R. Kelly pleads not guilty to sexual abuse charges
CHICAGO — R&B star R. Kelly’s attorney entered not guilty pleas on the singer’s behalf Monday after Kelly was charged with sexually abusing four victims dating back to 1998, including three underage teenagers.
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.
He was arrested Friday on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse involving four females, three of whom were minors. He remained 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.
The recording artist has been trailed for decades by allegations that he violated underage girls and women and held some as virtual slaves. Kelly has consistently denied any sexual misconduct, and he was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008.
Attorney Michael Avenatti, who said he represents two Kelly victims, said his legal team gave prosecutors a second video Monday that he alleges shows Kelly sexually abused a minor. Avenatti previously gave prosecutors video evidence of what 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 is about 55 minutes long and is from around 1999 or 2000. He did not say if it was the same 14-year-old girl he alleged was 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 not question as to Mr. Kelly’s guilt.”
Avenatti said he is aware of a third tape, but he did not provide details about it.
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 that Kelly could be released as early as Monday or Tuesday.
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.
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.
A girl who attended Kelly’s child pornography trial in 2008 got his autograph after a court session. He later invited her to his home in the Chicago suburb of Olympia Fields, where they had sex multiple times starting the following May, when she was 16, according to the documents, which said he also slapped, choked and spit on the girl.
In 1998, another girl reported meeting Kelly at a restaurant where she was having a 16th 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 told her to take a cab to his studio, where they had sex periodically for a year, the documents said. After the first encounter, she was given an envelope of cash.
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 a tape over to authorities and identified the girl, who repeatedly stated 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.
At the bond hearing, Greenberg said his client was 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.”
After the hearing, Greenberg told reporters 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 broke into the R&B scene in 1993 with his first solo album, “12 Play,” which produced such popular sex-themed songs as “Your Body’s Callin’” and “Bump N’ Grind.” 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.
In 2008, a jury 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 female 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 been sentenced to 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, making it possible for him 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 that he held women against their will and ran a “sex cult.”