R. Kelly appeared in court Friday to face new federal charges that accuse him and members of his entourage of recruiting women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity with the singer and paying them to cover up his crimes.
Kelly, who was already facing sexual abuse charges brought by Illinois prosecutors, was indicted on allegations that he and his business manager paid hundreds of thousands of dollars and used physical abuse and blackmail to prevent girls and their relatives from providing evidence to law enforcement about his sex acts with minors and videos depicting them.
An indictment unsealed Friday in Chicago said he arranged for a girl and her parents to travel overseas so they could not talk with police prior to his 2002 indictment on 21 counts of child pornography. The pornography case stemmed from allegations that Kelly recorded a video of him engaging in sex acts with the girl, who was 12 or 13 when they met in the mid-1990s.
Kelly and the girl denied they were in the video, even though the picture quality was good and witnesses testified it was them. She did not take the stand. He was acquitted in 2008.
The indictment says the payments continued after the 2008 trial, and that Kelly also transferred the title on a luxury SUV to the girl in 2013.
Prosecutors also say Kelly went to great lengths to recover videos he made of himself with girls when he realized some were missing from his “collection,” including making some victims and witnesses take lie-detector tests to ensure they had returned all copies of the videos.
A separate indictment filed in the Eastern District of New York includes charges of racketeering, kidnapping, forced labour and the sexual exploitation of a child. It says Kelly and his managers, bodyguards and other assistants picked out women and girls at concerts and other venues and arranged for them to travel to see Kelly. They also set rules the women and girls had to follow, including not leaving their rooms – even to eat or go to the bathroom – without Kelly’s permission, calling the singer “Daddy” and not looking at other men, the indictment alleges.
The indictment alleges that the criminal acts occurred over two decades dating back to 1999, both in the U.S. and overseas. It accuses Kelly of engaging in sexual acts with girls under 18 and of not disclosing that he had a sexually transmitted disease. It also accuses him of producing child pornography, including by asking minors to send him photographs.
The Chicago indictment charges Kelly with child sex crimes, including producing child pornography, and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. It also names Kelly’s business manager, Derrel McDavid, and another employee.
At a brief hearing in Chicago on the New York indictment, Kelly stood before the judge in an orange jumpsuit, with his hands clasped behind his back. The only words he spoke during the 15-minute hearing were “yes, ma’am.”
Kelly was being held at the high-rise Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago, where he will remain at least until a hearing scheduled for Tuesday. Prosecutors have requested he be held without bond.
Federal prosecutors in New York said if convicted of the charges Kelly could face decades in prison. Chicago prosecutors also want Kelly to forfeit more than $1.5 million.
Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, said the 52-year-old R&B artist was walking his dog “Believe” when he was taken into custody Thursday evening.
Greenberg said the charges were “not a surprise” and that Kelly should be allowed to post bail.
“It’s the worst kept secret he was going to get charged federally and he hasn’t fled,” he said following Friday’s hearing.
He also accused the federal government of “piling on” with the new charges and described his client as unflappable despite a series of indictments in recent months.
“I’m amazed he hasn’t had a complete breakdown in the face of all of this pressure,” he said. He questioned if the victims referenced in the indictments were actually victims.
“They’ve charged him in New York with enticing people and encouraging people to have sex with him,” Greenberg said. “I don’t think people accidentally have sex so I’m not really sure what the criminal activity is there.”
The Grammy winner, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, was arrested in February on 10 counts in Illinois of sexually abusing three girls and a woman. He pleaded not guilty to those charges and was released on bail.
Then on May 30, Cook County prosecutors added 11 more sex-related counts involving one of the women who accused him of sexually abusing her when she was underage.
Darrell Johnson, a publicist for Kelly, delivered a statement at a chaotic news conference Friday in Atlanta, where he was interrupted seconds after beginning by the family of a woman who lived with Kelly in Chicago. The relatives of Joycelyn Savage pleaded to speak with their daughter.
“I want to know where my daughter is,” Timothy Savage, Joycelyn Savage’s father, angrily interrupted Johnson. “Where is she at? Answer that question!”
Johnson said he had “nothing to do” with Joycelyn Savage and that she was not being held. In an interview with “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King in March, Joycelyn Savage defended her relationship with Kelly and denied reports she was being held against her will.
Kelly has faced mounting legal troubles since a Lifetime in January aired a documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” which revisited allegations of sexual abuse of girls. The series followed the BBC’s “R Kelly: Sex, Girls & Videotapes,” released in 2018, that alleged the singer was holding women against their will and running a “sex cult.”
Soon after the release of the Lifetime documentary, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx asked victims and witnesses to come forward to help them build a case against Kelly.
Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents three of the victims identified as “Jane Does” in the New York indictment, predicted that long-overdue justice “will soon be done.”
“This is a very positive day for those who allege that they are victims of Mr. Kelly, and it is a day that I’m sure that Mr. Kelly hoped would never come,” she said.
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