On Monday, September 27th, 2021, 54-year-old R&B singer R. Kelly was found guilty on nine counts, which included one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act. The Mann Act is a federal law that criminalizes the transportation of “any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.” Kelly had faced accusations of sexual abuse for over two decades, but he was never held accountable. The recent #MeToo movement, according to Reuters, amplified the accusations against him and he was formally charged on July 12th, 2019 after a documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly,” strengthened the calls for him to face legal consequences.
The trial, which began on August 18th lasted about six weeks and included video and audio evidence and the testimonies of 45 witnesses. Eleven of the witnesses were his sexual abuse victims. The victims described in their testimonies how Kelly sexually, emotionally, physically, and verbally abused them for years. However, prosecutors, who labeled Kelly a “predator” in their opening statement, focused on the testimonies and allegations of only six of the victims, one of which was late-singer Aaliyah, who was 15-years-old when she illegally married Kelly, then 27-years-old. According to Buzzfeed News, the evidence that he had abused others was used to argue that his actions amounted to racketeering, a federal crime under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act. These arguments gave prosecutors the ability to offer any evidence that would have otherwise been considered “too old” to prosecute. His defense, on the other hand, attempted to portray Kelly’s accusers as liars and referred to them as “groupies” or jilted lovers, a move that legal scholars argue is used by defense teams to “absolve defendants of liability.”
The seven-man and five-woman federal jury deliberated for a nine hours before reaching the verdict. Kelly, who did not testify in his defense, reportedly was not expecting the verdict that he received. He is scheduled to be sentenced by the same federal judge who oversaw the racketeering and sex trafficking trial on May 4th, 2022, and is facing a minimum of 10-years to life in prison. He is also facing charges in the states of Illinois and Minnesota, although the trial for these new charges has not been set.
Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.
- Writing: Explain the impact that the R. Kelly case is going to have on American culture.
- Debate: According to Mark Anthony Neal, the James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of African American Studies at Duke University, the vulgarity of R. Kelly’s music is going to make it easy for people to dismiss his art. Do you believe that it is going to be easy to “cancel” his art just as it was easy to “cancel” him?
- Poll: R. Kelly is a predator and should receive a sentence of life in prison for the crimes that he committed. (Agree or Disagree).
- Short Answer: Discuss the role that the #MeToo movement played in the R. Kelly case.
Cover Image: Istock/LordHenriVoton