R Kelly "a predator," who used fame for "access to girls, boys and young women," says prosecutor 1 month ago

R Kelly "a predator," who used fame for "access to girls, boys and young women," says prosecutor

This story includes mentions of child sex abuse. 

"He asked me to continue to tell everyone I was 19 and act like I was 21."

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R. Kelly has been accused of being "a predator," who used fame for "access to girls, boys and young women."

Prosecutor Assistant US Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez made the claims during her opening statements yesterday as the trial of the R&B singer began in New York.

Kelly, real name Robert Sylvester Kelly, has been accused of sexual assault, grooming, and rape by multiple women, some who were underage at the time of the alleged offences.

Jerhonda Pace was the first woman to testify against Kelly yesterday, alleging that she was 16-years-old the first time she was abused by the singer.

She claimed that Kelly was aware of her age when he later "slapped me and choked me until I passed out." Pace also said that Kelly said he wanted to "train her" sexually when she told him she was a virgin and that he told her to call him "Daddy."

"He asked me to continue to tell everyone I was 19 and act like I was 21," she said.

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Kelly in Illinois in 2019

Pace was one of many women who appeared in the 2019 documentary, Surviving R Kelly. The film detailed the years of alleged abuses and exploitation that women and girls had endured at the hands of the singer, who has denied all charges against him.

In her opening statement, Attorney Cruz Melendez described the singer as "a man who used lies, manipulation, threats and physical abuse to dominate his victims and to avoid accountability for years."

She said that Kelly used his success to gain "access to girls, boys and young women." She said: "This case is not about a celebrity who likes to party a lot. This case is about a predator."

54-year-old Kelly has spent the last two years awaiting trial in federal facilities in Illinois and New York after his 2019 arrest.

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The trial in New York is expected to last between six and eight weeks.