Arts & Entertainments

R. Kelly lawyer compares him to Martin Luther King


R. Kelly’s lawyer has compared him to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr in the closing argument of the singer’s sex-trafficking trial.

Deveraux Cannick said both men held the government to account and he urged jurors to be courageous.

The singer, 54, denies all charges against him in the federal case, reports the BBC.

The prosecution ended its argument with a simple message: “Convict him”, after saying he should pay for the “pain he inflicted on each of his victims”.

R. Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is accused of grooming and sexually abusing women and underage girls.

The charges include one count of racketeering and eight counts of illegally transporting people across state lines for the purpose of sex.

Over the past five weeks, the jury in Brooklyn, New York, has heard from a number of men and women who said the star stripped them of control, enforcing draconian rules over when they could eat, sleep and go to the bathroom, and pressured them into sexual acts, which he would often videotape.

Prosecutors have portrayed him as a predator who exploited his fame to attract fans into his circle, where he would demand strict obedience or else punish them.

“For decades, the defendant recruited and groomed women, girls and boys for his own sexual gratification,” Elizabeth Geddes, a lawyer for the prosecution, told the jury. “With the help of his inner circle, he slowly isolated his victims, set rules and exacted punishment.”

She continued: “It is time to hold the defendant responsible for the pain he inflicted on each of his victims. It is now time for the defendant to pay for his crimes. Convict him.”

Nine women and two men have appeared in court, saying R. Kelly sexually abused them.

The defence lawyer said R. Kelly was living a “playboy life” because his record label painted him as a sex symbol. “Where’s the crime in that?” said Cannick, dismissing alleged victims as groupies.

“You heard about a man who treated these women like gold,” Cannick added. “He bought them bags more expensive than cars.”

He invoked King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech: “Somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press.”

King upheld the Constitution to try to make the government “be true to what’s on paper”, he said, adding: “That’s all Robert is trying to do.”

On Wednesday, R. Kelly declined to testify in his own defence.

Court reporters said he was shaking his head during the prosecution’s final arguments.

The jury is expected to retire to consider its verdict later on Thursday.

If convicted, R. Kelly faces up to 15 years in prison.


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