R. Kelly stands accused of aggravated sexual abuse against four women, three of whom were children at the time of the alleged incidents. He has strongly denied the accusations and pleaded not guilty Monday to all charges through his attorney.
This is not the musician’s first time facing multiple sex crime charges. In June 2008, a jury in Chicago cleared Kelly of 14 child pornography charges, some of which seem to mirror the new accusations against him.
The question now is — assuming R. Kelly goes to trial — will this time be different?
Alleged victims will likely testify (and there’s more than one this time)
It looks like three of the four women identified in the 10 new charges against Kelly would testify against him, documents showing they spoke to the grand jury indicate.
That’s a big deal. Because in his 2008 trial, the alleged victim chose not to take the stand and testify against the R&B superstar, leaving the jury to wonder why.
In this case, prosecutors have the cooperation of at least some of the women who’ve described how they met Kelly and how they say they were later assaulted.
The new indictment accuses Kelly of sexual acts with three girls older than 13 but younger than 17. The charges say Kelly used force or the threat of force on a 24-year-old woman. The allegations handed up span from 1998 to 2010, prosecutors say.
There’s the woman who says she was celebrating her 16th birthday when she met Kelly and he began a sexual relationship with her. The musician met another alleged victim, also 16, at his 2008 trial, prosecutors say. She was a fan looking for an autograph but ended up in a sexually abusive relationship with Kelly, prosecutors say. There’s a hairdresser who was 24 at the time of the alleged sex abuse. She says Kelly exposed himself and tried to force her to perform oral sex on him. The fourth alleged victim was allegedly videotaped being sexually assaulted by R. Kelly. Prosecutors say she was 14 years old.
And some of them reportedly have physical evidence
One woman provided authorities with a shirt she wore during an encounter with the singer, which later tested positive for his DNA, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has said. Semen found on the shirt of another woman has been sent for testing, according to Foxx. Prosecutors also allege that Kelly spat on two women.
It is unclear when those pieces of evidence were turned over.
Forensic tests could at the very least place both victim and the accused in the same room and would make it harder for R. Kelly or his lawyers to say he did not have sexual relations with these women when they were minors.
The tape of the alleged abuse of the girl said to be 14 could also play a big role. Two sources with knowledge of the case indicate the girl on the video is the same as the one in Kelly’s first trial.
Lawyer Michael Avenatti, who says he is representing former members of Kelly’s entourage, handed the tape to prosecutors. He says it is much clearer than the one used in the first trial and shows different scenes of assault.
In the 2008 trial, Kelly’s lawyers argued that it was not Kelly on the tape, nor was it the same girl that prosecutors said was victimized.
The charges are different, and potentially harder to prove
In the 2008 trial, prosecutors were trying to prove that R. Kelly videotaped multiple sex acts with an underage girl. All 14 counts had to do with allegedly filming and posing the girl for the video. In 2008, prosecutors had to contend with not having an alleged victim to testify and not as much evidence. At least one juror said that factored into the acquittal.
This time around, the crimes allege sexual abuse. In 2008, prosecutors had only to prove that a video showing a sexual encounter with a minor existed and the identities of the people on the tape. Now they have to pin down more specifics about the ages of the women at the time of the incidents and further details about their relationships with the singer.
His lawyers could allege the time of the encounters were different from what is stated and that they were then adults and the sex was consensual.
Prosecutors will have to prove sexual acts happened when the three women were under the age of 17 and therefore legally unable to consent to sex in Illinois, and that, in the case of the adult, Kelly’s sexual conduct was not consensual.
Kelly’s attorney has already lashed out at the accusers.
“As far as I know, they are all lying,” Steve Greenberg said after Kelly pleaded not guilty to all charges.
“That’s our position. Our position — Mr. Kelly has done nothing wrong.”
Some of R. Kelly’s inner circle may turn on him
Many of Kelly’s accusers who have spoken out over the years have mentioned the strict control he had over them, in part because of the entourage surrounding and supporting the singer.
Some acknowledged their role in helping Kelly meet girls and young women, in interviews for the Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly.”
And at least two people who were part of Kelly’s entourage are cooperating with authorities, said Avenatti, who is representing one of the current accusers.
Avenatti has argued that some of those who surrounded the singer were “enablers.”
This case will be tried in the age of #MuteRKelly, #TimesUp and #MeToo
In 2008, R. Kelly was still pumping out chart-topping music and radio stations were still playing his songs. Fans showed up outside his trial to cheer him on.
Now the sentiment has changed. A movement called #MuteRKelly was launched by two women, Kenyette Barnes and Oronike Odeleye, calling for his music not to be played because of the decades of accusations concerning his alleged behavior with women and underage girls.
The movement gained traction and support from stars such as John Legend, Chance the Rapper, Lady Gaga, Ne-Yo and Jada Pinkett Smith. Influential radio host Tom Joyner also agreed to stop playing Kelly’s music.
Time’s Up, a movement that combats sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace that was highlighted by #MeToo revelations, also has taken aim.
It’s called on streaming services and Kelly’s record label to abandon him. Spotify stopped promoting his songs last year. Billboard magazine reported that Sony and Kelly agreed to part ways in the wake of the Lifetime series.
That brought the R. Kelly allegations back into a broader public conversation. In “Surviving R. Kelly,” several women detailed their stories of alleged abuse, including statutory rape, and accused Kelly of being a predator and manipulator.
R. Kelly has always denied all allegations leveled at him.
But the series may have shifted the tide and prompted women who were ignored or afraid to come forward to finally report the alleged abuse to authorities.
Foxx, the Cook County, Illinois, state’s attorney, said her door was open to hearing alleged victims’ stories.
Dream Hampton, the executive producer of “Surviving R. Kelly,” said a chapter of pain could finally be closed.
“R Kelly’s predation has been an open secret for almost two decades,” she said. “It’s time for him to finally pay for the harm he’s caused, the black girls’ lives he’s ruined.”