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R&B star R. Kelly has been found guilty on all counts during his high-profile sex abuse trial and now faces decades in prison.
On Monday the 54-year-old star was convicted of leading a decades-long sex crime ring, with a New York jury finding the superstar guilty on all nine charges, including one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, an interstate anti-sex trafficking law.
According to the New York Times, the 'I Believe I Can Fly' singer "sat motionless in the courtroom" when the verdict was read. He wore a mask in court due to COVID-19 safety protocols.
After six weeks of disturbing testimony, the jury deliberated just nine hours before finding Kelly guilty of systematically recruiting women and teenagers for sex, before grooming and brutally abusing them.
He now faces up to life in prison, with his sentencing scheduled for May 4.
"We're disappointed with the verdict," Kelly's attorney Deveraux Cannick told journalists outside the courtroom, adding they would be "considering" an appeal.
The case, delayed for over a year by the coronavirus pandemic, is widely seen as a milestone for the #MeToo movement: it is the first major sex abuse trial where the majority of accusers are Black women.
The singer, who has long denied misconduct allegations against him, was accused of sexually abusing women, girls and boys. Prosecutors argued Kelly "used lies, manipulation, threats and physical abuse to dominate his victims" and that his inner circle "served as enablers for his criminal conduct" while he ran his criminal enterprise.
The government claimed Kelly took advantage of his fame to recruit his victims as many were aspiring singers and fans.
Over the nearly six-week trial, 11 accusers took the stand against Kelly, six of whom were minors when the alleged abuse took place.
Lawyer Gloria Allred, who represented three of the six women indicated in the indictment, said Kelly's conviction served as a warning to others against using "fame to prey on their fans."
"The issue is not if the law will catch up to you," she said. "The only question is when."
Accusers' stories ran in parallel: many of the alleged victims described meeting the singer at concerts or mall performances and being handed slips of paper with Kelly's contact by members of his entourage.
Several said they were told he could bolster their music industry aspirations.
But all were instead "indoctrinated" into Kelly's world, according to prosecutors, groomed for sex at his whim and kept in line by "coercive means of control," including isolation and cruel disciplinary measures, recordings of which were played for the jury.
Core to the state's case was Kelly's relationship with the late singer Aaliyah.
Kelly wrote and produced her first album — 'Age Ain't Nothin' But A Number' — before illegally marrying her when she was just 15 because he feared he had impregnated her.
His former manager admitted in court to bribing a worker to obtain fake identification allowing the union, which was later annulled. That bribery was the first proven racketeering act that lead to Kelly's conviction of the charge.
Kelly still faces prosecution in three other jurisdictions, including Illinois federal court.
Additional reporting by Taryn Ryder and AFP.
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