R. Kelly Sex Trafficking Trial Goes to Jury Following Closing Arguments

R. Kelly
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R. Kelly arrives at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building for a hearing on June 26, 2019 in Chicago.

Charges against the singer include racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, bribery and kidnapping.

After five weeks of arguments, evidence and over 40 witness testimonies, the trial against R&B icon R. Kelly is reaching its end. Friday (Sept. 24), federal prosecutor Nadia Shihata gave the final arguments of the case, stating that Kelly was surrounded by "sycophants, yes men and enablers," and that he is "not a genius, he's a predator, a criminal."

Following roughly three hours of instructions from Judge Ann M. Donnelly, the jury was dismissed for deliberations at 1:40 p.m. Friday to determine Kelly's guilt on the nine charges he faces.

During her argument, Shihata meticulously combed through evidence that the government says proves Kelly's guilt for each of the nine charges. She challenged the defense's counterarguments that painted Kelly as a naive bystander and urged the jury to consider the evidence and "look at the totality of the argument." All the while, Kelly continuously shook his head and rocked back and forth in his chair.

"The defendant knows what [his associates] are doing. The defendant knows where they're going. They're there to protect the defendant," Shihata said in reference to the bribery charges connected to Kelly's illegal marriage to a then-15-year-old Aaliyah. She referred to witness Demetrius Smith's claim that although Smith didn't want Kelly to marry Aaliyah, he got involved in the plan to avoid being "out of the loop."

"He wanted to stay in that circle, that enterprise," she continued, stressing the term "enterprise," that is crucial to the racketeering charge.

During the defense team's closing argument delivered on Sept. 23, attorney Deveraux Cannick portrayed alleged victim Jerhonda Pace as a "stalker" and "groupie extraordinaire." In her statement, Shihata stressed discrepancies in the defense's account of Pace and other witnesses' experiences. She cited letters in "pristine" condition under lock and key that Kelly allegedly used as "collateral," text messages and timelines, reminding jurors that just because the defense says something, doesn't make it "correct."

Shihata's critiques of Cannick didn't end there. She called into question his cross-examination tactics and earlier "smoking gun" accusation that Pace lied about her age at first sexual contact with Kelly, which turned out to be wrong.

"He often raised his voice, walked around the court room and put on a show," she said. "That show is not evidence...that's the kind of nonsense that went on in here."

During the defense's closing arguments, Cannick said Kelly treated his girlfriends "like gold," with the exception of Pace, who the defense denies that Kelly had any sexual contact with. He also compared Kelly to both Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and civil rights' activist, Martin Luther King Jr., emphasizing that Kelly's relationships and lifestyle preferences are "not a crime."

Kelly is facing nine charges including racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, bribery, kidnapping, forced labor and Mann Act Coercion and Enticement. A jury of seven men and five women will deliberate and deliver nine verdicts for the nine counts. Kelly is facing anywhere from ten years to life in prison, depending on the charges he is convicted of.