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R Kelly sexual abuse trial under way in New York

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R Kelly

R Kelly pictured in court in Chicago in 2019

The trial of the US R&B singer R Kelly has begun at a US federal court in Brooklyn, New York.

The star is accused of racketeering, sexual abuse and bribery; charges which he has denied.

Some of the allegations made against the singer – full name Robert Sylvester Kelly – date back more than 20 years.

If he is convicted on all counts he could be sentenced to several decades in prison.

Opening statements are being delivered to a jury of seven men and five women, who will decide the 54-year-old singer’s fate.

Kelly faces charges he was the ringleader of a two-decade scheme where he recruited women and underage girls for sex, with a prosecutor calling the R&B superstar a “predator.”

Kelly has pleaded not guilty and strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Lawyer Gloria Allred (L) and a relative of Jocelyn Savage pictured outside the Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday

Lawyer Gloria Allred (L) and a relative of Jocelyn Savage pictured outside the Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday

Kelly, 54, is best known for hits including Ignition (Remix), I Believe I Can Fly, Bump n’ Grind and If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time.

On her way in to court, BBC producer Monica Miller reported: “It’s a sticky overcast Wednesday in Brooklyn. R Kelly supporters screamed ‘Free R Kelly’ as they walked by.

“The parents of Jocelyn Savage arrived. She lived with R Kelly and claims to be a victim.”

What are the charges?

R Kelly

The singer has been plagued by accusations of sexual misconduct since the 1990s

Kelly and members of his entourage are accused of recruiting women and underage girls to engage in illegal sexual activity with the singer.

The allegations go back to the start of his career in the 1990s, with many centring around the alleged predatory pursuit of teenage girls.

The 54-year-old is currently facing multiple state and federal charges in the US, with accusations including sexual assault, abuse of a minor, making indecent images of minors, racketeering and obstruction of justice.

The prosecution’s case centres around six unnamed women.

Kelly’s attorneys are expected to claim that some of the alleged victims are aggrieved groupies, who originally consented to sex.

Aaliyah

Kelly wrote and produced Aaliyah’s debut album, calling it Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number

Allegations of sexual abuse are not new for the musician; he has been confronting them for more than 20 years.

But the only time he faced criminal charges, for child pornography in 2008, he was acquitted.

Kelly was himself the victim of child sex abuse, and detailed in his autobiography how he was raped by a female family member when he was eight years old.

What is the latest?

The prosecution team arrive at court in Brooklyn, New York

The prosecution team arrive at court in Brooklyn, New York

Kelly has been in custody since July 2019, after an application for his bail the following month was denied.

In March 2020, prosecutors seized more than 100 electronic devices, including smartphones, iPads and hard drives from a storage facility holding the star’s tour equipment.

His associates were then accused of tampering with and intimidating witnesses in August of that year, and soon after the singer himself was attacked in his sleep by a fellow inmate in Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Centre.

In June 2021, just two months before his trial was due to begin, Kelly’s long-term lawyers asked to withdraw from the case.

Steve Greenberg and Michael Leonard said it was “impossible” for them to work alongside a pair of new lawyers the star had hired.

Earlier this month, in the last pre-trial hearing, it was confirmed that the disgraced singer had admitted to having had a sexual relationship with the late singer Aaliyah when she was underage.

A jury was selected last week after potential jurors were quizzed on whether they can keep an open mind in the case.

The trial is expected to go on for several weeks.

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