R Kelly's fate in jury's hands in sex trafficking trial
After deliberating for nearly four hours, the jury still had not reached a verdict.
A jury considering whether R Kelly ran an illegal, decades-long racketeering scheme targeting women and underage girls for sex ended its first day of deliberations on Friday (Sep 24) without reaching a verdict on the R&B superstar.
The seven-man, five-woman jury in Brooklyn will resume deliberations on Monday, after spending more than three and a half hours behind closed doors on Friday.
Known for the 1996 Grammy-winning smash I Believe I Can Fly, the 54-year-old Kelly had been trailed by sexual abuse accusations for much of his career before being charged with nine criminal counts, including a broad racketeering charge.
Prosecutors have tried to portray Kelly as a short-tempered, violent predator who used his fame and charisma to draw women and underage girls into his orbit, where he would subject them to physical and sexual abuse, including unwanted intercourse.
Several accusers testified that Kelly sought complete control over his victims, including by demanding they abide by strict rules or else face punishment, and write "apology letters" designed to absolve him of blame.
Some of the alleged abuse took place at Kelly's studios, with the help of others in Kelly's entourage who turned a blind eye to the singer's misconduct, witnesses and prosecutors have said.
Kelly has pleaded not guilty. His lawyers have tried to portray his accusers as liars eager to cash in by denigrating the singer out of spite, because their relationships did not work out or Kelly was not a springboard for their careers.
After deliberations began, jurors asked to review several pieces of evidence.
This included testimony of a woman who said Kelly starved her of food and water while keeping her in a locked room for two days, and sexually assaulted her after letting her out.
Such testimony was at odds with the portrayal of Kelly that the singer's lawyer Deveraux Cannick offered in his closing argument.
Cannick said on Thursday that Kelly treated those around him "like gold", and the lawyer invoked civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr in urging jurors to summon the courage to treat Kelly fairly.
But in her rebuttal on Friday, before deliberations began, Assistant US Attorney Nadia Shihata rejected the defense suggestion that Kelly's accusers were "groupies" or "gold diggers."
She also said topping the music charts and travelling the world did not give Kelly a license to break the law.
"Throughout this trial you have seen how the defendant is basically a control freak," Shihata said. "The defendant is not the victim here."
The trial began on Aug 18. Kelly did not testify in his own defense, which is his right.
Even if he is acquitted, Kelly still faces federal charges in Chicago on child pornography and obstruction, and state charges in Illinois and Minnesota.
(Reporting by Tyler Clifford and Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Howard Goller and Daniel Wallis)