R. Kelly is a "predator," according to federal prosecutors.
During the first day of the music producer's sex abuse trial in New York on Aug. 18, assistant US Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez said in her opening statement that this case is "about a predator who for decades used fame popularity and a network of associates to groom girls, boys and young women for his own sexual purposes," according to NBC News.
She said he used his "money, clout and his public persona to hide his crimes in plain sight."
Kelly, now 54, allegedly surrounded himself with a team and inner circle whose "purpose" was to promote his music and "fulfill each of his wishes and demands," Melendez said. "He learned he could take advantage and he had his pick of young fans around the country. When he had them alone he used them physically, psychologically and sexually."
She stated that the trial is not about "a celebrity who likes to party or his sexual preferences." Instead, she said, his sexual conduct was illegal, alleging he "engaged with" minors in their teens, recorded their interactions to create child pornography and exposed them to incurable herpes.
"We are going to ask you to hold him accountable for sexually abusing girls, boys, young women and we will ask you to find him guilty on all counts," the prosecution said in court.
Per NBC News, Kelly denies all wrongdoing and has pled not guilty to racketeering, bribery, coercion, enticement and sex trafficking. The "Ignition" artist (who was born Robert Sylvester Kelly) has been in federal custody for about two years.
According to the outlet, Kelly looked "somber" during the trial. Wearing a blue suit and tie, he had a shaved head as he sat with his attorneys. Kelly's lawyers are expected to speak on Wednesday, but have previously discounted his alleged victims as "disgruntled groupies," per NBC. Lawyer Douglas C. Anton said the girls were "dying to be with him" and only came forward to hop on the #MeToo "bandwagon."
E! News reached out to Kelly's attorneys for comment and did not hear back.
The charges center on six female victims, including late singer Aaliyah, who married Kelly in the 1990s when she was 15 years old.
Melendez said witnesses will include victims, associates, forensic psychologists and experts in DNA, as well as documents that show Aaliyah was 15 when she wed. Prosecutors will also present phone records, travel records, medical records, video recordings, letters from Kelly and physical evidence from Kelly's apartment, studio and storage facilities.
The accusations span about 25 years from at least 1992 to 2017. Prosecutors described his interactions with alleged survivors, who include two girls that were 16 and one that was 17 when they first met Kelly at various concerts, private parties or other public appearances.
In 2019, after Kelly was publicly accused of sexual misconduct, his collaborator Lady Gaga made headlines for distancing herself from the artist. She said she would be removing their song, "'Do What U Want (With My Body)," off iTunes and other streaming platforms and "will not be working with him again."
Gaga wrote on social media, "I stand behind these women 1000%, believe them, know they are suffering and in pain, and feel strongly that their voices should be heard and taken seriously. What I am hearing about the allegations against R. Kelly is absolutely horrifying and indefensible. As a victim of sexual assault myself, I made both the song and video at a dark time in my life, my intention was to create something extremely defiant and provocative because I was angry and still hadn't processed the trauma that had occurred in my own life."