Singer R. Kelly appeals to overturn 30-year sex crime sentence

Singer R. Kelly appeals to overturn 30-year sex crime sentence
Singer R. Kelly appeals to overturn 30-year sex crime sentence Copyright Matt Marton/AP
Copyright Matt Marton/AP
By Euronews with AP
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The R&B singer was sentenced to 30 years in prison for illegal sexual activity and child porn production in June 2022. Now, his lawyer is arguing that federal prosecutors failed to prove Kelly's sexual depravity was part of a criminal enterprise.


Disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly’s lawyer told an appeals court yesterday (Monday 18 March) that all kinds of legitimate organizations — even college fraternities — could be deemed racketeering organizations under a law used to convict the Kelly at his Brooklyn trial of sexually abusing young fans, including children, for decades.

Attorney Jennifer Bonjean, seeking to reverse his 2021 convictions or to win him a new trial, tried to persuade three judges on the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan that prosecutors improperly used a racketeering statute written to shut down organized crime to go after the singer.

She said it wasn't fair that prosecutors charged Kelly, 57, with leading a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) enterprise from 1994 to 2018 compromised of individuals who promoted his music and recruited women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity.

Kelly was convicted in 2022 on charges of producing child pornography and enticing girls for sex.

“This was not a collection of people who had a purpose to recruit girls for sexual abuse or child pornography,” Bonjean said. "Whether they turned a blind eye, whether some of them suspected that some of these girls were underage, that’s a whole different matter.”

“And once we get into that sort of territory, where we’re going to say that constitutes a RICO enterprise, well we have a lot of organizations — we have a lot of frat houses — we have all types of organizations that are now going to become RICO enterprises,” she said in support of Kelly.

The judges did not immediately rule, but they had plenty of questions for Bonjean and a prosecutor who defended the government’s handling of the case, which resulted in a 30-year prison sentence in June 2022.

Assistant US Attorney Kayla Bensing said Kelly's network of aides and employees were part of the singer's “system in place that lured young people in to his orbit" before he "took over their lives.”

At trial, several women testified that they were ordered to sign nondisclosure forms and were subjected to threats and punishments such as violent spankings if they broke what one referred to as “Rob’s rules.”

Some of the judges questioned whether the employees knew about Kelly's illegal activities with teenage girls.

"What evidence is there that staff who arranged these things knew that they were underage?” asked Circuit Judge Denny Chin.

The prosecutor responded by citing numerous instances of testimony, including one in which a woman testified that she told a member of Kelly's entourage that she was 16 when he asked her age. Others knew some girls were not yet 18 because they booked flights for them and the girls had to provide their birth dates, she noted.

“So this is all evidence that the jury was entitled to infer that Kelly’s inner circle knew what was going on. That he was recruiting and maintaining underage women for sexual activity,” Bensing said.

“Members of the enterprise heard Kelly beat his girlfriends, they knew that Kelly was isolating his victims and they helped him do it, including by enforcing his punishments such as watching over them while they were confined to a bus for prolonged periods of time,” she added.

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