R. Kelly arrested on federal sex crimes charges in Chicago

R. Kelly was arrested in Chicago on sweeping federal indictments that accuse him and members of his entourage of recruiting women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity and later paying victims and witnesses to cover up his crimes.

Singer already facing state sexual abuse charges brought by Illinois prosecutors

R. Kelly, already facing sexual abuse charges brought by Illinois prosecutors, was arrested in Chicago on a sweeping federal indictment that accuses him and members of his entourage of recruiting women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity. (E. Jason Wambsgans-Pool/Getty Images)

R. Kelly was arrested on federal charges that accuse him and members of his entourage of recruiting women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity with the R&B singer and paying them to cover up his crimes, including those at the centre of his 2008 acquittal on child pornography charges.

Kelly, who was already facing sexual abuse charges brought by Illinois prosecutors, was indicted on allegations that he and his business manager paid hundreds of thousands of dollars and used physical abuse and blackmail to prevent girls and their relatives from providing evidence to law enforcement about his sex acts with minors and videos depicting them.

An indictment unsealed Friday in Chicago says he arranged for a girl and her parents to travel overseas so they could not talk with police prior to his 2002 indictment on 21 counts of child pornography. The pornography case stemmed from allegations that Kelly recorded a video of him engaging in sex acts with the girl, who was 12 or 13 when they met.

The indictment says the payments continued after the 2008 trial, and that Kelly also transferred the title on a luxury SUV to the girl in 2013.

Prosecutors also say Kelly went to great lengths to recover videos he made of himself with minor girls when he realized some were missing from his "collection," including making some victims and witnesses take lie-detector tests to ensure they had returned all copies of the videos.

A separate indictment filed in the Eastern District of New York includes charges of racketeering, kidnapping, forced labour and the sexual exploitation of a child.

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The indictment alleges Kelly and his managers, bodyguards and other assistants picked out women and girls at concerts and other venues and arranged for them to travel to see Kelly. They also set rules the women and girls had to follow, including not leaving their rooms — even to eat or go to the bathroom — without Kelly's permission, calling the singer "Daddy" and not looking at other men.

The indictment alleges that the criminal acts occurred over two decades dating back to 1999, both in the U.S. and overseas. It accuses Kelly of engaging in sexual acts with girls under 18 and without disclosing that he had a sexually transmitted disease. It also accuses him of producing child pornography, including by asking minors to send him photographs.

The Chicago indictment charges Kelly with child sex crimes, including producing child pornography, and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. It also names Kelly's business manager, Derrel McDavid, and another employee.

Kelly appeared in Federal Court in Chicago on Friday for a brief hearing on the New York indictment. He stood before the judge in an orange jumpsuit, with his hands clasped behind his back. The only words he spoke during the 15-minute hearing were "yes, ma'am" to the judge.

Arrested in Chicago 

Kelly has been held at the highrise Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago, where he will remain at least until a hearing scheduled for Tuesday. Prosecutors have requested he be held without bond.

Federal prosecutors in New York said if convicted of the charges, Kelly could face decades in prison. Chicago prosecutors also want Kelly to forfeit more than $1.5 million US.

Kelly, right, is seen leaving Cook County Jail in February with his attorney, Steve Greenberg. (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times/Associated Press)

Kelly's attorney, Steve Greenberg, said the new federal allegations appear "to largely be the same" as what he is charged with in state court earlier this year. He said Kelly "was aware of the investigations, and the charges were not a surprise."

"He and his lawyers look forward to his day in court, to the truth coming out and to his vindication from what has been an unprecedented assault by others for their own personal gain," Greenberg said, adding that Kelly looks forward to being able to continue making music and performing "for his legions of fans that believe in him."

The arrest was the second time this year that Kelly has been taken into custody in Chicago on sex charges. The 52-year-old Grammy winner, whose real name is Robert Kelly, was arrested in February on 10 counts in Illinois involving four women, three of whom were minors when the alleged abuse occurred. He pleaded not guilty to those charges and was released on bail.

Then on May 30, Cook County prosecutors added 11 more sex-related counts involving one of the women who accused him of sexually abusing her when she was underage.

Chaotic news conference

Darrell Johnson, a publicist for Kelly, delivered a statement at a chaotic news conference Friday in Atlanta, where he was interrupted seconds after beginning by the family of a woman who lived with Kelly in Chicago. The relatives of Joycelyn Savage pleaded to speak with their daughter.

"I want to know where my daughter is," said Timothy Savage, Joycelyn Savage's father, angrily interrupting Johnson.

"Where is she at? Answer that question!"

Timothy Savage, seen in March with his wife Jonjelyn Savage, angrily interrupted Kelly's spokesperson at a news conference on Friday. (Ron Harris/Associated Press)

Johnson said he had "nothing to do" with Joycelyn Savage and that she was not being held. In an interview with CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King in March, Joycelyn Savage defended her relationship with Kelly and denied reports she was being held against her will.

Kelly has faced mounting legal troubles this year after Lifetime aired a documentary Surviving R. Kelly, which revisited allegations of sexual abuse of girls. The series followed the BBC's R Kelly: Sex, Girls & Videotapes, released in 2018, that alleged the singer was holding women against their will and running a "sex cult."

Soon after the release of the Lifetime documentary, Cook County state's attorney Kim Foxx said her office had been inundated with calls about the allegations in the documentary. Her office's investigation led to the charges in February and additional counts added in May.

The impact of Surviving R. Kelly "has actually surprised me,"  Dream Hampton, filmmaker and executive producer of the doc, told CBC News during a recent interview at the Banff World Media Festival.

"The conversations that have been happening [since] have probably been given me the most hope. Whatever happens with R. Kelly personally and in the legal system is going to happen. But the fact that we're talking — and by we, I mean black people, because that's his fan base, it's the community that I come from.... To hear us having public conversations about sexual violence in the home, with a celebrity, with a powerful man — that has been a real change and shift."

With files from CBC News