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R Kelly sex trafficking trial begins with opening statements

R Kelly has been labelled a “predator” on the opening day of his trial by federal prosecutor Maria Cruz Melendez as the rapper faces sexual abuse charges.

Six women are accusing Kelly, and three of them were allegedly underage when the claimed incidents took place. All of the women allege physical, sexual and psychological abuse against the rapper.

The 54-year-old has pled not guilty to all of the nine charges in this case and claims no wrongdoing. He faces one charge of racketeering and eight violations of the Mann Act, which criminalises the transportation of any woman or girl across state lines for immoral purposes, including illegal sexual activity.

Melendez told the Brooklyn court in her opening statement, “This case is about a predator.”

Per The Guardian, the prosecutor accused Kelly of “committing a pattern of multiple crimes as a leader of an enterprise consisting of close employees, including managers, bodyguards, personal assistants and runners who helped Kelly recruit women and girls allegedly for sexual relations”.

He is alleged of bribery, sexual exploitation, producing child abuse images, illegal coercion and enticement.

She elsewhere claimed that R Kelly’s rise to fame in the ’90s “brought him access – access to girls, boys and young women,” and he “quickly learned he could take advantage of this access”.

Jerhonda Pace is one of the six primary accusers, and she answered questions from the prosecution regarding her relationship with Kelly when she was 16.

She revealed that she was a fan of his music, and Pace even attended his 2008 child sex abuse images trial in Chicago. Pace handed her contact details to Kelly’s team, and she was then invited to a party at Kelly’s house in May 2009, where she first met Kelly.

They proceeded to exchange numbers, and the duo had sex several times over six months. Although Pace admitted in the courtroom that she initially told Kelly she was 19, and when she told him she was 16, he told her to lie about her age and said, “What is that supposed to mean?”

On one occasion, Pace said she broke his ‘rules’ and told the court, “That’s when he slapped me, and he choked me until I passed out,” she said. “When I woke up, I was on the floor.”

The trial continues.

(Credit: CPD)