Tuesday 19 March, 2019

R. Kelly due in Chicago court to face sex abuse charges

In this still image taken from video, R. Kelly is escorted by police in custody at the Chicago Police Department's Central District Friday night, Feb. 22, 2019, in Chicago.

In this still image taken from video, R. Kelly is escorted by police in custody at the Chicago Police Department's Central District Friday night, Feb. 22, 2019, in Chicago.

R. Kelly, the R&B star who has been trailed for decades by allegations that he violated underage girls and women and held some as virtual slaves, is due in court Saturday after being charged with aggravated sexual abuse involving four victims, including at least three between the ages of 13 and 17.

In a brief appearance before reporters, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx on Friday announced the 10 counts against the 52-year-old Grammy winner, whose real name is Robert Kelly.

She said the abuse dated back as far as 1998 and spanned more than a decade. She did not comment on the charges or take questions.

Kelly was driven to a Chicago police station in a dark colored van with heavily tinted rear windows around 8:15 p.m. Friday.

He did not respond to questions from gathered reporters as he walked inside the building.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted a short time later that Kelly was under arrest.

He was expected to be held overnight before an appearance Saturday in bond court.

Kelly's attorney, Steve Greenberg, told reporters following the singer's arrest that one of the charges he faces appears to be tied to a decade-old child pornography case.

"Double jeopardy should bar that case," Greenberg said. "He won that case."

Kelly, who was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008, has consistently denied any sexual misconduct.

Greenberg said he thinks prosecutors rushed to judgment Friday in charging Kelly, calling the singer "an innocent man."

"Mr. Kelly is strong," Greenberg added. "He's got a lot of support and he's going to be vindicated on all these charges."

The arrest sets the stage for another #MeToo-era celebrity trial. Bill Cosby went to prison last year, and former Hollywood studio boss Harvey Weinstein is awaiting trial.

Best known for hits such as "I Believe I Can Fly," Kelly was charged a week after Michael Avenatti, the attorney whose clients have included porn star Stormy Daniels, said he gave prosecutors new video evidence of the singer with an underage girl.

At a news conference earlier Friday in Chicago, Avenatti said a 14-year-old girl seen with R. Kelly on the video is among four victims mentioned in the indictment.

He said the footage shows two separate scenes on two separate days at Kelly's residence in the late 1990s.

During the video, both the victim and Kelly refer to her age 10 times, he said.

Avenatti said he represents six clients, including two victims, two parents and two people he describes as "knowing R. Kelly and being within his inner circle for the better part of 25 years."

"I don't know what the tape is," Greenberg said of the video Avenatti gave prosecutors. "We haven't seen it. No one's showed us the tape."

The new charges marked "a watershed moment," Avenatti said, adding that he believes more than 10 other people associated with Kelly should be charged as "enablers" for helping with the assaults, transporting minors and covering up evidence.

The video surfaced during a 10-month investigation by Avenatti's office.

He told the AP that the person who provided the VHS tape knew both Kelly and the female in the video.

The jury in 2008 acquitted Kelly of child pornography charges that arose from a graphic video that prosecutors said showed him having sex with a girl as young as 13.

He and the young woman 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 gotten 15 years in prison.

Charging Kelly now for actions that occurred in the same time frame as the allegations from the 2008 trial suggests the accusers are cooperating this time and willing to testify.

Because the alleged victim 10 years ago denied that she was on the video and did not testify, the state's attorney office had little recourse except to charge the lesser offense under Illinois law, child pornography, which required a lower standard of evidence.

Each count of the new charges carries up to seven years in prison. If Kelly is convicted on all 10 counts, a judge could decide that the sentences run one after the other — making it possible for him to receive up to 70 years behind bars.

Probation is also an option under the statute.

Greenberg said he offered to sit down with prosecutors before charges were filed to discuss why the allegations were "baseless." But they refused, he said.

"Unfortunately, they have succumbed to the court of public opinion, who've convicted him," he said.

Legally and professionally, 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 he was holding women against their will and running a "sex cult."

 

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