Documentary puts new attention on R. Kelly sex allegations
R. Kelly, one of the top-selling recording artists of all time, has been dogged for years by allegations of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls – accusations he and his attorneys have long denied.
But an Illinois prosecutor’s plea for potential victims and witnesses to come forward and new protests have sparked hope among some advocates that the R&B star might face criminal charges.
“Please come forward. There’s nothing that can be done to investigate these allegations without co-operation between victims and witnesses,” Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx said Tuesday at a news conference in Chicago. “We cannot seek justice without you.”
Still, some legal experts and prosecutors say it may be difficult to bring charges. Accusers and witnesses would have to speak out, and even then, prosecutors could have a hard time winning a conviction.
In recent days, Kelly has faced increased pressure from advocates who have protested outside of his Chicago studio and demanded that police investigate allegations against minors.
The latest attention comes days after Lifetime aired the documentary Surviving R. Kelly, which revisited old allegations and brought new ones into the spotlight. The series follows the BBC’s R Kelly: Sex, Girls & Videotapes, which was released last year. It alleged that the singer was holding women against their will and running a “sex cult.”
Activists from the #MeToo and #MuteRKelly social media movements have seized on the renewed attention to call for streaming services to drop Kelly’s music and promoters not to book any more concerts.
The allegations extend beyond Illinois. A lawyer representing an Atlanta-area couple who appeared in the Lifetime documentary said Georgia prosecutors have reached out to him. Attorney Gerald Griggs represents Timothy and Jonjelyn Savage, who have said repeatedly that Kelly has brainwashed their daughter and kept her from contacting them.
Despite the accusations that span decades, the star singer, songwriter and producer who rose from poverty on Chicago’s South Side has retained a sizable following.
Kelly broke into the R&B scene in 1993 with his first solo album, 12 Play, which yielded such popular sex-themed songs as Bump N’ Grind and Your Body’s Callin’. Months later, the then27-year-old faced allegations he married 15-year-old Aaliyah – a multi-platinum R&B vocalist who later died in a plane crash in the Bahamas. Kelly served as the lead songwriter and producer for Aaliyah’s 1994 debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number.
Kelly and Aaliyah never confirmed the marriage, although Vibe magazine published a copy of the purported marriage license. Court documents later obtained by the Chicago SunTimes showed Aaliyah admitted lying about her age on the license. In May 1997, she filed suit in Cook County, Ill., to expunge all records of the marriage, court documents showed.
Now 52, his hits have dwindled. He settled at least three lawsuits accusing him of having sex with underage girls filed between 1997 and 2002.
The accusers, all black women, said years after the trial that Kelly kept them locked up and used them for sex at his will.