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The ecosystem that enabled R. Kelly’s alleged toxic behavior, including sexual abuse claims dating back decades, partly explains why the Grammy-nominated R&B singer can’t make bail, Surviving R. Kelly executive producer Dream Hampton said Monday.
“He has gone broke holding women in his studio,” Hampton said during a CBS This Morning interview when reacting to the charges Kelly now faces. “This lifestyle that he has, moving women — girls — state-to-state where their parents can’t find them, he’s gone broke doing this.”
Kelly was arrested Friday on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse involving four females, three of whom were minors. He remains jailed after a judge on Saturday set his bond at $1 million. Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, said meeting Kelly’s $100,000 bail payment while he awaits trial is complicated, blaming mismanagement and bad contracts for why the singer isn’t wealthy despite decades of success. According to CNN, Kelly also owed more than $169,000 in unpaid child support and $166,000 in unpaid rent on his Chicago recording studio, which he has since vacated.
On Monday afternoon, Kelly pleaded not guilty on the sex abuse charges and remained jailed as of the time of this story.
Lifetime’s hit docuseries Surviving R. Kelly has played a key role in Kelly’s indictment. After its debut in January, Chicago prosecutors began seeking information and sent a call out for alleged Kelly victims to come forward. The explosive claims in the six-part doc included sexual abuse allegations from multiple women, several who were underage at the time of the alleged assaults, who were interviewed on-camera.
The doc also spotlighted how Kelly allegedly holds women against their will, following up on the Buzzfeed 2017 report about Kelly’s so-called sex cult. Surviving R. Kelly followed two families of those women on their fight to get their daughters back; one parent was successful while another, the Savage family, continues to fight to bring their daughter Joycelyn home.
“A 52-year-old R&B singer is often a sad song, financially. There are plenty examples of artists who grow broke in their fifties. But this is very particular to him settling lawsuits, to him having to manage six and seven girls at a time,” said Hampton, citing Kelly as making more than $200 million throughout his career.
Kelly was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008 and has consistently denied any sexual misconduct. The jury acquitted Kelly of the charges after he and the underage woman allegedly seen with him denied they were in the video; she also never took the stand.
Kelly could have gotten 15 years in prison. Aggravated criminal sexual abuse is a class 2 felony and the singer is now facing a sentencing range of three to seven years per count.
Hampton, a filmmaker and activist, and her team spoke to many women for Surviving R. Kelly to paint the doc’s horrifying, detailed picture of how Kelly’s alleged abuse spanned 30 years. Many women were featured in the doc, and Hampton says she and her team spoke to many more who would corroborate claims, but who wouldn’t participate on camera for fear of being harassed. Hampton has said she believes Kelly’s behavior went on for so long because many of his victims were black women and society has a “knee-jerk reaction to protect black men” at the expense of black women.
“Then when [Chicago’s Cook County State’s Attorney] Kim Foxx, she and the D.A. in Illinois, and also a prosecutor in Atlanta asked for more women to come forward, the floodgates open and both of those prosecutors are getting those calls,” added Hampton on Monday of Chicago and Atlanta prosecutors quickly investigating the claims the doc brought forward.
Attorneys Gloria Allred and Michael Avenatti are each representing multiple alleged Kelly victims, with Avenatti submitting two recovered videotapes that he alleges shows Kelly sexually assaulting minors.
Hampton said that when they first began the TV project — more than a year before its premiere — their ideal outcome was to make people aware of the allegations and think differently about the popular artist. “I quite honestly didn’t think we would be here,” she said of Kelly now being charged.
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