R. Kelly Trial Nears End, as Prosecutors Paint Portrait of a Predator

The prosecutor’s racketeering case summation on Wednesday 9/23 took more than three hours, with more scheduled for Thursday.  In the first trial against him in 2008 the key witness bailed and set him free. This time he had “no such luck, with many taking the stand.” and it looks like the jury’s turn soon. Whatever happens,  other states eagerly await their chances to bring similar charges. 

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/22/nyregion/r-kelly-trial-prosecutors.html?smid=em-share

R. Kelly Trial Nears End, as Prosecutors Paint Portrait of a Predator

During the first day of closing arguments in Brooklyn, a prosecutor sought to knit together the government’s sprawling racketeering case.

R. Kelly was a predator who capitalized on his fame to prey on underage girls and boys and on women, a federal prosecutor said in her closing statements at Mr. Kelly’s federal trial in New York on Wednesday.

Mr. Kelly, once one of the brightest stars in pop music, was only able to inflict trauma on the lives of those in his orbit for decades because of a vast network of associates who “served as enablers for his criminal conduct,” the prosecutor, Elizabeth Geddes, said.

Those accusations have followed Mr. Kelly for decades. But now, Ms. Geddes said, jurors had an opportunity to make amends for years of overlooked abusive behavior.

“For many years, what happened in the defendant’s world stayed in the defendant’s world,” Ms. Geddes, an assistant U.S. attorney, told jurors in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. “But no longer.”

The summation offered a dramatic crescendo to the five-week trial, which has included hours of disturbing testimony from Mr. Kelly’s accusers, some of whom had never spoken publicly before. The singer, 54, has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Ms. Geddes’s closing arguments, which spanned more than three hours and will continue on Thursday, illustrated the expansive breadth of the prosecution’s case against the singer — and the steep challenge his defense team has faced in the trial.

The racketeering case against Mr. Kelly is built around 14 underlying crimes that federal prosecutors say he committed as part of the criminal enterprise at his command. But the charge itself only requires that two of those crimes be proven.

On Wednesday, Ms. Geddes began to construct a final image of Mr. Kelly as a calculated manipulator who destroyed the lives of those around him.

She characterized the singer as a volatile man whose “violent temper” led to harsh physical abuse of many women and girls. She told jurors that he often promised visitors fame or success in their careers, while only intending to use them for sex. And she said that Mr. Kelly created a fear-inspiring system of control that entrapped his accusers and prevented them from speaking out.

“He 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.”

When women “crossed him” and opted to go public with their allegations, Ms. Geddes said, Mr. Kelly “used his henchmen to lodge threats and exact revenge.”

Mr. Kelly was once revered in the realm of R&B music, garnering a huge fan base through the 1990s and 2000s and becoming known for redefining his genre. But for more than two decades, Mr. Kelly was trailed by accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse.

At the height of the Me Too movement, his behavior fell under intense scrutiny, and the accusations against him spilled into full public view in a jarring documentary.

In 2019, he was accused of serving as the kingpin of a decades-long criminal enterprise that recruited women and girls for sex. He has been in custody for most of the time since and faces nine counts of racketeering and violations of the Mann Act, a law that bans sex trafficking across state lines. He also faces charges in Illinois and Minnesota.

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 played crucial roles in his misconduct — including with the R&B star Aaliyah.

The singer, whom R. Kelly married when she was just 15, has figured prominently in the case — and in Ms. Geddes’s arguments. The federal prosecutor revisited trial testimony about how one of Mr. Kelly’s tour managers bribed a government employee to “protect” the singer after he came to believe Aaliyah was pregnant with his child.

Ms. Geddes said the reason for the marriage plot in 1994 was simple: He feared criminal prosecution and sought to compel Aaliyah to get an abortion.

“We all know what the defendant was thinking,” the federal prosector said. “No baby, no jail.”

Mr. Kelly’s defense team has contended that because the singer himself did not bribe the employee, the matter is moot. But Ms. Geddes argued that Mr. Kelly was not an oblivious bystander in the marriage plot, but rather the active force driving the criminal enterprise.

“Just because you have one of your henchmen do your dirty work doesn’t make you any less responsible,” she told jurors. She added: “The defendant’s pattern of sexual abuse of minors didn’t change after he wed Aaliyah. In fact, it didn’t skip a beat.”

Mr. Kelly was initially set to stand trial in May 2020, but the pandemic delayed the start date for 18 months. 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.

Still, over five weeks of testimony, nine women and two men took the stand and accused the singer of a host of disturbing behavior that often included physical, sexual and emotional abuse. And a supporting cast of 34 other witnesses — including their friends and family, the singer’s employees and one of his longtime doctors — served to bolster their accounts.

Mr. Kelly’s defense team will make its final arguments to the seven men and five women of the jury on Thursday. They are expected to focus a portion of their assertions around the nature of the racketeering case against the singer, aiming to spur doubt among jurors over whether a successful music business could have simultaneously functioned as a decades-long criminal scheme.

During their opening statements and across their cross-examinations in the case, his lawyers have also challenged the credibility and motivations of his accusers. The team has cast the accusers’ stories as manufactured or exaggerated, drawing emphasis to instances when they had received money for their participation in documentaries or book deals.

“We believe their testimony will crumble,” Nicole Blank Becker, one of Mr. Kelly’s four lawyers, told jurors. “There will be so many untruths told to you, ladies and gentlemen, that even the government won’t be able to untangle the mess of lies.”

U.S. District Judge Ann M. Donnelly has said that she expects the jury to have the case by the end of the week.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr. Kelly declined to testify in his own defense. When the judge asked if he intended to take the stand, he responded with two words: “No, ma’am.”

Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Emily Palmer contributed reporting.

Troy Closson is a reporter on the Metro desk covering law enforcement and criminal justice. @troy_closson

 

Biles and Her Teammates Rip the F.B.I. for Botching Nassar Abuse Case

Biles and Her Teammates Rip the F.B.I. for Botching Nassar Abuse Case


Kirkus Reviews, the gold-standard for independent & accurate reviews, has this to say about

What Goes Around Comes Around:

A stable, positive, non preachy, objective voice makes the book stand apart from others in the genre. A successful guide that uses anecdotes to reveal powerful truths about life.

~ Kirkus Reviews

“The author gives readers not just points or principles to ponder, but real human experiences that demonstrate them!
Kirkus Reviews

“I’ve read a number of books that focus on sharing a similar message, including “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, “The Answer” by John Assaraf & Murray Smith, “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield, “Think and Grow Rich,” by Napoleon Hill, and I must say that I find Rob’s to be my favorite. – Sheryl Woodhouse, founder of Livelihood Matters LLC

R. Kelly Trial Nears End, as Prosecutors Paint Portrait of a Predator

R. Kelly Trial Nears End, as Prosecutors Paint Portrait of a Predator

In the ongoing saga of, “Will R. Kelly Escape Once More?” more witnesses testify and the canvas fills out more about his years of seducing young girls and creating his own personal harem with the help of his hired & paid team of enablers.

Is R.Kelly another Jeffery Epstein? Epstein escaped an onerous sentence in 2008, the same year that R. Kelly also walked from what looked like a slam-dunk conviction. We know how ir worked out for Epstein and his legacy.

Colombo Family Crime Boss and 12 Others Are Arrested, Prosecutors Say

An indictment unsealed on Tuesday accuses the organization of orchestrating a two-decade scheme to extort a labor union.

Credit…Jesse Ward

 

For two decades, the leadership of the Colombo crime family extorted a Queens labor union, federal prosecutors said — an effort that continued unabated even as members of the mob clan cycled through prison, the family’s notorious longtime boss died, and as federal law enforcement closed in.

Over time, what began as a Colombo captain’s shakedown of a union leader, complete with expletive-laced threats of violence, expanded into a cottage industry, prosecutors said, as the Colombo organization assumed control of contracting and union business, with side operations in phony construction certificates, marijuana trafficking and loan-sharking.

On Tuesday, 11 reputed members and associates of the Colombo crime family, including the mob clan’s entire leadership, were charged in a labor racketeering case brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

All but two of the men were arrested Tuesday morning across New York and New Jersey, prosecutors said. Another was surrendered to the authorities on Tuesday; another defendant, identified as the family consigliere, remained at large, prosecutors said.

The indictment accuses the Colombo family of orchestrating a two-decade scheme to extort an unnamed labor union that represented construction workers, using threats of violence to secure payments and arrange contracts that would benefit the crime family.

The charges are an ambitious effort by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to take down one of the city’s five Mafia families. In addition to the union extortion scheme, which is the heart of the racketeering charge, the indictment charges several misdeeds often associated with the mob, including drug trafficking, money laundering, loan-sharking and falsifying federal labor safety paperwork.

Detention hearings for the defendants in Brooklyn federal court continued into the evening Tuesday, as they entered not-guilty pleas to the charges; prosecutors had asked the court to keep 10 of the defendants in custody.

“Everything we allege in this investigation proves history does indeed repeat itself,” Michael J. Driscoll, F.B.I. assistant director-in-charge, said in a statement. “The underbelly of the crime families in New York City is alive and well.”

Around 2001, prosecutors said, Vincent Ricciardo — a reported captain in the family, also known as “Vinny Unions” — began to demand a portion of a senior labor union official’s salary. When Mr. Ricciardo was convicted and imprisoned on federal racketeering charges in the mid-2000s, prosecutors said, his cousin continued to collect those payments.

Starting in late 2019, prosecutors said, the senior leadership of the Colombo family became directly involved in the shakedown, which extended to broader efforts to siphon money from the union: for example, manipulating the selection of union health fund vendors to contract with entities connected to the family, and diverting more than $10,000 each month from the fund to the family.

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Andrew Russo, 87, who prosecutors describe as the family boss, is accused of taking part in those efforts, as well as a money-laundering scheme to send the proceeds of the union extortion through intermediaries to Colombo associates. He was among nine defendants charged with racketeering.

Mr. Russo appeared in court virtually from the hospital Tuesday; he is set to be detained upon his release, pending a future bail hearing.

The family’s infamous longtime boss, Carmine J. Persico, died in federal custody in North Carolina in March 2019.

Federal law enforcement learned of the extortion scheme about a year ago, prosecutors wrote in a court filing Tuesday; investigators gathered thousands of hours of wiretapped calls and conversations recorded by a confidential witness, wrote the prosecutors, who also described law-enforcement surveillance of meetings among the accused conspirators.

The authorities said they repeatedly captured Mr. Ricciardo and his associates threatening to kill the union official. “I’ll put him in the ground right in front of his wife and kids,” Mr. Ricciardo was recorded saying in June.

On another occasion cited by prosecutors in the memo seeking his detention, Mr. Ricciardo directed the union official to hire a consultant selected by the Colombo family, saying: “It’s my union and that’s it.” Prosecutors said his activities were overseen by a Colombo soldier and the consigliere who remains at large.

Much of the activity outlined in the indictment took place while the defendants were either in prison or on supervised release for prior federal mob-related convictions. Theodore Persico Jr., described as a family captain and soldier, was released from federal prison in 2020 and, despite a directive not to associate with members of organized crime, “directed much of the labor racketeering scheme,” prosecutors said.

Mr. Persico, 58, is set to inherit the role of boss after Mr. Russo, prosecutors wrote.

Several of the defendants were named in what prosecutors described as a fraudulent safety training scheme, in which they falsified state and federal paperwork that is required for construction workers to show they have completed safety training courses.

One of the defendants, John Ragano — whom prosecutors say is a soldier in the Bonanno crime family — is accused of setting up phony occupational safety training schools in New York, which prosecutors said were “mills” that provided fraudulent safety training certificates to hundreds of people.

In October 2020, prosecutors said, an undercover law enforcement officer visited one of the schools in Ozone Park, Queens, and received, from Mr. Ricciardo’s cousin, a blank test form and an answer sheet; weeks later, the agent returned to pick up his federal safety card and paid $500.

The purported schools were also used for meetings with members of La Cosa Nostra — the group of crime families commonly known as the Mafia — and to store illegal drugs and fireworks, according to the indictment.

Mr. Ragano wasn’t charged on the racketeering count, although prosecutors also sought his detention pending trial. In addition to the racketeering count, several defendants, including Mr. Ricciardo and his cousin, were charged with extortion, conspiracy, fraud and conspiracy to make false statements.

William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.

Correction: 

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of people identified in an indictment as members of the Colombo crime family. It is 11, not more than a dozen.