R Kelly pleads not guilty to sex trafficking, federal racketeering
New York - Singer R. Kelly has pleaded not guilty to federal racketeering and sex trafficking charges in a New York court on Friday.
He is accused of running a criminal scheme in which he recruited women and underage girls to have sex with him, isolating them and often controlling what they ate and when they went to the bathroom.
Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn say that Kelly and his entourage invited women and girls backstage after concerts, kept them from friends and family and made them dependent on him financially.
The R&B artist is scheduled to enter the plea at a 10:30 a.m. (1430 GMT) hearing before a federal magistrate to charges including racketeering and violations of a federal trafficking law.
Kelly's lawyer, Douglas Anton, said in a court filing on Wednesday that Kelly's fans were "dying to be with him" and that the charges amounted to "groupie remorse".
Gloria Allred, a lawyer representing three of Kelly's accusers, said Anton's filing had given prosecutors a preview of what Kelly's defense may be.
"If that’s all he’s got, I think he’s going to have major challenges in this case," Allred said.
Ahead of the scheduled hearing, a group of Kelly's supporters gathered in the courtroom hallway.
"The only thing I've got to say is, 'Free R. Kelly'," said Glenda, one of the supporters, who declined to give her last name. "We want justice."
Kelly, 52, known for such hits as “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Bump N’ Grind,” was arrested in Chicago last month on the Brooklyn charges and a separate set of charges brought by federal prosecutors in Chicago.
The charges were brought after seven women, including his ex-wife, appeared on a Lifetime television documentary which aired in January and accused him of emotional and sexual abuse.
The R&B singer has denied abuse allegations for decades. In 2008, he was tried on child pornography charges and found not guilty.
Chicago prosecutors said Kelly had sexual contact with five minors and recorded sexually explicit videos of some of them.
They also accused Kelly of obstructing justice by using threats and bribes, including payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars, to keep his victims quiet.
Kelly has pleaded not guilty to those charges. A judge in Chicago ordered that he remain jailed while he awaits trial.
In addition to the two federal cases, Kelly was charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse in a Cook County, Illinois, state court in February. The Cook County prosecutors have accused Kelly of abusing a victim between the ages of 13 and 16 between May 2009 and January 2010.
Kelly pleaded not guilty to the state charges. Kelly faces a maximum prison sentence of more than 200 years for all the charges pending against him.Reuters