What to know about R. Kelly’s trial for sex trafficking and racketeering charges as it draws to a close

The singer was arrested in 2019, and was convicted of sexual abuse in federal trials in Chicago and New York. Author Jim DeRogatis explains the cases. (Video: Monica Rodman, Sarah Hashemi/The Washington Post)

The federal trial of R. Kelly is drawing to a close after roughly five weeks of testimony from 50 witnesses — 45 called on by prosecutors, five by the defense. The disgraced R&B singer, 54, is facing sex trafficking and racketeering charges in New York. If convicted, he is looking at potentially decades in prison.

The prosecution witnesses, who ranged from Kelly’s live-in girlfriends to his former employees, for the most part presented and/or supported claims of Kelly physically and sexually abusing women and underage girls over the past three decades. They described a system that allowed him to use his fame and professional sway to control the alleged victims, many of whom were aspiring artists. Witnesses called on by the defense denied having seen any wrongdoing by Kelly in testimonies that, in multiple cases, seemed to unravel as prosecutors cross-examined them.

In addition to the New York charges, Kelly faces numerous counts of sexual assault and abuse in Illinois. Both sets of legal proceedings were sparked by two decades’ worth of sexual misconduct allegations against Kelly, who was previously acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008.

Here’s what to know about the case.