The 52-year old R&B singer has been indicted in multiple counts of sexual misconduct and one count of racketeering by a New York Federal Prosecutor. Where is he now?
No Stranger to Controversy
Singer R. Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, has been embroiled in controversy since his rise to fame in the early 1990s. Early hits such as “I Believe I Can Fly,” and “Bump N’ Grind” put Kelly on the map as a smooth R&B crooner. In August of 1994, months after “Bump N’ Grind” topped the Billboard charts, the singer infamously married fellow rising R&B singer and actress Aaliyah Haughton.
The late Haughton was alleged to be only 15 years old at the time of her marriage; however, in new documents released to the public, Kelly and his associates allegedly bribed an Illinois official to create a fake birth certificate for the singer, showing that she was 18 years old. While the marriage was annulled months later, the controversy of the then 27-year-old Kelly’s union with 15-year-old Aaliyah resurfaced frequently throughout his career, most notably during the time after Aaliyah’s tragic death in a plane crash in 2001 when she was just 22 years old.
In December of 2000, more controversy surfaced around the singer when the Chicago Sun-Times printed its first allegations of R. Kelly’s sex with minors.
The Sun-Times reporters alleged that Kelly used his fame to meet and recruit girls as young as 15 years old, promising them a once in a lifetime chance to get to know the singer, and occasionally offered gifts or promises of money.
These girls were recruited by Kelly himself at his former high school, Kenwood Academy on Chicago’s south side, or by his associates at shows or appearances. Upon their meeting, Kelly would allegedly confine the girls and force them to engage in sex acts which were sometimes filmed.
These videos were Kelly’s downfall, when, in February of 2002, the Chicago police opened an investigation into Kelly’s participation in alleged child pornography. This was not the first time that an investigation had been opened on R. Kelly’s alleged sexual misconduct: two cases in the late 1990s were opened and subsequently dropped when the girls involved refused to cooperate with investigators.
Kelly vehemently denied that it was him in the tapes, saying, “It’s crap, and that’s how we’re going to treat it,” in a pre-show interview with a local reporter. Kelly was subsequently arrested in June of 2002 on 21 counts of child pornography-related to the videotapes obtained by Chicago police. During his arrest at his holiday home in Florida, police obtained a camera with new images showing sex with an underage girl. The additional 12 counts of creating child pornography were later dropped on a technicality after a judge found that the camera and related evidence were improperly seized.
After three weeks of oral arguments in court, on June 13, 2008, R. Kelly was acquitted by a jury on all counts of child pornography from 2002. Fans rallied around the singer as he made his triumphant exit from the courtroom. It would be several years before R. Kelly was back in front of a judge.
Further Allegations Against the Singer
After an explosive 6-part docuseries, “Surviving R. Kelly,” aired on the Lifetime network in January of 2019, R. Kelly once again found himself under scrutiny. The #MuteRKelly movement, which began in 2017, was back in full force once the docuseries gained popularity. Over 50 women came forward in the series to discuss the singer’s alleged sexual misconduct towards minors.
Activists began protesting outside his recording studio, calling for Kelly’s arrest. Kelly’s estranged daughter posted a lengthy story on Instagram, saying “Going through all I have gone through in my life, I would never want anyone to feel the pain I have felt. The same monster you all [are] confronting me about is my father. I am well aware of who and what he is.” After immense social pressure and multiple protests at their New York offices, RCA cut ties with R. Kelly on January 18, 2019.
In February of 2019, R. Kelly was arrested and indicted with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse in Illinois. The four alleged victims of his abuse, named only with their initials, were all under the age of 17 when the alleged abuse took place.
The singer’s bond was set at $1 million dollars: $250,000 for each of his alleged victims. After posting a 10% bond of $100,000, R. Kelly was released. He was also ordered to turn in his passport to authorities to prevent him from leaving the country, as well as ordered to not have any contact with the victims or anyone under the age of 18.
In March of 2019, R. Kelly sat down for an interview with Gayle King to discuss his fall from grace in the public eye, his multiple arrests, and the new allegations against him after the Lifetime docuseries. In the interview, the singer erupted emotionally several times, appearing to try and intimidate and physically threaten King.
One of the outbursts, which quickly became a meme, has Kelly shouting, “And y’all trying to kill me. You’re killing me, man! This is not about music. I’m trying to have a relationship with my kids, and I can’t do it. Y’all just don’t want to believe the truth.”
Current Charges and Arrest
In July of 2019, federal prosecutors in Illinois levied a total of 18 additional charges against R. Kelly, including several counts of child pornography, kidnapping, obstruction of justice, and trafficking minors. The singer was arrested on July 11, 2019. Since this arrest, federal prosecutors in New York have charged Kelly with one count of racketeering, notably for paying off witnesses and having his staff intimidate and threaten potential witnesses to keep them from testifying at trial, along with four counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits the transport of people across state lines for “immoral purposes.” Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Kelly’s team of attorneys has argued that he should be released on bail, citing health concerns. Kelly was also attacked in jail by another inmate who claimed that he wanted to gain national attention for his own case, which has not yet gone to trial.
His lawyers argue that the singer’s release is imperative, stating that the federal Bureau of Prisons is unable to guarantee Kelly’s safety. In his most recent hearing on September 2, 2020, Judge Harry Leinenweber denied Kelly’s lawyers’ request for immediate release from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago. Federal prosecutors have until September 21, 2020, to argue why Kelly should remain in custody.
At previous bond hearings, Kelly has been said to be a “significant flight risk,” due to his access to finances and his network of employees and friends who could potentially insulate him from ever going in front of a judge. It is unclear if a judge will grant his attorneys’ request for release, but for now, the singer remains behind bars.