February 22, 2019
by Colleen McGregor
For the second time in his life, disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly, 52, is facing criminal charges for sex crimes. On February 22, 2019, the Cook County district attorney’s office in Illinois announced that Kelly has been charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four victims in incidents that took place between 1998 and 2010. According to the Associated Press, three of the alleged victims were minors at the time the alleged abuse occurred. Kelly (whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly) is expected to appear at a bond hearing on February 23, and he will have his first court date on March 8. Kelly’s hometown is Chicago, but he has been living mainly in the Atlanta area for the past several years.
Kelly was arrested for multiple counts of child pornography in 2002. At the center of the trial was a videotape made in 2001 which prosecutors said showed Kelly having sex with a then-14-year-old girl, who was the daughter of one of Kelly’s band members. Kelly, who denied all the charges and said he wasn’t the man in the video, didn’t go on trial until 2008, and he was acquitted of all charges. The female in the sex video refused to testify in the trial, and some of the jurors later said in interviews that they could not convict Kelly without her testimony.
Kelly has admitted to settling numerous lawsuits over the years in which he was accused of sexual abuse, but he has always denied all claims of sexual abuse against him. The Grammy-winning Kelly is best known for his hits “I Believe I Can Fly,” “Bump N’ Grind” and “Step in the Name of Love.”
Although Kelly seemingly survived the scandal in the years since the trial, the #MeToo and Times Up movements re-ignited protests against Kelly. A grass-roots movement called #MuteRKelly was formed in 2018, and was successful in getting several of Kelly’s concerts canceled and his music banned from some radio stations and streaming services. #MuteRKelly also spearheaded the pressure against Sony Music to cut ties with Kelly.
But the tipping point in the tide against Kelly was the Lifetime docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly,” which aired in January 2019. “Surviving R. Kelly” had interviews with more than 25 people (including his ex-wife Andrea) who either claimed to be victims of harrowing sexual abuse, were related to victims, or were former associates who saw the alleged abuse firsthand. The miniseries reiterated accusations that Kelly is a serial rapist/abuser whose known crimes go as far back as the 1990s, he has an obsession with underage girls, and he is currently abusing women in a “sex cult” environment. After “Surviving R. Kelly” aired and multiple groups staged protests outside of Sony Music’s offices, Sony Music dropped R. Kelly and made it public on January 18, 2019.
UPDATE: Kelly surrendered to authorities in Chicago on February 22, 2019 and pleaded not guilty. He was arrested again on March 6, 2019, for not paying $161,000 in child support to his ex-wife Andrea. Kelly was released on bail after an anonymous donor paid his child support and his bond. Before his arrest for not paying child support, Kelly gave an emotionally unhinged and paranoid interview with CBS News’ Gayle King, in which he shouted that he was innocent of all allegations, and he angrily stated he was the target of a conspiracy.
JULY 16, 2019 UPDATE: R. Kelly was arrested again for an additional 18 counts, including federal sex-trafficking charges, on July 12, 2019. At a court hearing in Chicago on July 16, 2019, he pleaded not guilty and was ordered to be held without bond.