R. Kelly leaves jail after posting $100,000 bond, pleading not guilty to sexual abuse charges
CHICAGO — After three days in custody, R&B superstar R. Kelly walked out of Cook County Jail on Monday evening into a crush of reporters and onlookers — both apparent fans and detractors.
“R. Kelly! R. Kelly!” one young woman screamed as she tried to video-record the singer as he pushed through the crowd and into a waiting black van with tinted windows.
“He’s nasty!” another woman yelled. “He’s a (expletive) pedophile!”
Hours earlier, Kelly pleaded not guilty to charges he sexually abused four women, three of whom were underage at the time of the alleged assaults, over a span of a dozen years.
To win his freedom, Kelly needed to post $100,000 — 10 percent of the $1 million bond set by a judge on Saturday. He was unable to come up with the money over the weekend, but court records indicate that on Monday a 47-year-old suburban Romeoville woman posted the bond for Kelly, identifying herself on the bond slip as “a friend” of the singer’s.
Earlier Monday, during his second appearance in the Leighton Criminal Court Building in just three days, Kelly — clad in a bright orange jail uniform — clasped his hands behind his back as his attorney, Steven Greenberg, entered the not-guilty plea on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
Kelly appeared before Associate Judge Lawrence Flood, who was randomly assigned Monday to oversee the high-profile case. He has been on the bench since 2001 and assigned to the criminal courts for more than a decade.
On Monday evening, as a crowd of reporters gathered outside the Southwest Side jail to await Kelly’s release, a car idling nearby blasted his 1996 hit “I Believe I Can Fly.” A bystander on the corner sang along at the top of his lungs.
Omar Bey, 25, poked his head through the sunroof of the car and raised his phone to shoot footage of the crowd at the jail’s exit.
While Bey said he was a lifelong fan of Kelly’s music, he came to the jail Monday mostly to boost his social media profile.
“I’m just trying to get some footage for my Snapchat,” he said. “I’m not too sure if he did it or not, but I know he’ll beat the case.”
Kelly, clad in the same bright blue coat he wore when he surrendered to police Friday night, walked out of jail just before 5:30 p.m. with a furrowed brow, greeted by shouts of “Free Kells!”
Meanwhile, celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti, who earlier this month gave prosecutors a VHS tape purportedly depicting Kelly having sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl, told reporters Monday that he had turned over yet another videotape.
The alleged victim on the new tape is connected to the charges brought Friday against Kelly, Avenatti said, but he did not provide further details.
Greenberg said after court Monday that he had not seen any of the evidence that Avenatti claimed to have compiled, adding that it would be inappropriate to try the case in the news media.
“We’re going to try the case in the courtroom,” Greenberg said. “We’re going to see what the evidence is, and we’re not going to worry about some grandstanding.”
The singer, 52, whose legal name is Robert Kelly, was separated from the general inmate population in the jail’s medical wing, Greenberg said.
“No one wants to be in jail,” Greenberg said before Kelly’s release. “But he’s strong. He knows the fight he’s going to be involved in. He was in it before.”
In a sensational trial in 2008, six years after he was indicted, Kelly was acquitted of child pornography charges alleging he filmed himself having sex with his goddaughter, a girl estimated to have been as young as 13.
At Kelly’s bond hearing Saturday, prosecutors alleged that Kelly tried to force oral sex on his 24-year-old hairdresser in 2003 while he was free on bond on the then-pending child pornography charges.
Among the other allegations laid out by prosecutors: that Kelly solicited an underage girl outside his 2008 criminal trial and later sexually abused her; that he carried on a yearlong sexual relationship with a girl he had met in 1998 when she was celebrating her 16th birthday; and that he videotaped himself having sex with a young girl at his home in Olympia Fields in the late 1990s.
After his indictment Friday, Kelly surrendered to Chicago police shortly after 8 p.m. at the Central District police station, where he spent that night in the lockup. On Saturday, he was ordered held on $1 million — $250,000 for each of the four indictments against him — by Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr., who called the allegations “disturbing.” The judge also barred him from contact with the alleged victims or any witnesses in the case and banned the singer from contact with anyone younger than 18.
Kelly, who has been dogged for years by accusations of sexual misconduct with underage girls and women, faces 10 Class 2 felony counts, each of which carries a maximum of seven years in prison upon conviction but also could result in probation.
Friday’s charges came in the wake of reporting in BuzzFeed and The New Yorker by Chicago-based journalist Jim DeRogatis and after damning allegations in a recent Lifetime documentary series.
Citing the “deeply, deeply disturbing” allegations raised in the documentary, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx made an unusual public plea last month for any Kelly accusers to come forward.
Last week, Avenatti told reporters that earlier this month he gave Foxx a videotape he unearthed that depicted Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl. He said Friday that the VHS tape dating to about 1999 was more than 40 minutes long and showed Kelly on two separate days engaged in sexual acts with the girl. He said the audio was clear and the video of “far superior” quality than the grainy tape used at the 2008 trial.
The indictments come at a time of intensifying professional trouble for Kelly, who has been targeted by a social media movement, #MuteRKelly, that has called on streaming services and radio stations to drop his music and promoters not to book any more concerts. Protesters have demonstrated outside Kelly’s Chicago studio, and a scheduled performance in Chicago last year was canceled amid the uproar.
Greenberg, Kelly’s lawyer, said he believes the alleged victim in the first tape Avenatti handed over to prosecutors is the same girl from the 2008 child pornography trial and that charging the singer again for that amounts to double jeopardy.
The six-hour documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly,” aired on the Lifetime channel and alleged that he has manipulated young women into joining a “sex cult,” forcing them to stay with him against their will and keeping them under his control.
In the days after Foxx’s plea for help from alleged Kelly victims, her office was inundated with tips.