Singer R. Kelly seeks appeals court relief from 30-year prison sentence

NY –

R. Kelly’s lawyer told an appeals court Monday that all types of legitimate organizations, including college fraternities, could be considered racketeering organizations under a law used to convict the R&B superstar at his Brooklyn trial for sexual assault. of young fans, including children, for decades.

Attorney Jennifer Bonjean, seeking to overturn his 2021 convictions or get him a new trial, tried to persuade three judges on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan that prosecutors improperly used an anti-racketeering statute written to take down with organized crime to persecute the singers.

He said it was unfair for prosecutors to accuse Kelly, 57, of leading a racketeer-influenced and corrupt organization (RICO) from 1994 to 2018, made up of people who promoted his music and recruited women and girls to engage in sexual activity. illegal and produce child pornography.

“This was not a group of people who had the purpose of recruiting 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 completely different matter.

“And once we get into that kind of territory, where we’re going to say constitute a RICO company, well, we have a lot of organizations, we have a lot of fraternity houses, we have all kinds of organizations that are now about to become RICO companies,” ​​said in support of the Grammy-winning, multi-platinum-selling songwriter.

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 U.S. Attorney Kayla Bensing said Kelly’s network of assistants and employees was part of the “system established by the singer that drew young people into his orbit” before he “took charge of their lives.”

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

Some of the judges questioned whether the employees knew about Kelly’s illegal activities with teenagers.

“What evidence is there that the staff who organized these things knew they were minors?” 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 that some girls were not yet 18 because flights were booked for them and the girls had to provide their birth dates, she said.

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

“Members of the company heard Kelly beating his girlfriends, knew Kelly was isolating his victims, and helped him do so, including meting out his punishments, such as monitoring them while they were confined to a bus for extended periods of time.” she added.

Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is known for works including the 1996 hit “I Believe I Can Fly” and the cult classic “Trapped in the Closet,” a multi-part story of betrayal and sexual intrigue.

He was adored by legions of fans and sold millions of albums, even after allegations about his abuse of young girls began to circulate publicly in the 1990s. He was acquitted of child pornography charges in Chicago in 2008, but a second trial in Chicago in 2022 ended his conviction on charges of producing child pornography and luring girls for sex.

Widespread outrage over Kelly’s sexual misconduct didn’t emerge until the #MeToo reckoning, which reached a crescendo after the release of the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly.”

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