UPDATED: A grand jury has been convened in Cook County, Illinois, in connection with new allegations against singer R. Kelly, CNN reports, citing two sources close to the case.
The latest round of accusations against the singer — who has allegations of sexual misconduct against him dating back 25 years, although he has never been convicted — arise in the wake of a new sex tape that allegedly shows the singer engaging in sex acts with an underage girl, according to reports in CNN and The New Yorker. Attorney Michael Avenatti claimed last week that he had given the tape to the State’s Attorney’s office. Unconfirmed reports on Thursday said prosecutors were moving to indict the singer.
Steve Greenberg, an attorney for Kelly, told Variety on Monday he had not been notified of a grand jury.
“No one from law enforcement has contacted me or my client regarding any potential investigation,” he said. “In Cook County, Illinois, there is a regular Grand Jury that sits every month. They rarely have a special grand jury’ and when there is one it is in response to a very public request to the Chief Judge for a ‘special prosecutor.’ Grand jury proceedings are, by law, supposed to be secret. so to the extent people are commenting on what may or may not be going on they are conceivably violating the law. I can tell you that I am unaware of any proceedings, and do not anticipate any charges.”
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment, although CNN said a rep for the office would not confirm the grand jury proceedings or the existence of any new investigation.
While Kelly was arrested and tried after a similar tape emerged in 2002, he was acquitted after the woman in the video declined to testify against him. Yet multiple, similar accusations of sexual misconduct have been leveled against the singer over the past 25 years, which were presented in harrowing detail in a Lifetime documentary released last month called “Surviving R. Kelly.”
CNN, says it has viewed the tape, which appears show Kelly having sex with a girl who “refers to her body parts as 14 years old.” Celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti, who is representing a man he says is a whistleblower against Kelly, told the network that he gave the tape to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in Chicago last weekend. Earlier on Thursday, Avenatti tweeted a statement noting that he was retained by “multiple clients in connection with allegations of sexual assault of minors” by Kelly.
“My client knows the identity of the girl and R. Kelly. He identified the two of them on the videotape. He worked for and has known R. Kelly for decades and he met the girl on a number of occasions,” Avenatti said.
On Sunday, Avenatti Tweeted a statement in which he claimed to have evidence that Kelly was acquitted in 2008 because his team “rigged the trial.”
“We have now uncovered how R Kelly was able to gain his acquittal in 2008: We have discovered substantial evidence that he and certain enablers engaged in systematic witness intimidation, evidence tampering, physical threats, and payments to witnesses,” he wrote. “They rigged the trial.”
Two of Kelly’s recent managers, James Mason and Don Russell, have been accused of threatening people associated with women involved with Kelly. A warrant was issued for Mason’s arrest last summer after he allegedly threatened to kill the father of Jocelyn Savage, a young woman who her father claims is being held by Kelly against her will; Jocelyn has issued video statements saying that she is fine and wishes her parents would leave her alone.
In a long statement obtained Thursday by Variety, Greenberg said in part: “Mr. Kelly denies that he has engaged in any illegal conduct, of any kind whatsoever. … All of the claims by these women were brought forth years ago, rejected by the police, and/or rejected by the courts, but now for their own gain they have rehashed them.”
Based on CNN’s graphic description, the video shows many similarities between the tape uncovered in 2002, and also features the girl calling the singer “Daddy,” among other similarities to previous reports.
Allegations of sexually abusive behavior by Kelly toward young women date back more than 20 years. In 1995, when he was 27, he briefly married the late singer Aaliyah, who was 15 at the time (in “Surviving R. Kelly” an executive who formerly worked with the singer says he forged Aaliyah’s birth date on the marriage license to say she was 18, and another witness says she saw Kelly and Aaliyah having sex). Just last year, reports of Kelly essentially holding women captive in a “sex cult” were published. Multiple other reports have surfaced over the years.
Last month Kelly’s longtime label, Sony Music subsidiary RCA Records, parted company with the singer.