R Kelly: Here’s what you need to know about his sex trafficking trial

R&B singer R Kelly has been dodging sexual abuse allegations from multiple women for nearly three decades, but now he is being tried on federal racketeering charges.

R Kelly Trial
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R Kelly Trial

Robert Sylvester Kelly, famously known as R Kelly, will finally be stepping into criminal court to face the charges that were laid on him in July 2019. The New York Times reported that his trial had been delayed by two years because of the pandemic and schedule conflicts as he had cases in other states as well.

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The trial is set to begin with opening statements on 18 August in Brooklyn, New York.

His charges

Kelly is currently facing over 20 criminal charges, but the trial in New York is set to focus on one charge of racketeering based on sexual exploitation of children, kidnapping, bribery, and forced labour. Along with an additional eight counts of violating the Mann Act—which prohibits transporting individuals across state lines for prostitution.

The singer hasn’t pleaded guilty for any of the charges, but if found guilty he could be looking at at least 25 years for racketeering, and 10 years for violating the Mann Act. He is also facing sex-related charges in other states which could add to his sentence.


According to The Guardian, prosecutors will be bringing in multiple women and former associates who will give their account of Kelly's illegal activities. Their testimonies will focus on how Kelly and his entourage—from his managers to bodyguards, and employees—recruited women, young girls, and boys for sexual exploitation.

Prosecutors are also planning to discuss R Kelly’s marriage with Aaliyah, who was 15 at the time, and how he forged documents to show that she was 18.

The trial

Last Wednesday, an anonymous jury made up of seven men and five women were sworn in to hear the case and the trial is expected to last a month. While it will not be televised, the press and public will be allowed to observe from overflow rooms in the courthouse.

After the trial concludes, Kelly will still be tried for several other charges across the United States, including federal and sex crime charges in Chicago, which include child pornography, sex with minors, and interstate trafficking. He is also going to face sex crime charges in Illinois and Minnesota.

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