Live

Watch CBSN Live

R. Kelly's criminal case gets underway in NYC as some accusers plan to testify

Robert Kelly, better known as R. Kelly, will be in a New York City courtroom Wednesday morning, as opening statements begin in the trial in one of the federal cases against him. The R&B star faces racketeering and other charges for an alleged plot involving illegal sexual activity with women and underage teens. For some, this trial is years in the making.

Kelly rose to fame with his hits like "I Believe I Can Fly," "Ignition," and "Step In the Name of Love." He won three Grammys just a few years after he married then 15-year-old singer Aaliyah. At the time of their marriage, he was 27 years old.

Then in 2002, Kelly was charged with making a sex tape with a 14-year-old. A jury found him not guilty six years later, and he continued to make more music and more money.

But that wasn't the end of Kelly's legal troubles as more women would accuse him of abuse, including former radio DJ Kitti Jones. She says Kelly physically, emotionally, and sexually abused her when they dated in 2011.

"Was there a part of you that was afraid to say something?" CBS News' Jericka Duncan asked.

"That's a part of it. I didn't fit the profile, people that knew me knew that I would never have been in a situation like that because I had so much going for me," Jones responded.

Jones was among a handful of women who described life under Kelly's control in the 2019 docuseries "Surviving R. Kelly."

"Being on punishment could be, either you're not getting food, or you took a beating," Jones recalled in the docuseries.

In March 2019, "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King sat down with Kelly. In the interview, Kelly denied that he has broken any laws against women.

"Have you done anything you regret? Have you done anything wrong?" King asked.

"Lots of things wrong when it comes to women that I apologize, but I apologize in those relationships at the time that I was in the relationship, OK," Kelly replied. 

"Have you broken any laws when it comes to women?" King asked.

"Absolutely not," Kelly said.

Four months after that interview, Kelly was arrested for federal sex crimes in Chicago and New York. In July, the 54-year-old was transferred to Brooklyn. That's where he'll stand trial for allegedly running a criminal enterprise for two decades, involving sex trafficking of women and underage girls.

Kelly's legal team told CBS News the "enterprise is based on a series of independent relationships and events that the government is trying to patch together like different types of fabrics and trying to pass it off as silk."

Attorney Steve Greenberg has represented Kelly since 2018. He left the defense team in New York last month over disagreements with two other lawyers on the team, but he still represents Kelly in Illinois and Minnesota.

Greenberg told "CBS This Morning" that he expects Wednesday's opening statement will be detailed and that the defense will argue that some of the accusers are lying or exaggerating their claims.

"I think that some of the women are just out and out lying. I think that some of the women are exaggerating. I think that some of the women are perhaps telling the truth about what happened. But it's just not a crime," said Greenberg

He also said that the defense needs to get that across to the jurors that there's a difference between what's morally incorrect and what's legally correct.

Some of the women who have accused Kelly are expected to testify during the trial. For Jones, she says her focus remains on the survivors and hopes survivors are able to find peace throughout the process.

"My hope is just for everyone to get peace of mind finally, process their hurts," she said.

Kelly faces 10 years to life in prison in the New York case if convicted. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.