R. Kelly's trial started on Wednesday with a federal prosecutor calling him a “predator” who took advantage of women and underage girls by using blackmail. 

During opening statements held at the Eastern District of New York courthouse in Brooklyn, Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez told a jury that the 54-year-old singer used “lies, manipulation, threats and physical abuse,” Reuters reported.

Prosecutors accused the singer of building an entourage around him to help recruit his victims and threatened them with blackmail if they opposed.

According to the Chicago Tribune, R. Kelly also used blackmail against his entourage to keep them under his control. One of his victims took the stand to accuse him of forcing her into a non-disclosure agreement and signing a letter filled with false statements.  

While speaking to the jury, which consists of seven men and five women, Melendez detailed how manipulative and sadistic the singer was.

Melendez discussed his alleged marriage with Aaliyah while she was underage. According to prosecutors, when he found out the 15-year-old singer was pregnant, he bribed a government worker with $500 to obtain a counterfeit ID stating that Aaliyah was 18 years old.

Nicole Blank Decker, who is Kelly’s defense attorney, stated that her client was not guilty of the crimes put forth by Melendez, Billboard reported.

"The fundamental reason we're all here today is because the government wants you to believe our client, an internationally known singer, is the leader of some large enterprise — similar to John Gotti, the leader of a large mob family," she said.

She also discredited the witnesses who will give testimony throughout the trial saying, “So many untruths told that even the government won't be able to untangle the mess of lies.”

In 2019, the singer was arrested on bribery, kidnapping and forced labor charges, Billboard reported

The “I Believe I Can Fly” singer is currently being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn without bail.

The New York Post reported that infamous pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell has been placed in the same facility. 

Kelly’s trial is expected to last for a month and will be void of any reporters or spectators due to the pandemic.

If he is convicted, he could face up to 10 years behind bars.