Mr. Kelly’s conviction marked a stunning fall for a man who was once one of the biggest names in R&B music. It came after the first Me Too-era trial in which most of the victims were Black women.

Key Updates:

R. Kelly made his victims write letters exonerating him. Instead, they helped convict him.

The ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ documentary catalyzed the case against the singer.

R. Kelly is convicted on all counts after decades of accusations of abuse.

R. Kelly is going to prison. Why did it take so long?


The singer was convicted of federal racketeering and sex trafficking charges for a decades-long scheme to recruit women and underage girls for sex. Once one of the biggest names in popular music, he could face decades in prison.

“Today’s guilty verdict forever brands R. Kelly as a predator who used his fame and fortune to prey on the young, the vulnerable and the voiceless.” “Mr. Kelly is a prolific serial predator. Despite numerous reports of his destructive abuse over the years, Mr. Kelly’s brazen acts of intimidation against his accusers kept him shielded from prosecution.” “Kelly, after grooming, isolating and intimidating his child victims, recorded them being sexually abused and humiliated by him. He directed these videos and produced them, not only for his own sexual gratification, but in some instances for the purpose of using these videos to silence and threaten his victims with public exposure of these tapes if they ever revealed what he had done to them.” “Of course, Mr. Kelly is disappointed. He was not anticipating this verdict because based on the evidence, why should he anticipate this verdict? I’m sure — I’m sure we’ll be appealing.”

R. Kelly Found Guilty on All Counts

The conviction of R. Kelly on all nine counts against him came as a significant moment in the Me Too movement for both Black women and for the music industry, ushering in a sense that, finally, justice had been served.

But the verdict on Monday also prompted an obvious question: Women have said that the singer’s abuses began as early as the start of the 1990s — why did it take three decades for the singer to receive criminal punishment?

Here are a few possible answers:

The entertainer had an expansive network of enablers around him, federal prosecutors said, from his closest confidantes and employees to many in the music industry who knew of the concerns about his behavior but did not intervene.

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The government drew attention to what has been described as the “settlement factory” that kept his accusers quiet, offering evidence of Mr. Kelly’s payments to women who made accusations in exchange for their silence.

And when that was not enough, Mr. Kelly “used his henchmen to lodge threats and exact revenge,” blackmailing women with nude photographs of themselves or embarrassing information, one prosecutor, Elizabeth Geddes, said in closing arguments.

Federal prosecutors also accused Mr. Kelly of paying witnesses to not cooperate with the authorities in the lead-up to his 2008 trial and acquittal. They said the singer let some witnesses know they could be “subject to physical harm” if they proceeded.

There are some cultural factors that may have helped Mr. Kelly avoid consequences for his behavior as well.

Legal experts and people who study sexual abuse have also suggested that the race of most of Mr. Kelly’s accusers likely played a role. Experts say Black women have historically been far more likely than white women to have their accusations about sexual misconduct distrusted or ignored.

“Our reality is that our society just does not view Black women and girls as credible,” said Kenyette Barnes, a co-founder of the #MuteRKelly campaign. “We assume that 15-year-old Black girls have the cognitive ability to manipulate a grown man.”

And some superstars have admitted that the race of the accusers shaped their perceptions in Mr. Kelly’s case.

“I didn’t value the accusers’ stories because they were Black women,” Chance the Rapper, who is from the singer’s hometown, Chicago, said during the “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary series.

Some of Mr. Kelly’s steadfast supporters continue to believe he is the victim of a larger, racist conspiracy to keep successful Black men from thriving, and that view was once more widespread in Black communities before his trial, experts note.

As a former television critic at The New York Times, Aisha Harris, said, two cultural touchstones — “Chappelle’s Show” and “The Boondocks” — also helped shape the perception of the accusations against R. Kelly through humor, keeping audiences amused instead of troubled.

The cultural climate has also changed dramatically since the allegations against Mr. Kelly first began to surface. After the singer pleaded not guilty to the charges that led to his 2008 trial, he performed alongside children at a church in Chicago the same day. He was embraced by the congregation.

R. Kelly left a 2019 court hearing in Chicago, where he still faces charges. Mr. Kelly’s lawyer said he did not know whether he would be transferred there before his sentencing in New York in May. 

R. Kelly is set to be sentenced at 10 a.m. on May 4 by the same federal judge who oversaw his racketeering and sex trafficking trial in Brooklyn. Mr. Kelly, 54, faces 10 years to life in prison.

The intervening months will be busy. In the next few weeks, Mr. Kelly’s lawyers can file motions seeking to overturn the verdict. Mr. Kelly also faces charges in at least two other states, including federal child pornography and obstruction counts in Chicago. That trial has been postponed several times, and a new date has not been set. A court conference in that case has been set for Oct. 20.

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