R. Kelly convicted of sex trafficking and racketeering

R. Kelly was found guilty of all nine counts of sex trafficking and racketeering at his trial in New York on Monday. His sentencing hearing, however, will not take place until May 2022, where he faces up to life in prison. He is yet to face trial for other sexual-related offences in other states.

The prosecution that saw Kelly convicted this week was instituted after claims were made in a documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, that he abused and silenced his victims with the assistance of his staff. The singer was arrested not long after its release.

Kelly preyed upon predominantly black women, men, and children, with the late singer, Aaliyah, among those he abused. Kelly had previously obtained a fake ID for the singer so that he could marry her when she was 15, which prosecutors said was arranged to prevent her from testifying against him at the time. The “marriage” was later annulled.

The court heard testimonies from the 11 complainants, with one stating how they contracted herpes after being abused by Kelly from the age of 17, “This man purposely gave me something he knew he had”. She also told how – along with being sexually abused with the incidents videoed – she was physically abused by the disgraced star, who once beat her with a shoe.

Another victim, aged 16, was told to lie about her age when she confessed her true age to Kelly, and she was sexually, physically and emotionally abused by him. She was subjected to Kelly’s “rules”, which the trial heard included requiring his permission to carry out activities such as eating, using the toilet, calling him “Daddy”, and not being allowed to look at other men. Maria Cruz Melendez, prosecuting, stated that Kelly “demanded absolute obedience” from his victims, and “dominated and controlled them, physically, sexually and psychologically”.

Where the “rules” were broken, victims were subjected to punishments including violent beatings. The court heard Kelly further blackmailed his victims with footage he had taken of them. Some of the footage depicted his victims engaging in extremely degrading sexual acts upon Kelly’s orders.

One victim told how Kelly likened himself to Jerry Lee Lewis, who married his 13 year old cousin, proclaiming, “I’m a genius. We should be able to do what we want”.

Another described how Kelly raped and drugged her and how she had gone into hiding since due to threats made to her safety.

Whilst eight of the nine counts relate to sex trafficking, prosecutors also pursued a charge of racketeering against Kelly, a charge normally reserved for those involved in organised crime. The jury found that Kelly lured his victims into a coercive scheme in order to sexually abuse them. His managers, bodyguards and other staff were further implicated in the racketeering, with two of his former associates having already pleaded guilty to charges relating to silencing victims.

One of the lawyers for several of Kelly’s victims, Gloria Alldred, went on record to say, “I’ve pursued many sexual predators who have committed crimes against women and children. Of all the predators that I have pursued, Mr Kelly is the worst”.

Monday’s outcome was long awaited by Kelly’s victims, some of whom had been waiting for justice for many decades.

Written by Amanda Munro at BLM amanda.munro@blmlaw.com

New York Attorney General sues Buffalo Diocese for ‘sex abuse cover-up’

On Monday 23 November 2020 the Attorney General of the US state of New York, Letita James, announced on Twitter that she had filed a lawsuit against Buffalo Catholic Diocese alleging its leaders had engaged in a cover-up of sexual abuse by priests in contravention of church policy and in violation of state law.

The lawsuit is the first state legal action against the Catholic Church in New York that is borne out of a recent wave of abuse investigations which began in 2018. It is the culmination of just one of the eight inquiries still ongoing with respect to each Catholic diocese in the state. The remaining seven inquiries could result in further legal actions.

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New York State considering state-operated fund for child sexual abuse victims and survivors

New legislation has been proposed which, if enacted, could pave the way for a state-operated fund in the state of New York. It is anticipated that the fund would be used by victims and survivors pursuing child abuse claims, as well as non-profit organisations that help survivors in doing so.

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New York State expecting thousands of abuse claims

The State of New York’s Child Victims Act comes into force on 14 August. Thousands of claims are expected.

The commencement  of the Child Victims Act in New York State, will open a one-year window for victims (using the terminology of the legislation), starting on the 14 August 2019,  of any age to pursue a claim for damages against their alleged abusers. The claim does not have to be settled within the one-year window, but must be filed at Court during that time.

Previously time-barred claims can also be revived, if filed within the one year window.

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