NEW YORK — R. Kelly’s fate is now in the hands of the jury hearing his federal trial in New York.
After a six-week trial featuring the testimony of 50 witnesses and three days of closing arguments, jurors in the racketeering case against Chicago-born R&B star began their deliberations at about 12:40 p.m. Chicago time on Friday.
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly took three hours to read through more than 80 pages of jury instructions before sending the panel of seven men and five women back to begin going through the 9-count indictment.
The judge has not publicly indicated how long she would let deliberations continue if no verdict has been reached by the end of the day.
Kelly, 54, was charged in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn in 2019 with heading a criminal enterprise that employed agents, runners, bodyguards and others to lure and trap girls and young women to satisfy his sexually predatory desires.
He faces decades in prison if convicted of the main racketeering charge, though the jury could decide to convict on lesser charges of kidnapping or violations of the Mann Act, which prohibits traveling over state lines for illegal sexual acts.
The trial featured the testimony of a number of alleged victims who told the jury that Kelly manipulated and controlled them and forced them to have sex with him and others — often on videotape.
In her final 45 minutes of rebuttal, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadia Shihata urged the jury to look past the “nonsense” raised by the defense and see Kelly for what he is. “He’s not a genius, he’s a criminal, a predator who used his inner circle to commit crimes with impunity for decades.”
“For almost three decades (Kelly) believed that he was untouchable, a legend, a musical genius,” Shihata said. The money and fame led him to believe he could do whatever he wanted, she said, and “he still believes that today.”
She called Kelly a “control freak” and blasted the defense for referring to his alleged victims as conniving stalkers out for a payday. “The defendant’s victims aren’t groupies or gold-diggers, they are daughters, sisters, some of them are now mothers, and their lives matter,” Shihata said.