Students react to R. Kelly’s guilty verdict on all nine counts



Robert Kelly was found guilty by a jury of seven men and five women for violating numerous anti-sex trafficking laws.

Micah Sanders, Editor-In-Chief

R&B singer and songwriter Robert Sylvester Kelly, famously known as R. Kelly, was convicted Monday on all nine sex trafficking and racketeering counts. 

Kelly, 54, was found guilty by a jury of seven men and five women during their second day of deliberations. The “I Believe I Can Fly” singer remained motionless in the courtroom awaiting his verdict reading in Brooklyn, New York. 

Prosecutors alleged that Kelly’s inner circle of managers and other workers aided in Kelly meeting girls and women and keeping them subordinate and silent. In Chicago, two people have been charged in a separate pending federal case alongside Kelly. 

Possibly facing decades in prison for violating numerous anti-sex trafficking laws, such as the Mann Act, which prohibits the transportation of women across state lines for the purpose of prostitution or similar acts, he awaits sentencing, which is scheduled for May 4. 

During the trial, several accusers testified explicitly, alleging Kelly forced them to do perverse and sadistic actions when they were underage. 

Showcased in mainstream media for numerous years, it seemed as if more people were amused, rather than horrified, by the inappropriate allegations and reputation Kelly had with minors. From the illegal marriage with the late Aaliyah Daughton Houghton in 1994 to the leaked explicit tape in 2002, Kelly’s name has been tossed around in speculation for years. 

Still selling out arenas and reaching No. 1 on the Billboard charts, Kelly continued to shine in the music world, even after his arrest in 2002 due to the release of the infamous recording of Kelly urinating on a 14-year-old girl. He won several Grammys for his songwriting and music. 

With the phrase “separate the art from the artists” being so prevalent in today’s society due to the cancel culture and Me Too movement exposing numerous beloved celebrities, several students at Alabama State University weigh in their opinions on the conviction of Kelly. 

“I am so happy he was convicted on his charges,” said sophomore dance major Tatiyana Gibson. “He was literally doing everything in plain sight. Look at his songs and his concert performances and you’ll see that something was not right upstairs. I am glad that these women got their justice.” 

“I do not listen to his music anymore,” said senior biology major Ashlee Mitchell. She says justice was served, and believes that people were afraid and actually benefited from Kelly’s power in the music industry. 

“If he were to turn himself in when the inappropriate behavior first started, then he would not have been able to reach the status that he has now,” Mitchell said.  “Which means the enablers, as well as those who turned a blind eye, couldn’t ride the gravy train anymore.” 

Former tour manager, Demetrius Smith, testified in court that he bribed an Illinois state employee to get a fake ID for underage R&B singer Aaliyah so Kelly could marry her. Smith is just one of several enablers Kelly had in his entourage.

“I believe many of them [the enablers] knew fully what was going on,” said senior forensic science major Kaunda Wooten Jr. “The people that benefited from R. Kelly being let off the hook for such a long period of time included those tricked to stay in denial. If it meant sacrificing the innocence of others, then apparently that’s what had to be done.” 

Disturbed by the numerous sexual allegations and charges against Kelly, freshman interdisciplinary studies major Amber Dixon dissociates the singer from her memory now.

“Anytime I hear or see his name, face, music, whatever, I automatically turn it off,” Dixon said.  “I don’t want to support a man who has sexually abused countless underage girls. It’s downright disturbing and sick. I certainly think justice was served, and he can be thrown under the jail for all I care.” 

In 2014, R. Kelly performed in the Dunn-Oliver Acadome, where he can be seen replicating sexual acts on a bed set during his concert. Though some think his actions were appropriate for college students, some think it was out of place. 

Senior communications major Rodney Spaldings was shocked but not surprised by the R&B singer’s actions stating “that’s why he is so popular.”

“I mean, let’s be honest, the majority of his songs are about sex, so why wouldn’t he perform at college where sex is very rampant? I don’t think it was inappropriate since we are all over 18 and have been exposed to sex by the media… Regarding his conviction, I think justice was served.” 

“That is not the right time or place for that,” said senior political science major Jessica Moore. “These artists nowadays leave nothing to the imagination. I mean we obviously can visualize what you mean in the lyrics of your songs. There’s no need to show us. Looking back now, it’s disturbing to know what he was really doing behind closed doors.” 

Agreeing with both Spaldings and Moore is junior criminal justice major Brandon Watson stating that both parties, ASU and R. Kelly, benefited from the concert monetarily.

“Unfortunately, sex sells. So that is what all the current music talks about, especially in the Black community. Though what R. Kelly did was a bit over-excessive, I think it did fit within the theme of the song he was singing.” He further explained that the concert did so well because the Black community loves sensual and erotic R&B music. Additionally, Watson believes that R. Kelly deserves jail time for the wrongful acts he committed. 

Following the guilty verdict, the 54-year-old singer released a Facebook statement proclaiming his innocence and his willingness to not give up fighting for justice.

“To all my fans and supporters, I love you all and thank you for all the support,” he wrote in the statement. “Today’s verdict was disappointing, and I will continue to prove my innocence and fight for my freedom. #notguilty.”

Guilty or not, a number of students at the university and Americans across the nation will never look at the “trapped in the closet” singer the same way again.