R. Kelly on trial in New York
The trial of the US R&B singer R. Kelly began at a court in Brooklyn, New York, on Wednesday.
The star is accused of racketeering, 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 were 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.
“This case is not about a celebrity who likes to party a lot.”
She described Kelly as “a man who used lies, manipulation, threats and physical abuse to dominate his victims and to avoid accountability for years”.
The Grammy-winning artist – wearing a grey suit, purple tie, and glasses – sat silently, his head down at times as the prosecution opened its case.
Melendez said Kelly’s celebrity status meant he “had his pick of young fans” and that he hoarded his victims “like objects” and used “every trick in the predator handbook”.
Melendez alleged the singer used bodyguards, drivers, lawyers, and accountants to cover up crimes.
She also alleged that he bribed his victims by photographing and filming them having sex and then threatening to release the tapes.
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 denies 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. (BBC)