CHICAGO (CBS) — Attorneys for singer R. Kelly are asking a judge to dismiss a racketeering charge filed against him in New York, accusing federal prosecutors of attempting “an end run” around the statute of limitations on sex crime charges.
The federal charges in New York accuse Kelly of using his fame to recruit young women and girls for illegal sexual activity. The racketeering case also accuses him of kidnapping, sexual exploitation of a child, and forced labor.
Racketeering charges, also known as RICO, are typically used in organized crime cases involving street gangs, drug rings, and the mafia, but the feds also have used them in political corruption cases and other conspiracy cases.
In a motion to dismiss the racketeering charge against Kelly, defense attorney Steve Greenberg said prosecutors haven’t specifically named any of Kelly’s co-conspirators, and therefore can’t meet their burden of proof to sustain a RICO case.
“RICO was not designed as a means to punish a single individual for his own wrongful actions,” Greenberg wrote. “RICO is only being used in this case in an effort to subvert various statutes of limitations. Robert Kelly is not an enterprise. The Superseding Indictment seems to think otherwise, but the law does not.”
Greenberg also argued the purported common purpose of the enterprise Kelly is accused of leading – to promote Kelly’s music and brand – “fails to pass muster,” because the purpose itself is not a crime, and prosecutors can’t show “how any other individual benefited from Mr. Kelly alleging engaging in sexual activity.”
“If no others benefited, then the only member of the enterprise is Mr. Kelly,” Greenberg wrote.
Kelly’s attorney said the racketeering charge “was clearly alleged as an end run around the applicable statute of limitations for the underlying predicate acts,” namely that Kelly is accused of recruiting women and girls for illegal sexual activity.
Federal prosecutors have said Kelly and his managers, bodyguards, and other employees acted as a criminal enterprise to recruit women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity with Kelly. Kelly and his enterprise would pick out women and girls who attended his concerts and other events; and arranged for them to travel to see Kelly. He would later hold them against their will, according to the feds.
Once the women and girls Kelly had picked started staying with him, he and his employees would set rules his victims had to follow, including not leaving their rooms without Kelly’s permission, even to eat or go to the bathroom; not looking at other men; to wear baggy clothing whenever they weren’t with him; demanding absolute commitment to Kelly; and calling the singer “Daddy.”
Kelly, 53, is accused of coercing some of the girls he’d abused to engage in sexually explicit conduct on video, which prosecutors say he later had shipped across state lines.
In December, federal prosecutors added bribery charges against Kelly, connected to his 1994 marriage to the late singer Aaliyah, who was only 15 at the time.
Prosecutors accused Kelly of scheming with others to pay for a “fraudulent identification” for her. The marriage was annulled months later because of Aaliyah’s age.
In addition to the racketeering charge, Kelly faces four Mann Act violations, which involve transporting a person across state lines to engage in illegal sexual activity.
Kelly’s federal trial in New York is scheduled for July.
He faces other charges in three other jurisdictions.
Federal prosecutors in Chicago have charged him with videotaping himself having sex with underage girls, and paying hush money and intimidating witnesses to cover up his crimes. That trial is scheduled for April.
Cook County prosecutors have charged Kelly with multiple counts of sexual assault and sexual abuse against four women years ago. The first of those trials is scheduled for September.
Minnesota prosecutors have charged him with engaging in prostitution with an underage girl. No trial date has been set in that case.
If convicted of all the charges, Kelly could face the rest of his life in prison.