For survivors of sexual assault and their advocates, it has been a long road as a federal jury yesterday convicted singer R. Kelly of six counts of producing child pornography and enticing girls for sex.
The conviction comes more than two decades after the crimes took place.
The singer faced similar charges 14 years ago but was acquitted in Cook County court, even though the same video of him sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl was critical to both trials.
Music journalist Jim DeRogatis has been covering this story for years. In 2000, he anonymously received a tape showing Kelly abusing the same 14-year-old girl at the center of both trials.
Even though Kelly was eventually found guilty on multiple charges this week, DeRogatis says the federal government did a very sloppy job during the trial.
“The community was devastated for the last 30-years and Chicago must answer to that,” he said.
Mallory Littlejohn, legal director at the nonprofit organization Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, says she is not surprised with the split verdict.
Kelly was convicted of just six of 13 charges. His two co-defendants, former business manager Derrel McDavid and former assistant Milton Brown, faced charges of trying to coverup Kelly’s abuse of minors and intimidating witnesses during his 2008 trial. They were both acquitted of all charges.
“Black women and girls are so often disbelieved. We are the last to be listened to, we don’t often get accountability and you see both of those things unfolding here,” Littlejohn said.
The number of counts on which Kelly was found not guilty shows a lack of accountability by the part of the justice system, Littlejohn said.
“I think this verdict is bittersweet,” says Scheherazade Tillet, co-founder and executive director of the organization A Long Walk Home, a nonprofit that uses art to empower and end violence against women and girls.
She also served as a consultant for the Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly”.
Tillet says this has been one of the most important cases among Black women and girls.
“The fact that it’s taken this long for some type of justice says a lot about how we think in our society about Black girls as victims,” Tillet said.
Kelly is already serving a 30-year sentence for racketeering and sex trafficking charges in New York.