R. Kelly Appeal Update: Attorney Claims State Is Pushing RICO Charges Too Far

R. Kelly is still fighting for his presumed innocence in federal appeals court, and on Monday (March 18), his attorney took aim at the framework that seeks justice for his crimes. Moreover, Jennifer Bonjean argued that the prosecution stretched out RICO laws “to the point of absurdity,” meaning that they misconstrued many aspects of this case for criminal gang activity. Not only that, but she believes this could set a dangerous precedent moving forward when it comes to other groups and crimes that RICO could wrongfully cover. During a hearing for the Court of Appeals of the Second Circuit, Bonjean told a judge panel that his employees were just staffers who did their job, not co-conspirators pushing crimes as RICO outlines.

Furthermore, she believes prosecutors were “preposterous” in their invocation of RICO laws to convict R. Kelly, a conviction and framework that she seeks to reverse. “The government has extended the RICO statute to a set of circumstances that is so beyond what the framers intended, which was to get at organized crime,” Jennifer Bonjean expressed. “Now, we’re talking about an organization with an alleged criminal, but not organized crime.” The singer’s 2021 conviction on nine RICO charges referenced his organized and long-running plot to gather and take advantage of women, both of age and underage. For this and much more, he received a 30-year prison sentence in 2022.

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R. Kelly Performing In 2013

R. Kelly performs onstage at the 2013 BET Experience at Staples Center on June 30, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for BET)

Regardless, at Monday’s hearing Jennifer Bonjean claimed that R. Kelly’s employees knew nothing of these crimes. Since the government could not prove otherwise, she argued, then RICO laws and convictions shouldn’t apply here. “The defendant had a system in place that lured young people into his orbit and then took over their lives,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kayla Crews Bensing counter-argued. She brought up evidence that the disgraced R&B star’s team knew enough of what was going on, including testimony that one of his colleagues approached a 16-year-old at a McDonald’s, gave her his number, and told her to call him. In addition, another employee alleged to have answered phones for the Chicago native’s “girlfriends,” and according to this worker, some of them were “mid-aged teenagers.”

“This is all evidence that the jury was entitled to infer that Kelly’s inner circle knew what was going on: that he was recruiting and maintaining underage women for sexual activity,” Bensing stated. While federally overturned convictions, Bonjean achieved this for Bill Cosby back in 2021 for similar crimes. After Monday’s hearing, which comprised of a lot of legal muddy water, the court will decide on this appeal in the next few months. “RICO is looking at organizations, that are then used to commit criminal acts,” Judge Denny Chin remarked. “It doesn’t have to be a criminal organization. It could be a completely legitimate organization. But if it engages in racketeering activity, it violates RICO.” For more news and updates on R. Kelly, stay posted on HNHH.

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