R. Kelly Bond Set At $1 Million After Arrest On Charges Of Aggravated Sexual Abuse | Connecticut Public Radio
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R. Kelly Bond Set At $1 Million After Arrest On Charges Of Aggravated Sexual Abuse

Feb 22, 2019
Originally published on February 24, 2019 12:52 am

Updated at 2:36 p.m. ET Saturday

R&B star R. Kelly was arrested on Friday evening after having been indicted on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse in Cook County, Ill. On Saturday afternoon, a judge set bond at $1 million.

A police spokesman confirmed Friday night that Kelly was under arrest and in police custody; Kelly turned himself in at Chicago's 1st District-Central police station.

Member station WBEZ reports that on Saturday afternoon, Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr. — the same judge who set Jussie Smollett's bond earlier this week — set Kelly's bond at $1 million: $250,000 per victim. However, Kelly is being allowed to go free as he awaits trial if he can post $100,000, or 10 percent of the bond.

Kimberly Foxx, the Cook County state's attorney, announced the charges against Kelly during a brief press conference held in Chicago on Friday afternoon. She said that a grand jury indicted the singer, born Robert Kelly, on 10 counts involving four alleged victims, whom Foxx identified as "H.W.," "R.L.," "L.C." and "J.P."

Foxx said that three of the women — "H.W.," "R.L." and "J.P." — were all under age 17 at the time of the alleged incidents, which reportedly took place over more than a decade, from 1998 to 2010. Kelly, now age 52, would have been in his 30s or 40s in that time frame.

At Saturday afternoon's bond hearing, Kelly was also ordered to turn over his passport and told not to be in contact with any of the four alleged victims. NPR's Cheryl Corley also reports from the courthouse that the judge specified that Kelly is to have no contact with anyone under age 18.

Foxx, who took no questions at Friday's press conference, noted that each count is a Class 2 felony in Illinois and a probational offense that carries a potential sentence of three to seven years.

According to Illinois law, the statute of limitations has not run out on the alleged incidents.

Kelly's lawyer, Steven Greenberg, did not immediately return NPR's request for comment. But he has maintained his client's innocence regarding all allegations, as has Kelly himself.

Speaking to The Associated Press on Friday, Greenberg maintained his client's innocence; the AP quotes Greenberg as saying that Kelly is "extraordinarily disappointed and depressed. He is shellshocked by this."

Greenberg also claimed to the AP that he proposed meeting with prosecutors before the charges were filed but that his offer was refused.

The Cook County indictment comes amid revived controversy around the singer, which came to a boil last month when the Lifetime TV network aired a six-part docuseries called Surviving R. Kelly that features more than 50 interviewees and lays out 25 years of allegations against Kelly dating back to the early 1990s. The series includes on-camera interviews with several women who have come forward publicly with their accusations. More recent allegations against the singer emerged in a 2017 BuzzFeed investigation. The BuzzFeed piece reported accusations that Kelly runs a sex "cult" composed of women whom he regularly abuses — and it helped uncork a torrent of outrage, including the #MuteRKelly protest movement.

Yet for all the fresh anger that followed the publication of the BuzzFeed piece, allegations of sexual misconduct by R. Kelly are nothing new: Questions have swirled around his behavior with teenage girls since at least 1994, when R. Kelly — then 27 — briefly married his 15-year-old protégée, Aaliyah. The marriage was annulled within months.

Since then, Kelly has faced a series of lawsuits and allegations, none with graver legal consequences than the charge that he videotaped himself having sex with and performing lewd acts on an underage girl. The tape's existence was revealed in 2002 by Chicago journalists — including Jim DeRogatis, who would write the BuzzFeed story a decade and a half later — and resulted in Kelly's arrest just months later.

In 2002, Kelly was charged with more than a dozen counts related to child pornography. But due to a variety of delays, he did not go to trial until 2008, at which point he was acquitted on all counts. (Neither the young woman who reportedly appeared in the 2002 tape nor her parents testified in Kelly's trial, though several other family members and friends did identify her during the court proceedings.)

Within days of Surviving R. Kelly having aired, public pressure against the singer mounted dramatically. Some of his previous collaborators — such as Lady Gaga — began to publicly distance themselves from him. And his label, RCA Records, owned by Sony Music Entertainment, bowed to the pressure and dropped the singer last month.

This month, CNN reported that its newsroom had seen a newly surfaced VHS tape that prominent lawyer Michael Avenatti says he has given to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office.

CNN described the tape as being over 45 minutes long and said it shows a man who appears to be Kelly and a teenage girl; both the man and the teenager repeatedly refer to her purported age, 14 years old. The video, CNN says, shows the man and the girl in a number of sexual acts as well as the man urinating on the teenager. Those acts are similar to the ones that Kelly was alleged to have committed on the 2002 tape.

After Cook County held its press conference, Avenatti held his own press event in Chicago on Friday afternoon. He stated that he is currently representing six individuals related to the Kelly allegations: two young women — "at least one" of whom, he said, was named as a victim in Friday's indictment — as well as two parents of one of the women who is believed to be currently living with Kelly, and two people whom Avenatti referred to as "whistleblowers" who have been part of Kelly's "inner circle" for more than 20 years.

During his press conference, Avenatti asserted many of the same details about the newly surfaced tape as CNN described them. He also alleged that there are two other videotapes — one already in his possession and one that he alleges he is "in the process of recovering" — that purport to show Kelly sexually abusing women. Avenatti said that he plans to turn those tapes over to Foxx's office as well.

Avenatti also said that he has evidence that a number of "enablers" worked to "rig" the 2008 trial against Kelly, including by paying off witnesses.

On Thursday, lawyer Gloria Allred held a press conference with two more women, Rochelle Washington and Latresa Scaff, who allege that Kelly pursued them for sex when they were teenagers in an incident that they say happened more than 20 years ago.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Allegations of sexual abuse have trailed R&B superstar R. Kelly for more than two decades. Today in Chicago, those claims caught up with him.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

KIMBERLY FOXX: Earlier today, Robert Kelly was indicted before a Cook County grand jury on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four victims.

CORNISH: That's Kimberly Foxx, the state's attorney for Cook County, at a news conference. She said the alleged incidents date back to 1998, and several of the victims were underage. A warning here - some listeners may find the nature of this conversation disturbing. We're going to bring in NPR's Colin Dwyer now to talk more about these charges. Colin, what more did we learn from prosecutors at the news conference?

COLIN DWYER, BYLINE: Well, the news conference was a very straightforward affair. Kimberly Foxx briefly, very bluntly laid out the charges against Kelly. She didn't take any questions afterward. Frankly, the entire thing couldn't have taken more than five minutes. But we did learn something about the crimes that he's been accused of. The 10 counts cover four different individuals. The earliest of those counts relate to incidents between 1998 and '99, and the most recent allegedly happened as recent as 2010. Foxx said that in three of those cases, the victims were under the age of 17. Now, it should be mentioned each count is considered a class 2 felony in Illinois, and that means each one of them could carry up to seven years in prison.

CORNISH: R. Kelly has been accused of sexual misconduct with underage girls for many years now, and this is not the first time he's faced charges. Give us the background.

DWYER: No, it isn't. In fact, as you mentioned, they date back more than two decades, these allegations, back to his very brief marriage with his protege, Aaliyah. She was 15 at the time. He was 27. That marriage was quickly annulled. But years later in 2002, he was charged with more than a dozen counts of child pornography related to a video involving an underage girl. That case actually took six years to go to court, at which point Kelly was acquitted on all counts. But at every step of the way, Kelly has steadfastly denied that he hasn't done anything wrong.

CORNISH: Is it thought that this is the result, then, of the new documentary that's out about R. Kelly? It includes interviews with many of his accusers.

DWYER: I think that's part of it. So you're referring to the docuseries Lifetime - or the Lifetime docuseries "Surviving R. Kelly," and I think that's part of it. A number of women came forward on record with their experiences. But I think you can actually trace it back a couple of years to 2017 when BuzzFeed published an investigation alleging that he led something of a cult of young women around him.

But since the docuseries "Surviving R. Kelly" was released earlier this year, the drumbeat has just gotten louder. A number of his former collaborators have disavowed him. That includes Lady Gaga. And he was also dropped by his record label. And even yesterday, two more women came forward against him alleging abuse that dated back to the '90s.

CORNISH: Getting back to the news of the day, what's going to happen next?

DWYER: Well, we know one thing for sure, and that is that R. Kelly is scheduled for a bond hearing tomorrow in Chicago. And he has already turned himself in tonight. Beyond that, though, it's kind of tough to say. Kelly and his legal team have made quite clear that they intend to fight this thing. And remember; the last time that this happened, the case took six years to go to trial. So we might be following this thing for quite some time.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Colin Dwyer. Colin, thank you.

DWYER: Thank you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.