NEW YORK — A judge began instructing the jury at R. Kelly’s sex trafficking trial on the law Friday after it heard a prosecutor give a fiery rebuttal to the defense’s closing arguments, which portrayed him as a victim of false accusations.
Kelly “believed the music, the fame and the celebrity meant he could do whatever he wanted,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadia Shihata said in federal court in Brooklyn.
But, she added, “He’s not a genius, he’s a criminal. A predator.” She added that his alleged victims “aren’t groupies or gold diggers. They’re human beings.”
After Shihata finished, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly started her final instructions in anticipation jurors would get the case later in the day.
The 54-year-old Kelly, perhaps best known for the 1996 smash hit “I Believe I Can Fly, ” has pleaded not guilty to racketeering charges accusing him of abusing women, girls and boys for more than two decades.
He is also charged with multiple violations of the Mann Act, which makes it illegal to transport anyone across state lines “for any immoral purpose.”
Prosecutors say their evidence proves how Kelly, with the help of some loyal members of his entourage, used tactics from “the predator playbook” to sexually exploit his victims.
The tactics included isolating them in hotel rooms or his recording studio, subjecting them to degrading rules like making them call him “Daddy” and shooting video recordings — some seen by the jury at trial — of them having sex with him and others as a means to control them, prosecutors said.
In his closing, defense attorney Deveraux Cannick told the jury that testimony by several accusers was full of lies, and that “the government let them lie.”
Cannick argued there was no evidence Kelly’s accusers were never forced to do anything against their will. Instead, Cannick said, Kelly’s girlfriends stuck around because he spoiled them with free air travel, shopping sprees and fancy dinners — treatment that belied the predator label.
“He gave them a lavish lifestyle,” he said. “That’s not what a predator is supposed to do.”