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The star is accused of sexual abuse and bribery; charges which he has repeatedly denied. Some of the allegations made against the singer – whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly – date back more than 20 years. If he is convicted on all counts he could be sentenced to several decades in prison. Opening statements are being delivered to a jury of seven men and five women, who will decide the 54-year-old singer’s fate.

Kelly faces charges that he was the ringleader of a two-decade scheme where he recruited women and underage girls for sex. “This case is about a predator,” Assistant US Attorney Maria Melendez said in her opening statement. She described Kelly as “a man who used lies, manipulation, threats and physical abuse to dominate his victims and to avoid accountability for years”.

Kelly is accused of requiring victims to demonstrate “absolute commitment” and obey strict rules, including that they eat or go to the bathroom only with his permission, not look at other men, and call him “Daddy. “He has pleaded not guilty and strongly denied any wrongdoing. The trial, delayed several times by the pandemic and predicted to last about one month, is expected to include details about Kelly’s alleged abuses, including testimony from some female accusers and at least one male accuser.

Even if he is acquitted, Kelly still faces sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota, where he has also pleaded not guilty. Kelly has been in jail for the last two years. He was moved in June to Brooklyn from Chicago for the trial. The singer is best known for hits including Ignition (Remix), I Believe I Can Fly, Bump n’ Grind and If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time.

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