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Blind eye to R. Kelly now will end

Recently, singer R. Kelly was convicted in a sex-trafficking trial, found guilty of nine counts, including racketeering. Two people from his entourage also are facing charges in a separate federal case, accused of helping him meet girls. Kelly also is facing more sex charges in Illinois and Minnesota, with trial dates not set yet.

While sentencing isn’t scheduled until May 4, and of course, his lawyers are hoping to appeal, it is nevertheless a long-overdue moment of justice for the accusers, who remained largely ignored until the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” made people stop and listen.

For decades, allegations of inappropriate relationships with underage girls had been ignored, including the biggest evidence of all — his marriage to R&B singer Aaliyah in 1994, when she was 15 and he was 27. Few people stopped then to ask why a 27-year-old man was in any way involved with a 15-year-old child. Too many people laughed it off when he was accused in 2002 of abusing and urinating on a 14-year-old girl (and even worse, purportedly making a recording of it). That instance was turned into a story about fetishes and not about a 35-year-old man having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old child.

Accusers at this trial told horrific stories: of being told to call him “Daddy,” threats of violence, guns, videotapes, STDs and orders to sign nondisclosure forms. One witness at the trial testified they saw Kelly sexually abusing Aaliyah in 1993, when she was 13 or 14, right around the time he wrote and produced her 1994 debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number.” Sickening.

Accusers who came forward in the “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary wondered if their claims were ignored because they are black women, and several had stories about being told to be quiet and take what some might call hush money because Kelly was an important black man.

This started in 1993. Now, 28 years later, justice finally is being served, despite nearly three decades of everyone around Kelly, the music industry and too many in the public turning a blind eye to his behavior (or, worse, turning it into a joke).

Men who commit crimes like Kelly’s get away with it because others believe their celebrity, wealth and influence sets them apart — above the law. His conviction should serve as a reminder that no one has a right to prey on vulnerable people the way he did; and that a blind eye will be turned no longer.

editorial@vindy.com

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