Sept 27 (Reuters) – The late addition of a lawyer with experience handling high-profile clients wasn’t enough to help singer R. Kelly beat charges that he sexually abused women for decades.
Attorney Deveraux Cannick, who joined Kelly’s legal team just a few months before the long-awaited trial, argued in court that his accusers were former fans who became disgruntled after falling out of his favor, and that his sexual relationships were consensual. He made headlines for comparing Kelly to the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. read more
A federal jury in Brooklyn on Monday convicted Kelly of sex trafficking, after prosecutors spent nearly six weeks making the case that the singer used his fame to exploit women and have sex with underage girls.
Outside the courthouse Monday, Cannick told reporters that the defense team was “disappointed” by the outcome and would explore options for an appeal. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
In June, Kelly fired two of his lawyers amid internal tension on his legal team. During a hearing, former Kelly defense attorney Steve Greenberg said he clashed with two other members of the defense team, who “can’t deal with stress.”
Cannick made his first appearance in the Kelly case on June 22, according to court filings.
He is part of five-attorney firm Aiello & Cannick, based in Queens. According to the firm’s website, his clients have included Saikou Diallo, the father of Amadou Diallo, who was shot 41 times by New York City police officers in 1999. He helped secure the state’s largest wrongful death settlement at the time.
Cannick, who early in his career worked in the Bronx County District Attorney’s office, specializes in criminal defense and civil rights cases. In 2019, he defended a man accused of kidnapping Chicago rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine, who Cannick claimed staged his own abduction in order to generate publicity. Cannick’s client was found guilty and sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Reporting by Karen Sloan; Editing by David Bario, Noeleen Walder and Aurora Ellis
The Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth
Kristin Henning Pantheon: 521 pages, $30
If you buy books linked on our site, The Times may earn a commission from Bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookstores.
Kristin Henning used to think that the aggressive presence of heavily armed police in American schools was a reaction to the epidemic of school shootings. The timing was right: There were 9,400 “school resource officers” nationally in 1997, before Columbine; by 2016 there were at least 27,000.
But Henning, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., who has represented Black youth for a quarter-century, also knew cops tended to target and physically mistreat students of color; whatever profiling was going on, it had little to do with the demographics of school shooters. So she dug deeper and found a much earlier accelerator of police presence: integration.
“As we think about reform we need to understand the past,” Henning says. “We have to think hard about how we got here.”
Henning’s new book, “The Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth,” blends history, data, anecdotes and adolescent brain science to lay out the case that when it comes to school policing, we have it exactly backward.
“The average person isn’t even cognizant of the implicit ways in which Black children are treated differently and criminalized,” she says. When a child is singled out this way, it can often become self-fulfilling: “It’s human nature to feel rejected and it starts a vicious cycle where you’ll distrust authority.” The result, she says, is “empirically supported by facts”: Overpolicing leads to an increase in crime.
Walter Mosley, Luis Rodriguez, the coiner of #BlackLivesMatter and others sketch a hopeful future for L.A. and the U.S. after George Floyd protests.
Even so, she argues that most criminal charges against Black youth are trumped up. “The vast majority — 80 percent or more — of crimes committed by children are non-serious crimes,” she says. “We could reduce law enforcement engagement with young people by 80 percent and we would all be fine, but people don’t believe that.”
Henning, who leads workshops for prosecutors, judges, defenders and others around racial justice and the legal system, spoke with The Times about the worst of the outrages and the glimmers of hope.
Do you find it surprising that you still must explain your humanity to your fellow Americans?
I am still shocked and outraged that people do not accept what is unequivocally true, which is that Black children are children too. We know more about the adolescent brain and adolescent psychology than ever before, yet we still don’t change. Adolescents all over the world engage in the same impulsive, peer-influenced, sensation-seeking behaviors that your own kids do and that you did as a kid. Yet we still see racial disparities in the ways we respond to normal behavior by Black children.
Was writing the book an upsetting experience?
On my computer are files going back for years, a collection of cases that were ridiculous, so it’s been in my heart and my gut for a long time. But then I forced myself to watch documentaries and interviews with mothers and fathers who have lost Black children, Trayvon Martin’s family, Tamir Rice’s, Mike Brown’s. Reliving those stories was so painful, I would have nightmares while writing; I was much more emotional than I ever thought I’d be.
Why is it important to understand the way puberty has started earlier for poor children, especially Black and brown children?
It’s about getting people to see a young person in that face as opposed to physical features of breasts or height or weight. There’s an intersection between the racial bias and adultification — you almost now have an excuse not to see them as children. Tamir Rice was big, but he was a child.
You spent a lot of time on the less extreme cases — and the lasting trauma of being constantly frisked or arrested.
The trauma portion was essential to include; the research on the impact of trauma on people of color but especially adolescents was mind-boggling. I see it when I talk to young people, but when you tie the research to it you see how it’s a much larger issue. There’s body camera footage from the police where officers walk into a neighborhood and four or five Black and brown kids will just lift their shirts to expose their waistband [to show they have no gun] without even being asked. That’s a state of trauma and that’s not known at all.
Salaam, one of the five convicted in 1989 for a crime they didn’t commit, collaborated with author Ibi Zoboi on the verse novel “Punching the Air.”
People are probably more aware of street harassment, but you devote a lot of time to the dangers of implicit bias deep inside schools.
School is supposed to be a safe space. Studies show it is even more embarrassing to get stopped by police in school than on the street, and it builds distrust of authority. The school system has become an extension of the criminal legal system. Principals become the wardens; teachers become the guards.
The strongest resistance to change comes from police unions. Does that frustrate you?
They’re the ones resistant to reform. It’s critically important in dealing with adolescents to reduce swagger. I’d want to ask officers, “How are you in an ego battle with a 13- year-old?” Kids haven’t yet learned to express themselves and sometimes they don’t even know what they’re feeling. We have to get officers to remember what they were like as teenager and say, “You’re the adult and you need to act like one.”
But you make the point that many officers don’t see them as children.
Part of my goal is to shift the narrative, to help people break that blind spot of bias, but it’s going to take work. I wish we could change minds and attitudes but sometimes you have to change the techniques first. Create minimal standards or requirements — like no use of force on adolescents, no weapons for officers in schools or on playgrounds. With ideas like that you can gradually better relationships.
Are there any signs of progress?
In 2000, the Supreme Court case of Illinois vs. Wardlow said that flight from the police is appropriately interpreted as consciousness of guilt. So if a teen has been stopped before or is just nervous and he runs, then the police has the right to presume them guilty of a crime. But since 2015, a number of state high courts have been slowly rolling back that decision.
The problems cannot be solved entirely by the law, but this is important. What seems like tinkering around the edges is opening the door to incredibly important conversations about the meaning of race and trauma in the law. If we have a law that prohibits police officers from asking a child to lift their shirt or to consent to a frisk, that might be one less child in the system. The cumulative effects of those little pieces have major impacts.
Advocates of police reform are upset about the delays in removing the LAPD from traffic enforcement. They fear their cause may lose steam.
Are you hopeful because of the changes you see or despairing because so many still need to be made?
I can’t let myself despair too much or the work becomes overwhelming. We have to work on saving one kid at a time, changing one state at a time, one law at a time. Keep your eye on the daily prize and hope that in the end it gets us closer to where we need to be. I don’t think in my lifetime I’ll see the kind of change we really need, but I think I will see the moral arc bending toward justice.
Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Peter C. Fitzhugh, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Office of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), and Marty Raybon, Acting Director, Field Operations, New York, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”), announced the filing of criminal and civil charges against GEORGE ILOULIAN, a/k/a “George Illulian,” the CEO of an apparel company located in New York, New York. ILOULIAN was charged, in an indictment unsealed yesterday, with participating in a years-long scheme to defraud CBP by submitting invoices to CBP that falsely understated the true value of the goods his company imported into the United States, thereby evading the obligation to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in customs duties.
ILOULIAN was arrested yesterday and presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge James L. Cott in Manhattan federal court. The criminal case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe. In addition, a civil fraud lawsuit against ILOULIAN and his company, DELTA UNIFORMS, INC. (“DELTA”), which is also assigned to Judge Gardephe, was unsealed in Manhattan federal court earlier today. The civil complaint asserts that ILOULIAN and DELTA violated the False Claims Act by misrepresenting the true value and nature of the goods they imported into the United States on entry documents submitted to CBP. The conduct in this matter was first brought to the attention of federal law enforcement by a whistleblower who filed a lawsuit under the False Claims Act.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “As alleged, George Iloulian cheated the United States out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by causing false documents that misrepresented the value of imported goods to be submitted to CBP to avoid paying lawfully owed customs duties. Iloulian now faces criminal charges for his alleged fraud, and the government’s civil suit seeks treble damages and penalties against Iloulian and his company.”
HSI Special Agent in Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh said: “Iloulian allegedly evaded the obligation to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in customs duties using a double-invoicing scheme, essentially creating two invoices, one for payment and one for customs. HSI New York and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will continue to partner in protecting U.S. trade from perpetrators who intentionally defraud the U.S. government for a profit.”
CBP Acting Director of New York Field Operations Marty Raybon said: “U.S. Customs and Border Protection is proud to have played an important role to this ongoing investigation that resulted in the takedown of an elaborate conspiracy to defraud the United States of hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue. This case serves as a great example of collaborative law enforcement efforts to uncover and dismantle nefarious enterprises that seek to defraud the United States government for personal gain while causing economic harm to their competitors.”
According to the allegations in the Government’s indictment and civil complaint:
From at least in or about 2010 through at least in or about 2020, ILOULIAN, and others known and unknown, including individuals associated with overseas manufacturers, conspired to submit fraudulent invoices to CBP that understated the value of apparel imported into the United States, thereby depriving the United States of hundreds of thousands of dollars in customs duty revenue. ILOULIAN and his co-conspirators achieved lower customs duties on imported goods in two ways: (i) a “double-invoicing scheme,” and (ii) a “fabric-type scheme.”
To effect the double-invoicing scheme, which was perpetrated by ILOULIAN and his co-conspirators from at least in or about 2010 through at least in or about 2020, ILOULIAN utilized two invoices: One invoice, at times referred to by ILOULIAN and his co-conspirators as the “Actual Invoice” or the “For Payment” invoice, contained higher prices and reflected what DELTA actually paid overseas manufacturers for apparel. The second invoice, which they at times referred to as the “Customs Invoice” or “For Customs Declaration” invoice, contained false lower prices. The information in the Customs Invoice was submitted by DELTA, through a customs broker (the “Customs Broker”), to CBP. CBP relied on the information from the Customs Invoice in assessing and collecting customs duties from DELTA. Accordingly, by presenting the false Customs Invoices to CBP, DELTA was able to pay fraudulently lower customs duties than DELTA actually owed. In one version of the double-invoicing scheme, DELTA directed an overseas manufacturer to send to DELTA two sets of invoices for the same shipment of merchandise, the Actual Invoice and the Customs Invoice. In a second version of the double-invoicing scheme, the overseas manufacturer provided DELTA with only the Actual Invoice; a Customs Invoice was created by other means and provided by DELTA to the Customs Broker.
From at least in or about 2011 through at least in or about 2016, ILOULIAN and his co-conspirators also engaged in a fabric-type scheme. To effect the fabric-type scheme, DELTA directed an overseas manufacturer to misstate the composition of the fabric in the apparel in order to obtain a lower duty rate. Specifically, the invoice would indicate that the imported goods were predominantly made of cotton rather than from man-made fibers, even though the reverse was true. The falsified invoices were then presented to CBP, which allowed DELTA to pay lower customs duties than DELTA actually owed, because materials containing more cotton than man-made materials are subject to lower duty rates.
These multi-year fraud schemes resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in duty revenue to the United States.
* * *
ILOULIAN is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and one count of falsely effecting the entry of goods into the United States, which carries a maximum sentence of two years. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge. ILOULIAN and DELTA are also charged with civil claims under the False Claims Act, through which the Government may recover treble damages and civil penalties arising from his conduct.
Ms. Strauss thanked HSI, CBP, and the Special Agents of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for their efforts and ongoing support and assistance with the case.
The criminal case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kaylan E. Lasky is in charge of the prosecution.
The civil case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Frauds Unit, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Dominika Tarczynska is in charge of the matter.
The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
 As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the texts of the indictment and the civil complaint, and the descriptions of the indictment and civil complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.
Prominent Dallas lawyer and former DART board member Ray Jackson has agreed to plead guilty to a federal money laundering charge for trying to legitimize what he thought was drug money for narcotics traffickers, court records show.
Jackson, 51, of The Jackson Law Firm, was arrested in April following a sting operation.
The terms of his plea agreement call for him to serve five years in prison and to forfeit $20,000 in return for pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, court records show. The guilty plea does not become official until a judge approves it. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Wednesday in Dallas federal court.
Jackson initially faced up to 20 years in prison for each financial transaction. His attorney could not be reached Friday for comment.
A criminal defense lawyer, Jackson served on the Dallas Area Rapid Transit board from 2017 until earlier this year after being appointed to represent Dallas by the City Council. He declined to seek reappointment to the DART board following his arrest, an agency official said.
The federal case against Jackson began when a business associate and former client of his sold drugs to an undercover DEA agent.
The associate, known in court records as “Person A,” ran an opioid trafficking operation. When the agent asked about someone who could launder about half a million dollars’ worth of drug proceeds, the dealer recommended Jackson.
“Person A vouched for Jackson’s trustworthiness,” court records show.
The dealer told the DEA agent: “He’s gonna clean it. He’s gonna wash it,” records show.
The dealer then took the undercover agent to Jackson’s law office on Pacific Avenue in Dallas in September 2020, authorities said. During the meeting, the agent told Jackson he needed to launder about “half a mil a month,” according to a federal complaint.
Jackson said he would use his law practice bank accounts to launder cash from the drug sales and return it to the dealer using multiple wire transfers.
A DEA complaint described the following alleged exchange:
“It’s straight dope money,” the undercover agent said.
“I don’t care where the money comes from,” Jackson said.
The two negotiated a 5% fee for Jackson for his services regarding the drug money, prosecutors allege.
“Mr. Jackson suggested setting up a ‘shell corporation,’ as well as a cash business like a coin laundry or car wash that would make it difficult for authorities to track proceeds,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Jackson said he could have everything ready in two to four weeks, and he agreed to a $100,000 “trial run” with the promise of more business, the DEA alleges.
“This dude has been leading us. We are successful because of him,” the dealer allegedly told the undercover agent after the meeting. “Ray is the bomb. … He’s a thug, he’s just got a law degree.”
The undercover agent in September returned to Jackson’s office to give him $100,000 in cash that he said had come from drug dealing, according to the DEA.
“I can get out at any point, right? Long as y’all got your money?” Jackson allegedly asked.
The undercover agent told Jackson he could leave the scheme when he was ready, authorities said. Jackson warned him to “speak in code” when trying to reach him and said he would not communicate anything important in a text, according to the DEA.
“You take care of me and I am gonna take care of you,” Jackson allegedly told the undercover agent.
The undercover agent returned to Jackson’s office in late November to give him an additional $300,000 in reported drug proceeds, the federal complaint says. Jackson asked if he’d taken steps to make sure the money didn’t smell like drugs, according to the DEA. The agent told Jackson he had.
A Jackson Law Firm bank account made multiple deposits, each less than $50,000, and Jackson kept his agreed-upon percentage of the money as his fee, authorities said.
Jackson received his law degree in 1996 from Texas Southern University, and he obtained his Texas law license the same year, according to state bar records.
He has received six disciplinary actions since 2009, including reprimands and suspensions, according to public records. In the most recent case, the State Bar of Texas issued him a 12-month probationary suspension that began Aug. 1 related to his dealings with a client in a criminal case, records show.
R. Kelly’s long-awaited federal trial in New York is barreling toward its ultimate conclusion, after one of the singer’s defense lawyers said in his closing statement on Thursday that the accusations at the center of the racketeering and sex-trafficking trial were fabricated.
The jury was expected to receive the case on Friday, after a final rebuttal from a federal prosecutor.
The trial is widely viewed as a significant milestone in the MeToo movement: It is the first high-profile trial in which a powerful man’s accusers are largely Black women. And over six weeks, 50 witnesses took the stand, some of whom had never spoken publicly about their accusations before. Their testimony served to portray Mr. Kelly as the ringleader of a criminal scheme to recruit women and girls for sex.
Even after a verdict is reached in Mr. Kelly’s case, he will remain in deep legal jeopardy. The attention will shift to Chicago, where he will face his third criminal trial on child pornography and obstruction charges, and he faces additional state charges in Minnesota and Illinois.
During his summation on Thursday, Mr. Kelly’s lead lawyer, Deveraux Cannick, argued that the singer’s behavior was not out of the ordinary.
Mr. Kelly was an international R&B superstar who enjoyed his sex life, the defense lawyer said. “So he became a sex symbol, he became a playboy. Where’s the crime in that?” he asked jurors. “Some people just like kinky sex — not a crime.”
And while Mr. Kelly is charged with inducing women and girls to travel across state lines for the purpose of committing sex crimes, Mr. Cannick said the accusations were absurd. “They are in relationships,” he said. “This is just like you taking your girlfriend, your wife, your husband on business.”
He offered jurors a simple message to consider during their deliberations: “They might not be the couple, the type of relationship that you endorse, but they all bought into it and they’re all consenting adults,” he said.
In the government’s rebuttal, Nadia Shihata, an assistant U.S. attorney, suggested that some of Mr. Cannick’s arguments, including that the women around Mr. Kelly had dressed scantily when they met or visited him, were out of touch.
“It’s as if we took a time machine and went back to a courthouse in the 1950s,” she told jurors. “What they’re basically insinuating is that all of these women and girls were asking for it and they deserved what they got.”
After the closing arguments, U.S. District Judge Ann M. Donnelly will instruct the jury in how they are to deliberate on the nine counts Mr. Kelly is charged with — one racketeering count and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, an anti-sex-trafficking statute.
Not much is known about the seven men and five women on the panel, who have not been identified, but several said during jury selection they knew little about the singer or his career. Their identities have remained anonymous to both federal prosecutors and defense lawyers throughout the trial.
As R. Kelly’s lawyer, Deveraux Cannick, continued his closing argument Thursday afternoon, he attacked the credibility of his client’s accusers, describing them as opportunists, liars, and obsessive fans.
One witness fabricated her account of rape and imprisonment, he argued. Another witness, in Mr. Cannick’s words, is “a stalker, and a groupie extraordinaire.” He said lawyers who represent the alleged victims were out to “monetize” the case, and the government was criminalizing relationships between “consenting adults.”
“A lot of people watched ‘Surviving R. Kelly,’” Mr. Cannick said, referring to a 2019 Lifetime documentary that brought increased attention to decades of accusations against Mr. Kelly. “And now a lot of people are surviving off of R. Kelly.”
Mr. Cannick joked that Gloria Allred, the lawyer who represented some of Mr. Kelly’s accusers, had been at the trial for days. “You think that was just a visit? To Brooklyn?”
Of allegations related to Mr. Kelly’s dealings with Aaliyah, the singer he married illegally when she was 15 years old, Mr. Cannick said: “Forget all of the fluff.”
The relevant allegation in Mr. Kelly’s trial does not relate to the marriage, nor the annulment, nor to concerns that Aaliyah was pregnant, he argued. The only relevant question, he argued, was whether Mr. Kelly tried to bribe an Illinois employee for a fake identification. “Robert knew nothing about it,” Mr. Cannick said, referring to Mr. Kelly.
One of Mr. Kelly’s accusers, Sonja, had testified that she was trapped in a room and assaulted by Mr. Kelly in her sleep when she traveled to his home to interview him for a radio program. But Mr. Cannick suggested that the accusations were far-fetched, because Mr. Kelly financed the trip.
“The kidnapper paid her way to get there? The kidnapper paid her way to come?” he asked. “I mean, come on.”
He said the room couldn’t be locked from the outside, and questioned her statement that she woke up in her nightgown with her underwear off. She never told “a single soul” that R. Kelly sexually assaulted her, Mr. Cannick said, “because it didn’t happen.”
Mr. Cannick dismissed another accuser, Jerhonda Pace, as “a stalker and a groupie extraordinaire,” who carried around a picture of Mr. Kelly that she had printed “off the internet.” He said her allegations that Mr. Kelly had slapped and choked her were not supported by the evidence.
Mr. Cannick repeatedly accused federal prosecutors of criminalizing legal activity like “kinky sex,” sex between people of different ages, and the use of romantic nicknames like “Daddy,” which accusers said Mr. Kelly forced them to call him.
“It’s almost a crime to call a man a ‘Daddy,’” Mr. Cannick said.
Emily Palmer contributed reporting.
Rebecca Davis O’Brien and
Deveraux Cannick, the defense lawyer delivering the closing argument at R. Kelly’s trial in Brooklyn on Thursday, joined Mr. Kelly’s legal team not long before the trial began.
Mr. Cannick, a trial attorney and a partner at Aiello & Cannick, a firm based in New York City that focuses on criminal defense, white-collar crime and civil rights law, defended a prominent gang member in a high-profile racketeering case against the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods in 2019.
In that case, rapper Tekashi 69, whose real name is Daniel Hernandez and who is a former member of Nine Trey, appeared as the government’s star witness, describing a criminal enterprise of “robberies, assaults, drugs” in testimony that in part helped lead to guilty verdicts against Mr. Cannick’s client and another co-defendant in the trial.
Mr. Cannick’s biography on his law firm’s website illustrates a career largely built on criminal defense and criminal law at the federal and state levels. Before co-founding his firm with two other lawyers, Mr. Cannick worked at the Bronx district attorney’s office for about seven years. He graduated from Fordham University and later from its law school.
In addition to giving the defense’s closing argument, Mr. Cannick has been the lead attorney cross-examining a majority of the prosecution’s 45 witnesses in the trial.
Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.
R. Kelly was the victim of extensive fabricated tales and embellished accounts of abuse, one of his defense lawyers said at the start of their closing arguments in Mr. Kelly’s racketeering and sex trafficking trial in New York.
The case is not about the accusations against one man, Mr. Kelly’s lawyer, Deveraux Cannick, told jurors, but about the historical balance between liberty and injustice in the United States, and the decisions that everyday people made to shift the balance to either side.
“This is a great country. Our constitution is most sacred,” Mr. Cannick said. “However, without people of good will, of a sense of fairness and courage, our constitution would be nothing but hollow words.”
He invoked Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the backlash he and other activists in the civil rights movement faced, suggesting that the jurors were facing a similar fight.
“See, unlike Dr. King and those who were like-minded, you don’t have to worry about atrocities. You just have to be courageous and fair,” he said, adding that a heroic and unflinching jury would clear Mr. Kelly of all the charges against him.
The reference to Dr. King came at the end of Mr. Kelly’s criminal trial in Brooklyn, after five weeks of testimony from nearly a dozen accusers who often said that the singer inflicted disturbing physical, sexual and emotional abuses on them during encounters that in many cases began while they were underage.
But Mr. Cannick sought to cast doubt on their veracity. He urged jurors to recall several instances in which the testimony of Mr. Kelly’s accusers broke from their prior interviews with the government.
“One of two things happened: Either they’re lying or the agents are incompetent,” Mr. Cannick said. “I’m going to side with the agents.”
And he suggested that the lengthy preparation of accusers before they took the stand, which he said spanned 50 or 60 hours at times, suggested that their accounts could not be true.
“You really don’t have to practice the truth,” he told jurors. “The truth will ring out and endure forever — if it’s the truth.”
Elizabeth Geddes, the assistant U.S. attorney delivering the closing statement at R. Kelly’s federal trial in Brooklyn this week, is an experienced prosecutor with a background in cases involving racketeering — the complex top charge that Mr. Kelly faces.
Ms. Geddes has worked in Brooklyn’s Eastern District for 15 years, where she currently heads the civil rights section of the office’s criminal division. During closing arguments this week, she has painstakingly worked her way through the underlying accusations against Mr. Kelly, seeking to convince jurors that he was at the center of a criminal enterprise that abused underage boys and girls, and women, for decades.
Ms. Geddes helped prosecute a large federal organized crime case in 2011, and the following year her case against the Colombo crime family led 38 defendants to plead guilty. Ms. Geddes later received the Bradford Award, bestowed to assistant U.S. attorneys for outstanding performance, based on “a variety of investigations and prosecutions resulting in the near complete dismantlement of the Colombo crime family.”
Racketeering charges are often used to prosecute organized crime, and in 2019 Ms. Geddes worked on a case that saw the indictment of another 20 defendants, including 11 Colombo crime family members and associates. That racketeering case involved accusations of extortion and loan-sharking.
Prosecutors finished their closing argument in R. Kelly’s racketeering trial at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, having laid out the case against him in painstaking detail over two days. The R&B singer’s defense lawyers were expected to deliver their closing arguments after a break.
The government’s closing began Wednesday, as an assistant U.S. attorney, Elizabeth Geddes, walked the jury through the charges against Mr. Kelly.
The racketeering count against him contains 14 individual acts, and Ms. Geddes went through each one, drawing on victim and witness testimony and cross-referencing their statements against phone records, travel records, and other evidence. It took Ms. Geddes six hours to finish her argument, a measure of the expansive breadth of the government’s case.
“For decades, the defendant recruited and groomed women, girls and boys for his own sexual gratification,” Ms. Geddes said. “With the help of his inner circle, he slowly isolated his victims, set rules and exacted punishment.”
She continued: “It is time to hold the defendant responsible for the pain he inflicted on each of his victims: Aaliyah, Stephanie, Sonja, Jerhonda, Jane and Faith. It is now time for the defendant to pay for his crimes. Convict him.”
Mr. Kelly has shown little emotion during the trial. But on Thursday, toward the end of Ms. Geddes’ closing — as she described in lurid detail the sex acts prosecutors say Mr. Kelly forced his victims to perform, and how he knowingly exposed them to herpes — Mr. Kelly could be seen on the courtroom video feed repeatedly shaking his head.
Rebecca Davis O’Brien and
Even as new accusers began to speak out against Mr. Kelly at the height of the MeToo movement, several women continued to stand alongside him.
But one who publicly defended Mr. Kelly in a widely viewed 2019 television interview has since joined the case against him. On Thursday, Elizabeth Geddes, an assistant U.S. attorney delivering the government’s closing argument at Mr. Kelly’s trial, told jurors that the woman’s earlier defense of Mr. Kelly demonstrated the dominance he held over her life.
“The defendant started to indoctrinate her when she was just 17,” Ms. Geddes said.
She said Mr. Kelly used several methods to control the woman, who testified under a pseudonym: physical abuse; threats of long term confinement; and brainwashing her into following his strict rules. Ms. Geddes recalled the woman’s testimony that she was underage and an aspiring singer when Mr. Kelly began sexually abusing her.
The woman’s testimony included some of the most graphic accounts of any accusers and lasted longer than any witness, including that she was once instructed to eat feces as discipline for not following his commands.
“The defendant’s way in his world is the right way — and the only way,” Ms. Geddes said.
She added that Mr. Kelly cut off the woman from other people in her personal life, telling her to delete social media and email accounts. “He was trying to isolate her and so many others,” Ms. Geddes said, “making it less likely that they would have the strength to walk away.”
The woman’s testimony is likely to be among the most crucial to the case’s outcome. Four counts of violations of the Mann Act, an anti-sex-trafficking law that the singer faces, center on her, and several of the underlying accusations in the racketeering charge also involve her.
But jurors will have to reconcile the woman’s disturbing testimony with the extensive cross-examination she faced from Mr. Kelly’s lawyers.
The singer’s defense team homed in on several discrepancies between her testimony and interviews she gave to federal officials beginning in January 2020, including that she named two different California cities as where she and the singer first had sexual intercourse.
The defense lawyers tried to cast her involvement with Mr. Kelly as an elaborate plot by her parents to lure the singer into sex with an underage girl and then blackmail and “exploit” him.
The trial of the R&B superstar R. Kelly has featured some 50 witnesses across more than a month of testimony — a blizzard of sordid and sometimes grotesque accusations and counterclaims.
For help making sense of it all, hundreds of thousands of viewers have turned to YouTube, where a host who posts videos as thePLAINESTjane offers near-daily recaps that sometimes stretch 90 minutes long and include the same images and documents seen in the courtroom.
“Come on in, have a seat on my bus,” the presenter said at the outset of one recent video, sitting next to a house plant, a collage featuring a courtroom sketch of Mr. Kelly superimposed over her shoulder. “I’m going to pick you up and give you the rundown.”
The channel is just one cog in an expansive online ecosystem that has grown around Mr. Kelly as the accusations against him gained intense public attention in recent years. Now, his criminal trial in Brooklyn is at the center of a swirling social media world centered in Black communities where fierce critics of Mr. Kelly squabble with steadfast supporters, digging into details from the courtroom.
Thousand-member Facebook groups dissect PDF transcriptions of each individual witness’s testimony; accounts on Instagram post updates on the court day against colorful backgrounds; TikTok users break down the legal underpinnings of the racketeering charge against Mr. Kelly.
The online interest in Mr. Kelly’s trial stands apart from earlier high-profile cases involving rich and famous men accused of sexual misconduct and underscores the unique racial and generational dynamics at the center of the case.
The singer’s smooth melodies and charismatic persona captivated many Black households from the mid-1990s to early 2000s. And the majority of Mr. Kelly’s accusers are Black women — many of whom were adolescents or young adults when they say Mr. Kelly abused them.
“R. Kelly had a particular talent to make songs that resonated with Black audiences,” said Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of Black popular culture at Duke University. “When you think about a song like ‘Step in the Name of Love,’ that’s something you were apt to hear at a 5-year-old’s birthday party and also a 50th wedding anniversary party.”
He added: “Many Black folks grew up in a context where R. Kelly was literally the soundtrack of their lives.”
R. Kelly inspired intense fear in many of his accusers, including a woman who said he abused her after she broke one of his strict rules, Elizabeth Geddes, an assistant U.S. attorney, told jurors during her closing arguments on Thursday.
Ms. Geddes revisited the testimony of the woman, Jerhonda Pace, who said Mr. Kelly physically and sexually assaulted her as a teenager after she once failed to acknowledge him when he entered a room.
“The defendant was livid,” Ms. Geddes said. “He attacked her. He slapped her. He choked her until she passed out.”
She added: “Jerhonda violated one of the defendant’s cardinal rules” — and “he reminded her of everything he was capable of doing.”
The descriptions came on the second day of Ms. Geddes’s closing arguments at the end of Mr. Kelly’s five-week trial in New York. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.
Ms. Pace had told jurors that Mr. Kelly forced her to perform a sex act on him, after spitting in her and directing her to bow her head “in shame.” Ms. Geddes said there was no possible way for jurors to determine her behavior was not coerced, and that Ms. Pace “understood exactly what would happen” if she broke Mr. Kelly’s instructions again.
Ms. Pace said Mr. Kelly had begun having sex with her in 2009, when she was 16. She said that she initially told him she was 19 and that when she revealed her true age, it did not lessen Mr. Kelly’s interest in her.
Mr. Kelly’s lawyers have tried to portray Ms. Pace as a jealous “superfan” who concocted lies about him as he lost interest in her. “You were, in fact, stalking him, weren’t you?” Deveraux L. Cannick, one of the singer’s lawyers, said during cross-examination.
Ms. Pace said she was not.
Ms. Geddes drew attention to Ms. Pace’s composure throughout her time on the stand — and the emotion that was evident when she described Mr. Kelly slapping and beating her — to argue her accounts were truthful.
“For the first time during all of her testimony, she choked up,” Ms. Geddes said. “She broke down because it was painful for her to relive what happened to her that day.”
R. Kelly was a predator who destroyed the lives of the people around him and capitalized on his fame to prey on underage girls and boys and on women, a federal prosector said on Wednesday, as Mr. Kelly’s long-awaited criminal trial in Brooklyn neared its conclusion.
The prosecution’s closing argument, delivered by Elizabeth Geddes, will continue Thursday as the government seeks to convince the jury that Mr. Kelly was not only sexually and physically abusive, but used an extensive system of control and a network of associates to entrap people for sex and keep them from speaking out or going public with their accusations.
Mr. Kelly, once one of the brightest stars in R&B music, “used lies, manipulation, threats and physical abuse to dominate his victims,” Ms. Geddes said, adding that his immense wealth and fame allowed him to “hide in plain sight.”
Ms. Geddes’s closing arguments on Wednesday spanned three hours and illustrated the expansive breadth of the prosecution’s case against the singer — and the steep challenge his defense team has faced in the trial.
Mr. Kelly faces one count of racketeering, a charge that is built around 14 underlying crimes that prosecutors say he committed as part of the criminal scheme he led for decades. But the charge itself only requires that two of those crimes be proven.
In addition to the racketeering charge, Mr. Kelly is accused of eight violations of the Mann Act, a law barring sex trafficking across state lines. Mr. Kelly, 54, has pleaded not guilty and has long denied the accusations against him.
Armed with a large blackboard that showed Mr. Kelly near the center, surrounded by a network of associates, Ms. Geddes said that the singer’s inner circle and employees “served as enablers for his criminal conduct.”
She portrayed the people behind the music business that propelled Mr. Kelly to multiplatinum international stardom as the same group that offered condoms to his visitors and concocted a plot to marry Mr. Kelly to the singer Aaliyah when she was 15 and he feared she was pregnant.
“When someone commits a crime as part of a group, he’s more powerful — more dangerous,” Ms. Geddes said. “Without his inner circle, the defendant could not have carried out the crimes he carried out for as long as he did.”
Mr. Kelly’s trial has been years in the making. Allegations of sexual misconduct trailed the singer for years, even at the peak of his stardom. After he was finally arrested in 2019, the pandemic delayed his trial for more than a year. During that time, some of the singer’s allies were accused of using arson, bribery and other intimidation tactics to silence potential witnesses.
During the first portion of her closing arguments, Ms. Geddes walked through allegations related to three of the six women at the center of the case. Many of Mr. Kelly’s accusers over the years have been aspiring singers, lured by his fame and the promise of career boosts, but then exploited by the superstar, she said.
They included one woman who worked at a radio station and testified that she was thrilled when she was offered the opportunity to interview Mr. Kelly. But Ms. Geddes revisited her accounts with jurors, recalling that she said she was imprisoned at his Chicago home and raped in her sleep.
“When she arrived in Chicago, it wasn’t at all like she imagined,” Ms. Geddes told jurors. “Her big break had turned into her nightmare.”
No matter the outcome of his federal trial in Brooklyn, R. Kelly still faces state and federal indictments in two other states, all stemming from what prosecutors describe as the R&B star’s sexual abuse of women and underage girls.
Federal prosecutors in Chicago hit Mr. Kelly in July 2019 with child pornography and obstruction charges. That trial has been pushed back several times because of the pandemic, and to allow Mr. Kelly’s Brooklyn trial to go first.
In February 2019, months before federal charges were announced, the Cook County state’s attorney indicted Mr. Kelly on aggravated criminal sexual abuse charges involving four victims, three of whom were underage at the time. Mr. Kelly has denied the allegations.
The state trial, a date for which has not been set, would be Mr. Kelly’s second criminal trial in Cook County — in 2008, he was acquitted on 14 counts of child pornography charges.
In Minnesota, Mr. Kelly was charged in August 2019 with engaging in prostitution with a minor. The following month, a Minneapolis judge issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Kelly after he failed to show up for a court hearing there. Prosecutors there said at the time that they weren’t likely to get access to Mr. Kelly until the Chicago charges were resolved, according to local news reports.
R. Kelly’s defense team rested its case Wednesday morning, but it remains unknown when a verdict might be reached in the singer’s long-awaited sex-trafficking and racketeering trial.
Closing arguments began Wednesday afternoon, starting with the prosecution team from the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, but it could be at least another day before the jury begins deliberations. Closing arguments in federal trials can run long; neither side has offered a ballpark estimate of how much time they need, but each could take hours, followed by rebuttals.
For prosecutors, closings are a chance to pull together weeks of witness testimony into a coherent narrative, and to argue that the evidence they have presented points in only one logical direction: guilt.
Mr. Kelly’s lawyers, in turn, will present their own narrative, revisiting apparent holes and inconsistencies in witness testimony, casting doubt on Mr. Kelly’s accusers’ motives, and trying to undermine the government’s case.
After the closings, U.S. District Judge Ann M. Donnelly will instruct the jury in how they are to deliberate on the nine counts Mr. Kelly is charged with — one racketeering count and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, an anti-sex trafficking statute.
Jury instructions may seem dry, but the judge’s words to the jury as she gives them the case are important, and they are often carefully litigated. For example, in recent days, R. Kelly’s lawyers and federal prosecutors have gone back and forth in court filings about how they would like Judge Donnelly to explain the nuances of the racketeering charge, and possible defenses to claims of Mr. Kelly’s abuse of underage girls.
Judge Donnelly has said she expects the jury to have the case by the end of the week.
After that, it is anybody’s guess. Old courthouse “wisdom” sometimes holds that long trials lead to long jury deliberations, but in at least one recent case in Brooklyn federal court, that did not happen: The 2019 racketeering and sex-trafficking trial of Keith Raniere, founder of the Nxivm sex cult, lasted six weeks — and the jury found him guilty in less than a day.
Courthouse gadflies also like to say that the longer deliberations stretch out, the better the outlook for defendants.
After a five-week trial that included searing accusations of physical, sexual and emotional abuse against the superstar R&B singer R. Kelly, prosecutors began to offer their closing argument on Wednesday.
Although accusations of sexual misconduct have trailed Mr. Kelly for decades, the New York case is only the second to result in a criminal trial. (He was acquitted of a child pornography charge in 2008.)
The federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have constructed a sweeping racketeering case, with evidence that extends from recent years back to the early 1990s that seeks to portray the singer as the kingpin of a decades-long criminal enterprise that recruited women and girls for sex. Mr. Kelly is also charged with eight violations of the Mann Act, an interstate anti-sex trafficking law.
Mr. Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Here are some of the most significant moments in the case and the trial:
Federal charges were first brought against Mr. Kelly in July 2019: More charges were filed within months, including allegations by a woman who had previously defended the singer. She testified under a pseudonym at the trial.
The pandemic delayed the trial for more than a year:Amid the wait, some of the singer’s allies were accused of using arson, bribery and other intimidation tactics to silence witnesses who were expected to testify.
The trial began on Aug. 18 with opening statements: Prosecutors said the singer “used every trick in the predator handbook” to mislead his accusers and their families. His lawyers argued that the accusers’ accounts would fall apart under scrutiny.
The 20th anniversary of the death of the R&B singer Aaliyah fell during the trial’s second week: Mr. Kelly’s illegal marriage to Aaliyah when she was 15 is central to the government’s case. Among the girls that prosecutors say he abused, she was the youngest.
The prosecution rested this week: After 45 witnesses testified for the government, Mr. Kelly’s lawyers offered their own smaller group of witnesses over two days. Observers watched closely to see whether a girlfriend of the singer who has recently expressed support for him would testify, but she was not called to the stand.
NORTH PORT, Fla. — So many people posting on social media about losing Gabby. It’s easy to see that she is loved by so many. As people try to piece together what happened, many questions linger. Many believe Brian Laundrie could answer the questions, but no one has heard from him for more than a week. Even before that, authorities were only able to reach him through his attorney.
A local attorney said Brian speaking only through his attorney makes legal sense.
“An attorney’s responsibility is to protect his client. Not to protect the public, not to inform the public, nor to protect the media or to inform them,” Robert Foley, criminal defense attorney, said.
The question remains what exactly happened to Gabby Petito. A question so many believe Laundrie could answer following their cross-country travels together.
Foley said he understands the need for more information and said if he counseled Laundrie, he’s release more detailed statements.
“There is no harm and advising the public that. You know everyone feels for the loss and they’re absolutely interested in getting to the truth,” Foley said.
Foley said the truth in many cases requires more information and more evidence. Foley knows that very well, even outside the courtroom. He spent 20 years as an FBI Special Agent, which is why he tells Fox 4 he understands the push for more answers from Brian Laundrie.
“In the absence of information, what you’re stuck with is casting a wider net using more resources spending more time, so information is key,” he said. “The FBI is very competent at arriving at investigative conclusions, but the speed with which they would arrive at them with more information would be tantamount.”
Foley said he trusts law enforcement to get the answers to questions so many have and ultimately get justice for Gabby Petito.
It’s important to note Laundrie is still considered a person of interest. Law enforcement said Wednesday they’re determined to find him.
If you have been accused of a crime, defending your freedom should be your number one priority. You will want to find the very best criminal defense lawyer available to represent you.
According tocriminal defense attorney Stephen G. Cobb, you should do your research before hiring a law firm to work on your case. These are a few things that you should always look for when hiring a lawyer.
1. They Should have a Good Reputation
Unfortunately, television and movies have given the public the impression that criminal attorneys are nefarious characters. This preconceived notion can make juries suspicious of the lawyer who represents you. It is best to choose a lawyer who has a clean record with thestate barand a good reputation with the courts.
Before you consult with an attorney, you should call the bar and make sure that they are in good standing. You should also do a Google search to see if any articles have been written about the lawyer or their firm. You may want to ask a potential attorney to provide you with references.
2. Do they specialize in criminal law?
A lawyer may tell you that they are undefeated in court and that they will represent you for a very reasonable price. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean much if they are a tax attorney who never goes to court.
You should find an attorney who has years of experience in criminal law in your state. Depending on what you have been accused of, the laws and penalties may be different in your state than they are in another state.
For example, if you are brought up ondrug chargesin Florida, you may face harsher punishments than you would if you had the same charges in Oregon.
You should ask your attorney how much experience they have with criminal law. It is a good idea to ask them about their record in court.
3. They Should Have Enough Time to Handle Your Case
Even if you find an attorney who has a great reputation with the bar and an undefeated track record in court, they won’t do you much good if they don’t have enough time for your case.
You should ask how many cases the law firm is currently handling. Find out the number of employees the law firm has and how much time will be devoted to your case.
4. Communication is Very Important
Before you hire a lawyer, you should find out what their hours are and how often you can expect to hear from them. If you hire an attorney only to find that they never return your phone calls and act annoyed when you ask them a question, you may want to consider firing them.
Nothing is more important than your freedom. Your attorney should be committed to your case and ready to answer your questions in a timely manner.
5. Respect for Your Confidentiality
Merely getting charged with a criminal offense can ruin a person’s reputation. Your attorney should have the utmost respect for your privacy. They must do everything they can to ensure confidentiality when they communicate with you.
Getting accused of a crime is terrifying. The right lawyer can help you to retain your freedom and move forward with your life.
Lawyers for the Trump Organization’s finance chief asked a judge for more time to prepare their defense, saying that they were reviewing millions of pages of documents and that prosecutors may file charges against other people.
“We have strong reasons to believe there could be other indictments coming,” Bryan Skarlatos, a lawyer for Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, told New York State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan on Monday. “We are shooting at a moving target.”
Lawyers for the Trump Organization’s finance chief asked a judge for more time to prepare their defense, saying that they were reviewing millions of pages of documents and that prosecutors may file charges against other people.
“We have strong reasons to believe there could be other indictments coming,”
Bryan Skarlatos, a lawyer for Chief Financial Officer
Allen Weisselberg, told New York State Supreme Court Justice
Juan Merchan on Monday. “We are shooting at a moving target.”
Justice Merchan, the judge overseeing the proceedings, told the lawyers to clear their calendars for a potential trial in late August or early September of next year. Prosecutors didn’t respond in court to Mr. Skarlatos’s comment about more indictments.
Monday marked the first public court proceeding since former President Donald Trump’s
In July, the Manhattan district attorney’s office unveiled an indictment charging Mr. Weisselberg, 74 years old, and his longtime employer with tax fraud and other crimes. The office of New York Attorney General
Letitia James is working with the district attorney’s office on the case.
Prosecutors accused the defendants of a 15-year-long scheme to avoid paying taxes. The Trump Organization provided some employees with apartments, cars and cash payments, without appropriately paying taxes on them, prosecutors said. Those perks amounted to secret pay raises at the expense of taxpayers, according to prosecutors.
Mr. Weisselberg faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge, grand larceny in the second degree.
Both Mr. Weisselberg and the Trump Organization have pleaded not guilty. A Trump Organization lawyer has called the case unprecedented and said compensation cases are typically resolved by civil authorities. Mr. Weisselberg’s lawyers said Monday that the indictment was full of unsupported and flawed factual and legal assertions regarding their client.
From the Archives
Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan courtroom in July to charges including grand larceny. Photo: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters
The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition
In court on Monday, Mr. Weisselberg sat at the defense table between his lawyers, with clear plastic barriers separating each person. Since Mr. Weisselberg’s indictment, his defense team has received more than six million pages of documents from prosecutors, which they need additional time to review, his lawyers said.
Justice Merchan gave each side four months to file legal arguments. The defense’s motions are due by Jan. 20, the judge said. The next public court date is in July 2022.
In court, Mr. Skarlatos sought to distance his client from the Trump Organization. “He’s the only individual here today whose liberty is at stake,” the lawyer said. “What I’m concerned about is he becomes collateral damage as part of a bigger fight between the Trump Organization and the district attorney’s office.”
Prosecutors said that Mr. Weisselberg wasn’t an innocent bystander. “He’s an executive who stands accused by a grand jury of multiple felonies,” said Assistant District Attorney
Solomon Shinerock, urging the court not to unnecessarily delay the case. Mr. Shinerock said that because Mr. Weisselberg served as the finance chief of the company, he knew what was in many documents.
Mr. Trump wasn’t charged in the case, although the district attorney’s office has previously said that “the former CEO signed himself many of the illegal compensation checks.”
Ron Fischetti, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, has said the case is an attempt to damage Mr. Trump’s reputation.
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Prosecutors continued investigating after the indictment. They have recently focused on
Matthew Calamari, the former president’s onetime bodyguard who rose to be chief operating officer of the Trump Organization, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Calamari and his son, Matthew Calamari Jr., have lived in Trump Organization apartments, and the elder Mr. Calamari has driven a company car.
Earlier this month, the younger Mr. Calamari testified before a grand jury that continues to investigate Mr. Trump’s business affairs, according to people familiar with the matter. In New York, people who appear before a state grand jury receive immunity, an indication that prosecutors don’t intend to charge him.
Jeff McConney, a senior finance executive, also testified, the people said. Mr. McConney prepared the personal tax returns of Mr. Calamari, The Wall Street Journal previously reported. Mr. McConney is an unindicted co-conspirator in the indictment, prosecutors said in court documents.
A lawyer for the Calamaris,
Nicholas Gravante Jr., has denied wrongdoing by his clients and has said they would testify truthfully if subpoenaed to do so.
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