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R. Kelly Arrested on Federal Sex Trafficking Charges

UPDATED: R&B singer R. Kelly was arrested for federal sex trafficking charges Thursday night, his attorney confirmed. Kelly is expected to be brought to New York for trial, following his arrest in Chicago by NYPD detectives and Homeland Security agents; however, during a brief court appearance by the singer on Friday, Judge Sheila Finnegan delayed that decision. He is expected to remain in custody at least until Tuesday, according to CNN.

The arrest includes a new thirteen-count indictment, some charges of which are related to child pornography and obstruction of justice. A separate five-count indictment has been handed up from the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn that charges him with racketeering, according to ABC News. The singer is expected to face charges in Chicago before being extradited to Brooklyn. He is being held at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, according to U.S. Bureau of Prisons records cited by the Chicago Tribune.

The 25-page Chicago federal indictment, which was unsealed Friday, accuses Kelly and two associates, former manager Derrel McDavid and employee Milton Brown, of recruiting women and minors to “engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct” with the singer.

The indictment lists five unnamed minors, all of whom met Kelly in the 1990s when they were between the ages of 12 and 17 years old; it also claims four of the minors were depicted engaging in sexual conduct or sexual acts with Kelly in videos. It accuses McDavid of “providing services to Kelly … which were in part intended to protect Kelly’s image, reputation and assets in the face of actual and potential criminal and civil action,” which include covering up activity he and Brown knew to be illegal, and of paying the minors hundreds of thousands of dollars for the return of the videotapes.

Attorney Gerald Griggs, who represents the family of Joycelyn Savage, who claim she is being held by Kelly against her will, told TMZ on Friday the Illinois investigation procured more than 20 videos of Kelly “engaged with minors” from former associates of the singer.

According to the New York Times, in the Brooklyn indictment, Kelly is “charged with one count of racketeering and four counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting people across state lines for the purpose of prostitution, according to [officials].”

The 52-year-old singer was arrested at around 7 p.m. local time in Chicago, according to U.S. attorney spokesman Joseph Fitzpatrick. Kelly attorney Steve Greenberg confirmed the arrest in a statement early Friday morning. “Robert Kelly was arrested by federal agents last night while walking his dog,” the statement reads in part. “The charges arose from alleged conduct in the Northern District of Illinois as well as the Eastern District of New York. The conduct alleged appears to be largely the same as the conduct previously alleged against Mr. Kelly in his current State indictment and his former State charges that he was acquitted of. Most, if not all of the conduct alleged was decades old.”

Greenberg added that a bail hearing will be held early next week, “at which time Mr. Kelly hopes to be released from custody.”

 

At a contentious press conference in Atlanta Friday morning livestreamed by WSB-TV, Kelly’s rep, Darrell Johnson, said the singer maintains his innocence and is “looking forward to his day in court,” but was frequently interrupted by the parents of Joycelyn Savage, who has been living with Kelly since December 2016 in a situation that media reports described as an “abusive cult.” Although Joycelyn said she is living with the singer of her own accord during an interview with Gayle King earlier this year; the Savages feel their daughter is not safe. Johnson told the Savages that he has seen Joycelyn “in [Kelly’s residence in Chicago’s] Trump Tower about six times” but said he hasn’t “seen anything that I would say is suspicious or harmful to your daughter.” He expressed sympathy for the family but noted, “These are grown women, if they want to go home, they can do that.”

Kelly has been at the center of a number of sexual abuse allegations for nearly two decades, with some accusations dating back to the late 1990s.

More recently, Kelly was charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse in February, only to be hit with 11 more counts of sexual assault and sexual abuse in May.

Four of the counts charged Kelly with aggravated criminal sexual assault — a Class X felony, which carries six to 30 years in prison if the accused is convicted. Three of the new counts also accused the singer of sexually abusing a victim between the ages of 13 and 16 in 2010.

Earlier this year journalist Jim DeRogatis, who has been reporting on sex-crime allegations against Kelly for nearly 20 years, wrote in February that FBI and IRS offices in New York, as well as the city’s U.S. attorney’s office, were investigating the singer and that the  Department of Homeland Security was investigating human-trafficking claims against him, related to transporting young women across state borders.

The singer previously pleaded not guilty to the first series of allegations, for which he was bailed on a $1 million bond. Kelly faced similar charges in 2000 when he was charged with participating in child pornography after a video surfaced allegedly showing him having sex with an underage woman.

Kelly was also the main focus of Lifetime’s recent docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly,” which resulted in the singer being dropped by his longtime record label, RCA, in addition to issues with booking concerts.

A Lifetime spokesman released a statement acknowledging the women who shared their stories in the docuseries following news of Kelly’s arrest.

“Our thoughts are always with the brave women who came forward. It is their bravery and courage that allowed them to tell the stories that made this happen.”

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