“To the victims in this case, their voices were heard and justice was finally served,” Acting US Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis said Monday in front of the Brooklyn courthouse on Monday, where a jury convicted the 54-year-old R&B star of the nine counts of sex. trafficking and organized crimeafter less than two days of deliberation.
The verdict “sends a strong message to survivors of sexual violence“Erinn Robinson, press secretary for the National Rape, Abuse and Incest Network, says in a statement to USA TODAY.” Today’s verdict was made possible by your courage and perseverance in being heard, and we thank you for your endurance during a difficult and very public process. “.
But now that the New York trial has come to an end, what’s next for Kelly, who faces similar charges in three federal and state cases in Illinois and Minnesota?
And what could the verdict mean for the #MeToo movement, which helped shed light on decades of abuse allegations against Kelly?
When will R. Kelly be sentenced?
Kelly, who has been behind bars since his arrest in July 2019, will not be sentenced until May 4.
The singer faces the possibility of spending decades in prison for crimes including violation of the Mann Law, an anti-sex trafficking law that prohibits taking anyone across state lines “for any immoral purpose.”
Michael Irving Leonard, one of Kelly’s attorneys in a similar federal case against him in Chicago, told USA TODAY that he was surprised by the New York verdict.
“He was optimistic that on the main charges, the racketeering charges, he would be found not guilty,” Leonard said. “The nature of a RICO (criminal-influenced and corruption organization) case typically matches that of drug or mafia lords directing their subordinates to do various (illegal) things and this is a very I didn’t think the jury would believe (Kelly) and the gang were a ‘criminal enterprise.’
According to Leonard, the delayed sentencing date for Kelly is non-standard, usually federal judges set the sentence 90 or 120 days in advance, but it is not unheard of and may be the result of the judge’s schedule and COVID-19 precautions.
Leonard said Kelly’s sentence will be calculated based on federal sentencing guidelines for the various crimes for which he has been convicted, such as racketeering, which carries a recommended maximum of 20 years.
What does the verdict mean for the other R. Kelly trials?
The New York case is only part of the legal danger Kelly faces.
The singer has also pleaded not guilty to similar charges in Illinois and Minnesota, and it is not yet clear how the verdict in Brooklyn will affect those cases or when they could go to trial.
Normally, the trial in the Northern District of Illinois, in which Kelly has co-defendants, would be next, but nothing is certain at this time. Kelly’s co-defendants want to move to trial as soon as possible, possibly in January, Leonard said, and they have the right to do so.
“All parties except Kelly want a speedy trial date,” Leonard said. “Those co-defendants are in quite a different position than Kelly, and if he were to receive a draconian sentence, it could have some impact on this trial (in Chicago). The judge will not accept waiting until June to go to trial. “
Leonard also raises the question of whether a Minnesota prosecutor needs to put Kelly on trial on a charge, if the R&B star has already been sentenced to years in New York.
“Is it a good use of resources to prove someone who is already facing a significant sentence?” Leonard asks.
But Lynn Hecht Schafran, legal director of Legal Momentum, a long-standing legal advocacy organization for women, said the verdict does not mean that other pending state and federal prosecutions against Kelly will not or should not go ahead.
“Every victim deserves to have their voice heard and justice served in their individual case,” he told USA TODAY.
Additionally, there is tremendous political pressure to pursue sexual abuse cases, one of the least reported and least prosecuted crimes in the country, says the former federal prosecutor-turned-Los Angeles civil attorney. Neama rahmani, who has been following the Kelly case.
“So when you tell the victims that R. Kelly is not going to receive justice for the acts he committed against (them), it is not going to affect the general public as much as the victims,” says Rahmani.
What does R. Kelly’s verdict mean for #MeToo?
According to advocates for survivors of sexual assault, Kelly’s conviction may offer hope to those who bring charges, including women of color who may fear their allegations will be downplayed or ignored.
“We hope that today’s verdict will allow survivors around the world to feel like they are not alone,” said Robinson.
For years, the public and the media seemed more amused than horrified by the accusations against the singer of inappropriate relationships with minors, starting with Kelly. Illegal marriage to R&B phenomenon Aaliyah in 1994 when he was only 15 years old.
His records and concert tickets continued to sell. Other artists continued to record his songs, even after he was arrested in 2002 and charged with making a recording of himself sexually abusing and urinating on a 14-year-old girl. He was acquitted in that case in 2008.
Widespread public condemnation didn’t come until a widely viewed documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly” helped make her case a signifier of the #MeToo era and gave voice to accusers who wondered if their stories were previously ignored because they were black women.
Within months of the series aired on television in 2019, Kelly was under arrest. “I don’t think television producers should decide who is prosecuted in this country, but we are dealing with limited government resources and these are the political realities that we must acknowledge,” Rahmani said. “It is a new world we live in.”
Schafran called the verdict a “step towards justice” and a possible sign that society “has reached a new stage of unwillingness to ignore the harm” that Kelly and others have caused to many young people.
“The next stage is to hold the facilitators accountable: Kelly did not keep all these young women in bondage, nor did he avoid accountability for their actions, on his own,” he said.
Contributors: Tom Hays, Larry Neumeister, Associated Press; Cydney Henderson, Alia E. Dastagir, USA TODAY
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or visit hotline.rainn.org/online for confidential support.