clout and public persona to hide his crimes in plain sight,” she added.
One of the bombshell allegations against the “I Believe I Can Fly” singer regarded his relationship with the late singer Aaliyah, who died in a 2001 plane crash, who Cruz Melendez said Kelly impregnated when she was only 15-years-old and he was 27.
She accused the singer and his associates of bribing a Chicago official to procure a fake ID for Aaliyah, so they could get married and she would be barred from being compelled to testify against him.
In another occurrence, Kelly allegedly flew a 22-year-old radio intern from Salt Lake City to Chicago for an interview, but locked her in his recording studio for three days.
The woman said she was given Chinese food and a coke at one point and then passed out. When she woke up, her underwear had been removed and Kelly was putting his pants on. “She felt a wetness between her legs and she knew she had been sexually abused in some way,” the prosecutor slammed.
Another accuser said Kelly forced her to perform oral sex on him with the threat of a gun, and knowingly infected her with herpes.
Kelly’s lawyers said that the purported victims enjoyed the “notoriety of being able to tell their friends that they were with a superstar,” and their participation was consensual.
“He didn’t recruit them. They were fans. They came to Mr. Kelly,” the lawyer said. “They knew exactly what they were getting into. It was no secret Mr. Kelly had multiple girlfriends. He was quite transparent.”
Kelly faces 10 years to life in prison if convicted on the nine counts of racketeering and sex trafficking.