R. Kelly free on bail after pleading not guilty to sex abuse charges
WARNING: Details contained in this story may be offensive to some readers
R. Kelly walked out of a Chicago jail Monday after posting $100,000 US bail that will allow him to go free while awaiting trial on charges that he sexually abused four people dating back to 1998, including three underage girls.
Hours earlier, the R&B star pleaded not guilty to the allegations. He said little during the brief arraignment, telling the judge only his name. His lawyers spoke on his behalf.
Kelly entered a Chicago courtroom wearing an orange jumpsuit after spending the weekend in the city's 7,000-inmate jail.
The singer-songwriter was arrested Friday on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse. A judge set bond at $1 million US, meaning Kelly had to post 10 per cent of that amount to be released. He is forbidden from having any 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 of Kelly's accusers, said his team gave prosecutors a second video Monday that he alleges shows Kelly sexually abusing a minor. Avenatti previously gave prosecutors a video he said showed Kelly having sex with an underage girl.
Avenatti said the second video involves a 14-year-old girl. He said it 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 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 no question as to Mr. Kelly's guilt."
Avenatti said he is aware of a third tape, but he did not provide further details.
Defence attorney Steve Greenberg said at a news conference that Kelly has done nothing wrong and said no one has shown him any evidence to the contrary.
"Everybody is entitled to a defence. Everybody is entitled to the presumption of innocence. We should all be taking a step back. Let's see what happens, what the evidence is and how this plays out," Greenberg said.
In arguing for bail within the singer's ability to pay, Greenberg told a judge over the weekend that Kelly is not wealthy despite decades of success creating hit songs. The lawyer blamed mismanagement, bad contracts and other issues for his client's financial woes.
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 videos 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.
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 Céline Dion, Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga.
The jury in 2008 acquitted Kelly of child pornography charges that centred 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.
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."