When R. Kelly was arrested on child-pornography charges in 2002, after a videotape emerged that purported to show him having sex with an underage girl, he managed to have the case dismissed through a combination of skillful lawyering, repeated delays (the verdict did not come down for six years), and the fact that the girl chose not to testify against him.
The end result was that he had at least 11 more years to record, tour, and according to charges leveled against the singer by a Cook County judge today, sexually abuse more underage girls.
He will not get away so easily this time, according to criminal defense attorney Anthony Salerno, who has handled numerous sex-crime cases over the past 25 years: “He may end up in prison for 15-to-20-plus years.”
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced Friday that Kelly has been charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four victims — three of whom were minors — in incidents that took place between 1998 and 2010. A warrant for the singer’s arrest has been issued and he is expected to appear at a bond hearing Saturday afternoon; TMZ, citing sources close to Kelly, says that the singer plans to turn himself in to police tonight. This latest development comes after a new sex tape reportedly surfaced last week featuring Kelly engaging in sexual acts with an underage girl, according to CNN and the New Yorker.
Kelly has multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him dating back 25 years, although he has never been convicted. However, with today’s charges, his prospects are dimmer.
“Illinois has consecutive sentencing for multiple child sex victims, so you take very tough potential sentencing for even one charge and then you add multiple victims,” which adds up to a possible sentence of 15-to-20-plus years, Salerno says, noting that “sentencing ranges with all the counts, and victims’ [accounts] could theoretically vary a great deal. However, we can assume that multiple victims testified already at the grand jury [this week], and it’s been reported there is at least one video. It’s going to be tough to pay his way out of this.”
While Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, has insisted that despite the striking similarity in the accusations, the singer denies any wrongdoing and the multiple accusers are lying for self-aggrandizement.
“So they’re all lying?,” Salerno asks rhetorically. “With multiple victims all saying similar things, his lawyer will have a hard time getting around that. And as far as sentencing, any judge will know his past history and how flagrant this behavior is,” he added, referring to Kelly’s continued and unabashed connection with multiple young women, even after his 2002 arrest.
“He’s going down hard, I predict,” Salerno concludes. “Once more evidence comes out we’ll see if may have any defenses, but he won’t be getting any breaks. He has zero remorse and he’s compulsive.”
While the sex tape seems to have driven today’s indictment, there’s little question that public sentiment against Kelly grew exponentially after the first airing of “Surviving R. Kelly,” a docuseries that aired on Lifetime in January and recounts the accusations against the singer in harrowing detail (it airs again beginning Feb. 25). Following the release of the series, Foxx urged others with stories about the musician to come forward. In late January, she announced she received 12 responses about Kelly and was evaluating with her office on how to move forward with legal action. In a statement released to Variety on Friday, a rep for the Lifetime network said, “We are proud that Lifetime was able to provide a platform for survivors to be heard.”