R. Kelly Guilty, Skip The 'Allegedly' From Now On
Yesterday, after nine hours of deliberation, singer R. Kelly was found guilty on nine counts — one count of racketeering and eight counts of sex trafficking. While he won't be sentenced until May, it is entirely likely that he will go to prison for decades. Possibly even longer than he has been raping and sexually abusing underage women.
Via New York Times:
The prosecution called 45 witnesses during the trial, but the criminal charges against the singer hinged on accusations related to six women, five of whom testified (the sixth, the singer Aaliyah, died in a plane crash in 2001).
Four additional women and two men also took the stand as accusers. And though none of their claims were included in the indictment, they helped bolster the government's arguments, often telling jurors that their encounters with the singer were marred by sexual, physical or emotional abuse from him.
Throughout the proceedings, the result of Mr. Kelly's only other criminal trial, in 2008, stood in mind for many observers. Prosecutors in Chicago had argued that a videotape showed him having sex with and urinating on an underage girl. But he was acquitted of all 14 counts against him after the girl at the center of the case declined to testify.
It's hard to call this a victory when it was just allowed to go on for so long, with it just being common knowledge the way it was. I didn't grow up in Chicago, I didn't move there until the aughts but even then it was such common knowledge that this was just what he did. I know so, so many Black women my age and younger who have stories of him hitting on them when they were in middle school and high school, on their friends, hanging around where young girls were, that it just seems like it should have been impossible for this to go on as long as it did, impossible for it to just get increasingly worse.
People knew this was happening and they either protected him or ignored it. Never mind that he wasn't arrested or convicted decades ago — he was still allowed to have the power, protection and prestige he needed in order to keep doing what he was doing, in order to feel like he could go on doing it forever. Because people cared more about him, for a very long time, than they cared about those girls. This was not a situation where it was really a mystery, where there was a question, where reasonable people could disagree. The man literally married a 15-year-old.
As satisfying as it may be for many people that R. Kelly is now going to prison, probably for the rest of his life, the fact that he was able to do this for almost three decades is proof that incarceration and the threat of incarceration is not the end all, be all solid defense against sexual assault that people would like to believe it is. Especially considering all of the sexual assault that goes on in prisons. It's that it isn't easy enough to send people to prison, because it actually should be very difficult to send people to prison. We send a lot of innocent people to prison in this country, so that's not really our problem. There needs to be more support for victims and more going into preventing people from becoming victims in the first place.
Things are changing and that's good — there were far fewer people in R. Kelly's corner at the end of this trial than there were at the first. And the reason for that, a big reason, is that people finally started listening. Hopefully we can keep listening, and keep trying to do better.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse