A federal trial against R. Kelly got underway in New York on Wednesday, with the disgraced R&B star facing charges of racketeering and violating the Mann Act, an anti-sex trafficking law.
During her opening statement in Brooklyn Federal Court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez described Kelly as a “predator” who “used his fame, his popularity and a network of people at his disposal to target girls, boys and young women for his own sexual gratification.”
Prosecutors allege that Kelly had a team made up of his managers, bodyguards and other employees who helped him recruit women and girls for sex. The group would select victims at concerts and other venues and arranged for them to travel to see Kelly.
The singer, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, has pleaded not guilty to the charges, with his attorneys arguing the accusers were in consensual long-term relationships with the singer before becoming “spiteful.”
Jerhonda Pace, the first witness in the trial, alleged Kelly took her virginity when she was 16 and later told the court, “He wanted me to put my hair up in pigtails and dress like a Girl Scout.”
Kelly also faces federal child pornography and obstruction charges in the Northern District of Illinois as well as other sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota.
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