6:30pm PT by Jackie Strause
'Surviving R. Kelly': 12 Powerful Takeaways From 'Part II: The Reckoning'
[This story contains graphic details from Lifetime's Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning.]
One year after Surviving R. Kelly made waves across televisions and social media — and set the wheels in motion in the case against embattled singer R. Kelly — the team behind the bombshell docuseries has returned with a sequel.
"We knew that we had to go deeper into some areas we couldn’t before with Part 1," executive producer Jesse Daniels told The Hollywood Reporter about the follow-up, which features 10 survivors on the record with their stories of sexual violence and abuse, and more than 70 interviewees overall.
Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning aired in five parts and across three nights, concluding on Saturday. Below, THR rounds up the biggest takeaways from the powerful series, which examines a history of alleged sexual violence by Kelly, who is currently facing a slate of federal and state criminal sex abuse charges.
R. Kelly's Own Child Abuse Detailed By Brothers
Brothers Bruce and Carey Kelly return as participants in Surviving R. Kelly Part II. In the first docuseries, the filmmakers explored how R. Kelly was abused as a young child. The follow-up sees the brothers offering more details as they claim that both a male "neighborhood uncle," referred to as Mr. Henry, and a female family member sexually abused R. Kelly, with the abuse ranging from when the singer was age 7 to 13 or 14. Carey Kelly claims Mr. Henry bribed their mother with $5,000 for her silence about the abuse. "Often the victim becomes the defender of other victims. And occasionally, the victim becomes the victimizer," notes interviewee Jim DeRogatis, the author of Soulless: The Cast Against R Kelly and the music reporter who has reported on the case for decades, speaking to 48 girls and women total. R. Kelly has spoken out about being molested as a child in his 2012 memoir, in a 2016 interview and in his 2018 song "I Admit."
A Screening Evacuation and Threats
Part II provides a firsthand look at the chaos that erupted when a Dec. 4, 2018 private screening for Surviving R. Kelly, which was attended by many of the survivors, was evacuated over a gun threat. "That’s when I knew something powerful is in this documentary and someone is trying to make sure it’s not ever seen," comments returning survivor Kitti Jones. After the screening, the parents of survivor Faith Rodgers, who sued Kelly in May 2008 for failing to disclose an STD and for sexual battery, said they were approached by a woman who allegedly worked with Kelly and who threatened to release explicit images of Rodgers. Rodgers, who is epileptic, had a seizure that night from the stress and her family had to move due to threats.
Another returning survivor, Asante McGee, said she worried that Lifetime wouldn't air the initial docuseries over safety fears. But attorney Gloria Allred, who has represented several of Kelly's accusers, noted the shift after the release of the Emmy-nominated doc: "The person with the fear is the rapist, or the person who sexually assaulted or abused a child."
Two Former Kelly Staffers Defend the Singer, Speak Out About "Surviving Lies"
Many of the survivors share details about the backlash they received for speaking out. Lindsey Perryman-Dunn, who worked as a manager and personal assistant for Kelly from 1999-2007, sits down with the filmmakers to discuss the "Surviving Lies" social media pages that launched when the first docuseries released that targeted many of the survivors. (The pages have since been shuttered.) "The women I saw in the docuseries were the type of women that Robert would have picked, and you know what they’re upset about? Is that they didn’t get the limelight until they were on Lifetime television," she says.
Her sister, Jen Emrich, also a former Kelly staffer, says she coached Kelly to start sharing his side and that she began defending him online using the #unmuterkelly hashtag, in response to the #muterkelly movement that went viral after the doc's release. "No one wanted to listen to me unless I said something bad about R. Kelly, because that was the popular thing to do," says Emrich. While the sisters claim to not know who started the "Surviving Lies" pages, they both say they supported it. "I don’t believe that I was a part of anything that had to do with pedophilia," adds Perryman-Dunn.
Kelly's First Accuser: "No One Believed Me"
Among the new survivors who speak out in Part II is Tiffany Hawkins, who met Kelly at age 15 and who sued the singer in 1991. Hawkins and returning interviewee Jovante Cunningham paint a picture of how Kelly used them to meet other girls aged 14 to 16 and engage in alleged group sex, including with Ebony Wilkins, who met Kelly at age 15 and who also speaks on the record. Several months after meeting, Hawkins was the only girl Kelly would allow around and she says their relationship turned sexual. Her lawyer says Hawkins eventually lived with Kelly, who got her a job background singing for rising star Aaliyah, and was told to cut off contact with everyone else. "I hated it," Hawkins says of the sexual relationship. "But I did it because I felt like it was what I had to do."
After Hawkins got pregnant and Kelly refused a paternity test, she hired her lawyer and filed a civil lawsuit against Kelly, where she provided more than seven hours of on-the-record deposition testimony accusing Kelly of having sex with her, a minor, and other minors, as well as engaging in group sex with other minors. She was offered a $200,000 settlement contingent upon her signing a non-disclosure agreement.
The settlement was brokered by attorney Susan E. Loggans, says Hawkins' attorney Ian Alexander. DeRogatis believes that Loggans has brokered "more than a dozen settlements" for Kelly that they don't know about. Hawkins took the money. "No one believed me, and after that it continued to happen again and again," says Hawkins of the outcome. Cunningham adds, "We’re grown girls. But we’re still little girls who cry silently."
"Aaliyah Was the Sacrificial Lamb"
Surviving R. Kelly focused on Kelly's relationship with the late singer Aaliyah, exploring how his mentoring relationship evolved when Kelly, at age 27, married his protege when she was 15 without her parents' knowledge. (The marriage was later annulled.) In Part II, record producer Damon Dash, who was in a relationship with Aaliyah when she died from a plane crash in 2001, goes on the record to speak about how Aaliyah was "the sacrificial lamb" when it comes to Kelly. He says Aaliyah only told him Kelly was a "bad man," because she didn't think he could handle hearing the details. "Good soul, good girl, and wasn’t even really so resentful — like, 'Let that man live, but keep him the fuck away from me.' That’s all she wanted, she was just happy to be away," says Dash. Kelly recently pleaded not guilty to a federal charge accusing him of scheming to issue Aaliyah a fake ID so he could legally marry her.
Public Lawsuits Were Left Out of Kelly's 2008 Trial
Surviving R. Kelly explored Kelly's 2002 indictment and famous 2008 acquittal on charges of videotaping himself having sex with a girl who prosecutors alleged was as young as 13. In Part II, Jimmy Maynes, an artist manager and former SVP Creative at Jive Records, talks about buying up all the videotapes they could find in Chicago at the time, and Carey Kelly recalls how his brother falsely named him as the man in the tape. "He couldn’t do this by himself. Everyone knew, or most people in that camp knew, that a lot of these girls were underage,” says Kelly's former bodyguard Gem Pratts.
After delaying the trial for six years, Kelly ultimately walks away a free man. None of the four already public lawsuits against Kelly were mentioned during the trial, and reporter DeRogatis lists them off here: Hawkins in 1991, at age 15; Tracy Sampson in 2001, at age 17; Patrice Jones who, in 2002, said she became pregnant at 17 and claimed Kelly forced an abortion; and Montina Woods who, in 2002, alleged Kelly videotaped sex without her knowledge. The prosecution's case was narrowed down to the one girl on the videotape, who did not testify (as was explained in Sparkle's story in Surviving R. Kelly). Attorney Michael Avenatti, who represented multiple Kelly accusers, alleges the family received $2 million for not testifying in 2008.
Several of the survivors say they never gave Kelly their permission to film them during sexual acts; Bruce Kelly says his brother taped him once without his knowledge and Carey Kelly says he once found a tape with Kelly and "little" white girls and, regretfully, gave his brother the videotape back so he could destroy it.
"It Was Like He Crushed My Life"
Lanita Carter, who met Kelly at age 24 when she became his hair braider, joins the docuseries' list of survivors. She explains how Kelly saved her from a domestic abuse situation and, referring to him as a brother, says they opened up to each other about being molested when they were young. But in 2003, not long after his indictment, their relationship shifted when Kelly asked her for a "head" massage and allegedly forced her to perform oral sex. She describes the incident in graphic detail, saying he spit and ejaculated onto her face. "It was like he crushed my life," she says.
Carter decided to report Kelly to the police, and her eight-hour questioning prompted a raid on his Chicago studio, where evidence to corroborate her story was found. But the DA decided not to bring criminal charges, and Carter says she felt ignored by the system. She was told to contact attorney Loggans about filing a civil lawsuit, but Loggans didn't believe her because of her older age and referred her to attorney David Prichard, who settled her case in three months. She says she signed an NDA and was told never to speak about it. (Kelly's lawyer Steve Greenberg says Carter's claims were investigated in the past and that prosecutors decided not to bring charges.)
Carter was inspired to speak out after seeing Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx's public plea for Kelly accusers to come forward shortly after the release of Surviving R. Kelly. She first broke her NDA when she spoke on CBS This Morning in March. "Money does not heal you. Money does not cover up what you feel. I took the chance of going to jail because I had already imprisoned myself, so I was already in jail. How can you lock up somebody who has already been locked up?" says Carter of going public.
Kim Foxx Encouraged Survivors to Speak Out
Part II shows the footage of Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx holding a press conference only days after the release of Surviving R. Kelly, where she encouraged victims to come forward. Shortly after her statement, Foxx said her office was inundated with calls about the allegations made in the documentary. And by the end of February, Foxx announced that Chicago prosecutors had charged Kelly with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four victims. Now, sitting down with the filmmakers, Foxx says 99 percent of sexual abuse cases rely on women speaking out: "We need victims and witnesses to come forward."
Survivor Jerhonda Pace Says She Was in a Suicide Pact With Kelly
Survivor Jerhonda Pace, who had met Kelly at age 14, returns in Part II to paint a picture of the singer as a "monster" and as being "evil." While living with Kelly, Pace says she was part of a suicide pact — if Kelly went to jail or if someone harmed him, she was supposed to end her life. "When I was with him, I was really ready to take my own life because Rob was everything to me. Rob was my life," she explains.
During that time, Kelly asked Pace to introduce him to a friend and she connected him with Dominique Gardner (a now ex-girlfriend of Kelly's who was rescued by her mother in footage captured for Surviving R. Kelly). When Gardner came to live with Kelly, Pace never saw her; the two girls were separated and communicated by sneaking texts and cell phone calls. In 2010, Pace left Kelly and eventually, in 2017, she broke her silence and spoke with DeRogatis for a BuzzFeed article that exposed what life was like with Kelly. Pace says she broke her NDA to speak out because she feared for the safety of Gardner and Kelly's other girlfriends, Azriel Clary and Joycelyn Savage (who are subjects in both docuseries). Pace, who is one victim who overlaps in both of Kelly's Cook County cases, says she has been speaking to the FBI since 2017 in hopes that Clary and Savage can be released.
The Dominique Gardner Interview
Dominique Gardner's mother, Michelle Kramer, returns in Part II to reflect on her daughter's escape and update viewers on what has happened since. As was captured in Surviving R. Kelly, Kramer, after not seeing her daughter for three years, locates Gardner in a Beverly Hills hotel and runs her out when Kelly is gone. "We ran out of there like Harriet Tubman. I was freeing a slave," Kramer recalls.
After Gardner's time with Kelly, Kramer describes her daughter as being in a dark place. She was down to 98 pounds and her appearance had changed to resemble a boy, per Kelly's request. "She was a loner. He fucked my daughter up," she says.
Gardner escaped in May of 2018, and in September of 2019 she sat down with the filmmakers for her on-camera interview. She revealed that about a year after her escape, she felt guilty about leaving "her sisters" behind and actually went back to Kelly for a short period. A former anonymous employee described the hold that Kelly allegedly had on Gardner and said he kept her on constant punishment, claiming that he beat her with belts, shoes, "whatever you could think of," and pulled out patches of her hair. He once locked her away alone for a week and a half, an experience that Gardner says left her feeling suicidal. Ultimately, she missed her younger brother and he, along with her mother, motivated her to leave Kelly for the last time after a total of nine years and "she has never looked back since," says the brother. She is now in a new relationship and they are expecting their first child.
Azriel Clary Has Been Reunited With Her Family; Joycelyn Savage Has Not
Azriel Clary (21; met Kelly at 17) and Joycelyn Savage (23; met Kelly at 19) made headlines when they sat down with Gayle King for the second part of her explosive CBS This Morning interview series on Kelly in March. The two women, who have been living with the 52-year-old for four and five years, respectively, staunchly stood by his side and insisted they were in consenting relationships with the indicted singer. During that sit-down, Savage and Clary fought back against their parents' charges that the women have been brainwashed and kidnapped by Kelly, and Part II gives the parents, and respective siblings, the platform to respond to their daughters' claims. "That wasn’t my daughter speaking. That was a young lady surviving in the situation she’s in," says Clary's father, Angelo, of the interview.
Surviving R. Kelly focused on the plight of the Clary and Savage families as both sets of parents fought to get their daughters back. The follow-up shows the personal, financial and emotional devastation they have experienced while still trying to bring their daughters home. A new survivor, Halle Calhoun, who was 20 when she met Kelly, reveals herself as a recent ex-girlfriend who was with him for more than three years and during overlapping periods with Gardner, Savage and Clary. She says Kelly grew paranoid once the Clarys and Savages began speaking out and once made her speak to him in a sauna for fear that she was wearing a wire. Several of the survivors claim Kelly forced them to sign some sort of incriminating document while they were living with him; Jonelyn Savage says her daughter, Joycelyn, signed something falsely saying her father molested her. So, Perryman-Dunn says she ultimately convinced Kelly to sit down with King for the CBS interview. "I saw a man truly fighting for his freedom," she says of the headline-making TV event.
Part II recaps Clary and Savage's relationships with Kelly, and reveals that Kelly initially told the aspiring singers he wanted them to be a part of a girl group made up of five or six of them. The lawyer for the Savages details the death threats the family has received since this all began, and the parents again become a central point in the docuseries as the filmmakers travel with them through multiple rescue attempts. The ending title card of the series reveals that, as of December 2019, Clary has moved out of Trump Tower (where Kelly was residing in Chicago before being taken into custody) and has been reunited with her family. "Azriel continues to support R. Kelly as he prepares for trial," the card adds. A video update from Angelo Clary shows the father saying, "That pain has been healed. I am happy." Savage, however, remains at Trump Tower with the family "still hoping to reunite."
Each commercial break closed and opened with a title card warning viewers of explicit content and displaying Kelly's response to the claims made against him. Kelly, who remains in federal custody in Chicago, is scheduled to stand trial in April 2020 on 13 federal charges related to child pornography and obstruction of justice. He faces 26 other state and federal counts related to criminal sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of a child and racketeering. Two other trail dates are set for 2020.
"Kelly has denied all claims relating to sexual assault, domestic violence/abuse, and sexual misconduct with minors," reads Kelly's response. "Kelly’s lawyer claims that Kelly has witness statements and evidence showing his innocence, but cannot release them due to the active court cases against him. His lawyer also alleged that R. Kelly 'is the subject of a smear campaign' and that 'the accusers have not acted like victims at all' because 'they have used their accusations to promote contemporaneous books, albums, and speaking tours.'"