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R. Kelly’s Sex-Crimes Trial Nears Its Bitter End

Federal prosecutors have rested their case in the trial against R&B star R. Kelly after testimony from 45 witnesses over 20 days.

  Kelly is facing a number of charges that go back decades: sexual exploitation of a minor, kidnapping, forced labor, and more. Central to the federal government's case against him is a racketeering charge which positions him at the head of a criminal enterprise working together using Kelly's fame to lure potential victims of sex crimes. Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Jurors have heard from witnesses ranging from former live-in girlfriends of the singer to his former employees, many of whom were subpoenaed to testify against the singer. Kelly faces racketeering and sex trafficking charges, which he has pleaded not guilty to.

  Since his trial began in Brooklyn federal court on August 18, multiple witnesses have testified that Kelly allegedly sexually and physically abused them, directed them to stay in rooms -- sometimes for days and had to ask for permission from Kelly or his associates to go to the bathroom or get food.

Testifying against the singer has proven to be emotionally difficult for some witnesses. Prosecutors said in a court filing on September 14 that one of its final witnesses, a woman who had been in a relationship with him and was to testify about being physically assaulted by him in an incident that was captured in a recording, had panic attacks and an "emotional breakdown" the weekend before she was to face Kelly in court, and they said would not press her to testify. Even those who weren't in relationships with him, like former employee Nicholas Williams, started to express how difficult it was having to testify in front of the singer, who he said was "angry all the time" and that he could frequently hear Kelly yelling during his year working for him.

  "I was nervous when I first came in here because I finally had time to look him in the eye," Williams said.

He was abruptly cut off by US District Judge Ann Donnelly and asked, "Can I say something?"

 "No you can't. That's not how this works," Donnelly said.

 At the heart of prosecutors' federal case against Kelly is their allegation that he was the head of a criminal enterprise whose purpose was to promote his music, the R. Kelly brand and to "recruit women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity" with the singer, according to an indictment.

 One way prosecutors allege that Kelly and his associates recruited women was by handing out slips of paper with his number written on them. Former studio manager Tom Arnold, who worked for Kelly for eight years starting in 2003, said employees "always had those on hand."

"I would only give it out from the direction of Rob," Arnold testified.

Kelly, who also faces underlying racketeering acts that include kidnapping, was also accused of keeping girls and women in rooms or on vans while on tour against their will.

 A former radio intern who identified herself as Sonja, testified that Kelly invited her to interview him at his Chicago studio in 2003 and that once she arrived, an employee put her in a room that she quickly realized was "locked from the outside." She said she was kept in the room for several days, occasionally let out to go to the bathroom and shower.

 Sonja testified that she lost consciousness after eating her first meal in days and saw Kelly adjusting his pants when she woke up. She testified that she believed he sexually assaulted her when she was not conscious.

"I was sexually assaulted," Sonja testified. "There was something in me that wasn't wanted."

 Kelly's defense attorneys have pointed out that the rooms Kelly's female guests were kept in often did not have locks on the outside of their doors. Cannick pressed Kelly's former assistant, Diana Copeland, on whether she'd seen Kelly lock girlfriends in rooms while she worked for him between October 2015 until February 2017.

 "Have you ever saw him lock any of his girlfriends in a room?" Cannick asked.

 "Never," Copeland testified.

 "Has he ever asked you to do such a thing?" Cannick asked.

 "Never," Copeland testified.

 "Have you ever heard him ask any of his staff to do such a thing?" Cannick asked.

 "Never," Copeland testified.

 Among the criminal acts Kelly is accused of is violating public health laws in states where people are required to notify their sexual partners if they have infectious sexually transmitted diseases. Kelly's personal physician of 25 years, Dr. Kris McGrath, testified that he'd suspected the singer had genital herpes since at least June 2000, but a test at the time came back negative. He continued to prescribe to Kelly the medication that treats the condition for nearly two decades

In 2017, a woman who testified as Faith said that Kelly invited her to a show in New York where she says he pressured her into having sex with him.


 "I said, 'Are you going to use a condom?'" Faith testified.

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