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R&B hitmaker R. Kelly due in court for sex abuse sentencing

R&B hitmaker R. Kelly due in court for sex abuse sentencing

R& B star R. Kelly faces the possibility of a quarter century or more in prison when he is sentenced Wednesday in a federal sex trafficking case in New York.

A jury found Kelly, 55, guilty of racketeering and other counts last year at a trial that was seen as a signature moment in the #MeToo movement.

Outrage over Kelly’s sexual misconduct with young women and children was fueled in part by the widely watched docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly,” which gave voice to accusers who wondered if their stories were previously ignored because they were Black women.

U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly is set to impose the sentence at a federal court in Brooklyn after hearing statements from victims and possibly Kelly himself.

Prosecutors are seeking a minimum 25-year term, while the defense says a sentence of 10 years or less is all he deserves.

Kelly’s lawyers argued in court papers he should get a break in part because he “experienced a traumatic childhood involving severe, prolonged childhood sexual abuse, poverty, and violence.”

They added: “His victimization continued into adulthood where, because of his literacy deficiencies, the defendant has been repeatedly defrauded and financially abused, often by the people he paid to protect him.”

The jury convicted the “I Believe I Can Fly” hitmaker after hearing about how he used his entourage of managers and aides to meet girls and keep them obedient, an operation prosecutors said amounted to a criminal enterprise.

Several accusers testified that Kelly subjected them to perverse and sadistic whims when they were underage.

Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, used his “fame, money and popularity” to systematically “prey upon children and young women for his own sexual gratification,” prosecutors wrote in their own filing earlier this month.

The accusers alleged they were ordered to sign nondisclosure forms and were subjected to threats and punishments such as violent spankings if they broke what one referred to as “Rob’s rules.”

Some said they believed the videotapes he shot of them having sex would be used against them if they exposed what was happening.

There was testimony Kelly gave several accusers herpes without disclosing he had an STD, coerced a teenage boy to join him for sex with a naked girl who emerged from underneath a boxing ring in his garage, and shot a shaming video of one victim showing her smearing feces on her face as punishment for breaking his rules.

Evidence also was presented about a fraudulent marriage scheme hatched to protect Kelly after he feared he had impregnated R&B phenom Aaliyah in 1994 when she was just 15. Witnesses said they were married in matching jogging suits using a license falsely listing her age as 18; he was 27 at the time.

Aaliyah worked with Kelly, who wrote and produced her 1994 debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number.” She died in a plane crash in 2001 at age 22.

An earlier defense memo suggested prosecutors’ arguments for a higher sentence overreached by falsely claiming Kelly participated in the paying of a bribe to a government official in order to facilitate the illegal marriage.

Kelly’s lawyers also said it was wrong to assert he should get more time because he sexually abused one of his victims — referred to in court as “Jane” — after her parents innocently entrusted him to help her with her musical career.

“The record shows that Jane’s parents directed Jane to lie to the defendant about her age and then encouraged her to seduce him,” the papers say.

Kelly has been jailed without bail since in 2019. He’s still facing child pornography and obstruction of justice charges in Chicago, where a trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 15.

 

AP

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Business

Disney overtakes Netflix in battle for subscribers

Disney overtakes Netflix in battle for subscribers

That put it just ahead of Netflix, which has been losing customers.

But Disney warned that its loss of streaming rights for cricket in India would reduce its subscriber growth compared to previous forecasts.

The firm, which also owns adult television streaming platform Hulu and the sports-focused ESPN+, said demand for its Disney+ product remained strong.

Pandemic lockdowns provided a boost to streaming services like Disney, but the easing of Covid restrictions doesn’t seem to be preventing it attracting new customers.

The company added 14.4 million Disney+ subscribers in the quarter, many of them outside of the US – far more than analysts had expected.

Later this year it will launch a new ad-funded service, which will still be charged at the current subscription rate of $7.99. The charge for the ad-free service will rise to $10.99 per month.

The firm plans to launch its ad-funded service outside the US next year.

Executives said they do not expect the rise in prices to put off customers over the long term. The firm is also seeing strong interest from companies hoping to advertise on the new service, they said.

“We are in a position of strength with record upfront advertising commitment,” chief executive Bob Chapek told analysts in a conference call to discuss the firm’s financial results.

Disney’s subscriber gains have come at a hefty cost, with its streaming business losing $1.1bn in the quarter.

Executives said they expect losses to peak this year, In the meantime, a strong rebound in attendance at its theme parks since the worst of the pandemic has provided the firm with a large financial cushion.

Total revenues in the April-June period jumped 26% from last year, pushing profits to $1.5bn.

Shares in the company jumped more than 6% in after-hours trade after the firm shared its results.

Paolo Pescatore, analyst at PP Foresight, called it a “pivotal moment in the streaming wars” saying Disney had more room to grow than arch-rival Netflix.

Netflix lost nearly one million accounts in the most recent quarter, putting its subscriber total at 220.67 million.

“[The results] firmly underline my belief that Disney is at a different phase of growth to Netflix,” said Mr Pescatore. “There are still millions of users to acquire as it continues to expand into new markets and rolls out new blockbuster shows.”

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New York Film Festival sets lineup for 60th edition

New York Film Festival sets lineup for 60th edition

The New York Film Festival will celebrate its 60th anniversary with a robust 32-film main slate and a number of hometown tales, including James Gray’s Queens coming-of-age drama “Armageddon Time” and Laura Poitras’ documentary “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” about artist Nan Goldin’s battle against the Sackler family.

Film at Lincoln Center, which puts on the annual festival, announced this year’s lineup Tuesday. The gala screenings are notably New York-centric, beginning with the previously announced opening night film, from longtime New Yorker and New York Film Festival regular Noah Baumbach. He’ll debut his Don DeLillo adaption “White Noise” shortly after it also opens the Venice Film Festival.

The festival’s centerpiece will be “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” in which the “Citizenfour” filmmaker chronicles Goldin’s fight to stem the opioid crisis and the pharmaceutical companies that benefitted from it.

Elegance Bratton, who drew from his own experiences in his documentary about homeless queer and transgender young people in New York in his documentary “Pier Kids,” will close out the festival with his semi-autobiographical fiction film “The Inspection,” starring Jeremy Pope as a gay man in Marine Corps basic training.

Gray’s “Armageddon Time” will screen as part of the festival’s 60th anniversary celebration. The film, which premiered in May at the Cannes Film Festival, draws from Gray’s own childhood in 1980s Queens. It co-stars Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Strong and Anne Hathaway.

Other entries include Todd Field’s anticipated “TÁR,” starring Cate Blanchett as a world-renown composer; Paul Schrader’s “Master Gardner,” starring Joel Edgerton as a horticulturist; Joanna Hogg’s “The Eternal Daughter,” with Tilda Swinton; master documentarian Frederick Wiseman’s “A Couple,” a monologue drama based on the letters of Leo Tolstoy and wife Countess Sophia Behrs.

Several standouts from this year’s Cannes will play at the festival including Charlotte Wells’ feature debut “Aftersun”; Park Chan-wook’s “Decision to Leave”; Mia Hansen-Løve’s “One Fine Morning”; Kelly Reichardt’s “Showing Up”; Cristian Mungiu’s “R.M.N.”; and Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or-winner “Triangle of Sadness.”

Also among New York’s selections is the latest from Iranian director Jafar Panahi, “No Bears.” In July, Panahi, one of Iran’s leading filmmakers, was sent to prison for a six-year sentence related to a 2011 charge of producing antigovernment propaganda. His imprisonment has been widely decried internationally and in the film community.

The New York Film Festival runs Sept. 30-Oct. 16. Along with premieres at Lincoln Center, the festival will host screenings throughout New York’s five boroughs, at Staten Island’s Alamo Drafthouse Cinema; Brooklyn Academy of Music; the Bronx Museum of the Arts; the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens; and the Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem.

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Nicki Minaj to get Video Vanguard Award at MTV Awards

Nicki Minaj to get Video Vanguard Award at MTV Awards

Nicki Minaj will receive the Video Vanguard Award at the MTV Awards later this month, joining such previous winning music luminaries as Madonna, Janet Jackson, LL Cool J, Jennifer Lopez and Missy Elliott.

Minaj, who has won five MTV trophies for such hits as “Anaconda,” “Chun-Li” and “Hot Girl Summer,” will get the award and perform at the ceremony on Aug. 28 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

“Nicki has broken barriers for women in hip-hop with her versatility and creative artistry,” said Bruce Gillmer, chief content officer of music at Paramount+ and president of music, music talent, programming and events at Paramount. “She has shifted the music industry and cemented her status as a global superstar with her crossover appeal, genre-defying style and continuing to be unapologetically ‘Nicki’.”

Jack Harlow, Lil Nas X and Kendrick Lamar are the top award contenders with seven nominations. Harlow, Lil Nas X, Drake, Bad Bunny, Ed Sheeran, Harry Styles and Lizzo will compete for artist of the year.

Styles and Doja Cat received the second-most nominations with six. Sheeran, Billie Eilish, Drake, Dua Lipa, Taylor Swift and The Weeknd each pulled in five.

Madonna, who is the most awarded artist in MTV history with 20 wins, becomes the only artist to receive a nomination in each of the VMAs five decades. She earned her 69th nomination for her 14th studio album “Madame X.”

Also performing will be Anitta, J Balvin, Marshmello with Khalid and Panic! At The Disco. More acts will be announced soon.

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