R. Kelly Enters Not Guilty Plea in Sex Abuse Case
Prosecutors painted a dark portrait of a manipulative and sometimes violent Kelly, describing how he repeatedly sought out underage girls for sex.
R. Kelly pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he sexually abused four people dating back to 1998, including three underage girls, and his attorney said the R&B star was still trying to pay the bail that would allow him to go free while awaiting trial.
Kelly, one of the best-selling music artists of all time, walked into a Chicago courtroom wearing an orange jail jumpsuit after spending the weekend in the city's 7,000-inmate jail. Kelly said little during the brief arraignment hearing, telling the judge only that his name was Robert Kelly.
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 bond at $1 million.
The Grammy Award-winning singer is required to pay 10 percent of the bond, and his attorney said Kelly's confidants are trying to pay the $100,000 to get him released as he awaits trial.
Among the conditions of release is that Kelly have no contact with females younger than 18.
Jail spokeswoman Sophia Ansaria said Kelly had not posted bail as of late Monday morning. The case was assigned to Cook County Associate Judge Lawrence Flood. Kelly's next court date is March 22.
Kelly's attorney, Steve Greenberg, told The Associated Press on Sunday that coordination of the bail payment is complicated. But he said Kelly could be released as early as Monday or Tuesday.
"He has to rely on others acting on his behalf," Greenberg said. "And it's just not that easy — because Kelly's in jail."
Attorney Michael Avenatti, who said he represents two Kelly accusers, said his legal team gave prosecutors a second video Monday that shows Kelly sexually abusing a minor. Avenatti previously gave prosecutors video evidence that he said showed Kelly having sex with an underage girl.
Avenatti said the second video involves a 14-year-old girl. He said the video from 1999 or 2000 is about 55 minutes long, but he did not say if it was the same 14-year-old girl seen in the first video he turned over to the authorities.
"The conduct in the tape can be described as nothing short of outrageous, illegal. It leaves no question as to Mr. Kelly's guilt."
Avenatti said he is aware of a third tape, but he did not provide details.
On Monday, he tweeted, "I can confirm that we will be providing a second video showing R. Kelly engaged in sexual assault of a minor to prosecutors this morning. This tape was recently uncovered in connection with our ongoing nationwide investigation on behalf of victims. Justice must be done."
In arguing for bail within the singer's ability to pay, Greenberg told a judge over the weekend that Kelly wasn't wealthy despite decades of success creating hit songs. The lawyer blamed mismanagement, bad contracts and other issues for his client's financial woes.
There are multiple logistical issues that could have thwarted Kelly's efforts to pay over the weekend, said Joseph Lopez, a criminal defense attorney in Chicago not connected to the Kelly case. He said court officials must be able to talk to bank officials directly to confirm that an amount written on a check is covered, and that's not possible when banks are closed.
Records on the Cook County sheriff's website show Kelly is in Division 8 of the county jail, where the medical unit is located but also where inmates considered at risk from the general inmate population are held, Lopez said.
Disturbing details of the allegations against Kelly emerged Saturday when the prosecution released four detailed documents — one for each accuser — outlining the basis for the charges. The allegations date back as far as 1998 and span more than a decade. The accounts emerged as Kelly made his first court appearance Saturday since being accused of sexually abusing four people in a case that could produce another #MeToo reckoning for a celebrity.
Prosecutors on Saturday painted a dark portrait of a manipulative and sometimes violent Kelly, describing how he repeatedly sought out underage girls for sex, including one he encountered at her 16th birthday party and another who met the R&B star while he was on trial for child pornography.
A 16-year-old girl reported meeting Kelly in 1998 at a restaurant where she was having a birthday party. Kelly's manager gave her the singer's business card and suggested she call Kelly. The girl's mother heard the exchange, took the card and told the manager her daughter was 16. But her daughter later retrieved the card from her purse. She contacted Kelly, who gave her instructions and money that she assumed was for the taxi fare to his studio, where they had sex periodically for a year, the documents said.
Another accuser, also 16, met Kelly at his 2008 trial, where he gave her an autograph. He later invited her to his home in the Chicago suburb of Olympia Fields, where they had sex multiple times, according to the documents, which said he also slapped, choked and spit on her.
In early 2003, a Chicago hairdresser told prosecutors that she thought she was going to braid Kelly's hair, but he pulled down his pants and instead tried to force her to give him oral sex. The woman, who was 24, was able to pull away, but Kelly ejaculated on her and spit in her face, the documents said.
Prosecutors also described a witness who had access to videotapes showing Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl. The witness turned the tape over to authorities and identified the girl, who repeatedly states her age on the footage, according to the documents.
Kelly's DNA was found in semen on one of the accuser's shirts, and semen found on a shirt worn by another was submitted for DNA testing, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx said. It was not clear when the accusers turned the shirts over to authorities, whether it was shortly after the abuse or more recently.
At the bond hearing Saturday, Kelly's attorney Greenberg said his client is not a flight risk. He told the judge, "Contrary to the song, Mr. Kelly doesn't like to fly." One of Kelly's best-known hits is "I Believe I Can Fly."
Greenberg said Kelly "really doesn't have any more money," suggesting that others had mismanaged his wealth. Still, he said he expected that Kelly would be able to come up with enough money for bail.
The judge called the allegations "disturbing." The singer-songwriter looked down at the floor as the judge spoke.
After the hearing, Greenberg told reporters that Kelly did not force anyone to have sex. "He's a rock star. He doesn't have to have nonconsensual sex," Greenberg said.
The judge ordered Kelly to surrender his passport, ending his hopes of doing a tour of Europe in April. Kelly defiantly scheduled concerts in Germany and the Netherlands despite the cloud of legal issues looming over him. Greenberg denied that any tour was planned.
The recording artist has been trailed for decades by allegations that he violated underage girls and women and held some as virtual slaves. He was charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse.
Kelly, who was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008, has consistently denied any sexual misconduct. He broke into the R&B scene in 1993 with his first solo album, 12 Play, which produced such popular sex-themed songs as "Bump N' Grind" and "Your Body's Callin'."
He rose from poverty on Chicago's South Side and has retained a sizable following. Kelly has written numerous hits for himself and other artists, including Celine Dion, Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga. His collaborators have included Jay-Z and Usher.
The jury in 2008 acquitted Kelly of child pornography charges that centered on a graphic video that prosecutors said showed him having sex with a girl as young as 13. He and the young woman allegedly seen with him denied they were in the 27-minute video, even though the picture quality was good and witnesses testified it was them, and she did not take the stand. Kelly could have gotten 15 years in prison.
Charging Kelly now for actions that occurred in the same time frame as the allegations from the 2008 trial suggests the accusers are cooperating this time and willing to testify.
Because the alleged victim 10 years ago denied that she was on the video and did not testify, the state's attorney's office had little recourse except to charge the lesser offense under Illinois law, child pornography, which required a lower standard of evidence.
Each count of the new charges carries up to seven years in prison, and the sentences could be served consecutively, making it possible for Kelly to receive up to 70 years. Probation is also an option.
The walls began closing in on Kelly after the release of a BBC documentary about him last year and the multipart Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly, which aired last month. Together they detailed allegations he was holding women against their will and running a "sex cult."
#MeToo activists and a social media movement using the hashtag #MuteRKelly called on streaming services to drop Kelly's music and promoters not to book any more concerts. Protesters demonstrated outside Kelly's Chicago studio.
The prosecution said in the indictment that abuse that happened more than two decades ago still falls within the charging window allowed under Illinois law. Victims typically have 20 years to report abuse, beginning when they turn 18.