A Brooklyn court is expected to hear female and male accusers’ testimonies as R. Kelly’s sexual abuse trial begins.
On Wednesday, the R&B star went on trial in New York, facing a prosecutor who called him a “predator.”
The federal prosecutor said R. Kelly had used his fame to gain access to girls, boys and young women, whom he dominated under a 20-year racketeering scheme.
The Grammy-award winner’s first alleged victim, Jerhonda Pace, told the court that she was a 16-year-old virgin when he abused her.
Pace testified that Kelly knew she was a minor when they had sex because she had shown him identification, but he asked her to pretend she was 19 years old.
The woman alleged that Kelly first invited her to his mansion when she was a fan and asked her to take off her clothes.
She said the relationship ended after Kelly choked her until she passed out.
In her opening statement for the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez told the New York jury that the award-winning singer had “dominated and controlled” his victims “physically, sexually and psychologically.”
She stated that Kelly used lies, manipulation, threats and physical abuse to control his victims, adding that he often recorded sexual acts with minors.
The indictment refers to the singer’s alleged dealings with two women and four minors, including singer Aaliyah, who was 15 when she married him.
Melendez also accused the 54-year-old man of controlling an organized crime company with people eager to “fulfill each and everyone one of the defendant’s wishes and demands.”
Kelly allegedly used an entourage of bodyguards, managers, and others to recruit and blackmail victims.
“This case is about a predator,” Melendez told the Brooklyn jury of seven men and five women. “This case is not about a celebrity who likes to party a lot.”
However, Kelly’s defense team claimed the case had “gaps,” arguing that Kelly’s accusers were disgruntled former fans who wanted revenge on him after failed relationships.
Kelly’s attorney, Nicole Blank Becker, told the jury the accusers’ relationships with the celebrity were consensual.
“They knew exactly what they were getting into,” Becker said.
The singer, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is known for his award-winning songs, including “Bump N ‘Grind” and “I Believe I Can Fly.”
He pleaded not guilty to all charges, including extortion and bribery, and has vigorously denied wrongdoing.