CHICAGO — R. Kelly was arrested on federal charges that accuse him and members of his entourage of recruiting women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity with the singer and paying them to cover up his crimes, including those at the center of his 2008 acquittal on child pornography charges.
Kelly, who was already facing sexual abuse charges brought by Illinois prosecutors, was indicted on allegations that he and his business manager paid hundreds of thousands of dollars and used physical abuse and blackmail to prevent girls and their relatives from providing evidence to law enforcement about his sex acts with minors and videos depicting them.
An indictment unsealed Friday in Chicago says he arranged for a girl and her parents to travel overseas so they could not talk with police prior to his 2002 indictment on 21 counts of child pornography. The pornography case stemmed from allegations that Kelly recorded a video of him engaging in sex acts with the girl, who was 12 or 13 when they met in the mid-1990s. Kelly and the girl denied they were in the video, even though the picture quality was good and witnesses testified it was them. She did not take the stand.
The indictment says the payments continued after the 2008 trial, and that Kelly also transferred the title on a luxury SUV to the girl in 2013.
Prosecutors also say Kelly went to great lengths to recover videos he made of himself with minor girls when he realized some were missing from his “collection,” including making some victims and witnesses take lie-detector tests to ensure they had returned all copies of the videos.
A separate indictment filed in the Eastern District of New York includes charges of racketeering, kidnapping, forced labor and the sexual exploitation of a child. It says Kelly and his managers, bodyguards and other assistants picked out women and girls at concerts and other venues and arranged for them to travel to see Kelly. They also set rules the women and girls had to follow, including not leaving their rooms — even to eat or go to the bathroom — without Kelly’s permission, calling the singer “Daddy” and not looking at other men, the indictment alleges.
The indictment alleges that the criminal acts occurred over two decades dating back to 1999, both in the U.S. and overseas. It accuses Kelly of engaging in sexual acts with girls under 18 and of not disclosing that he had a sexually transmitted disease. It also accuses him of producing child pornography, including by asking minors to send him photographs.
The Chicago indictment charges Kelly with child sex crimes, including producing child pornography, and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. It also names Kelly’s business manager, Derrel McDavid, and another employee.
Kelly appeared in federal court Friday in Chicago for a brief hearing on the New York indictment. He stood before the judge in an orange jumpsuit, with his hands clasped behind his back. The only words he spoke during the 15-minute hearing were “yes, ma’am” to the judge.
Kelly has been held at the high-rise Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago, where he will remain at least until a hearing scheduled for Tuesday. Prosecutors have requested he be held without bond.
Federal prosecutors in New York said if convicted of the charges Kelly could face decades in prison. Chicago prosecutors also want Kelly to forfeit more than $1.5 million.
Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, said the 52-year-old R&B artist was walking his dog when he was taken into custody Thursday evening.
Greenberg said the new federal allegations appear “to largely be the same” as what he is charged with in state court earlier this year. He said Kelly “was aware of the investigations, and the charges were not a surprise.”
“He and his lawyers look forward to his day in court, to the truth coming out and to his vindication from what has been an unprecedented assault by others for their own personal gain,” Greenberg said. Kelly also looks forward to making music and performing “for his legions of fans that believe in him.”
The arrest was the second time this year that Kelly has been taken into custody in Chicago on sex charges. The Grammy winner, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, was arrested in February on 10 counts in Illinois of sexually abusing three girls and a woman. He pleaded not guilty to those charges and was released on bail.
Then on May 30, Cook County prosecutors added 11 more sex-related counts involving one of the women who accused him of sexually abusing her when she was underage.
Darrell Johnson, a publicist for Kelly, delivered a statement at a chaotic news conference Friday in Atlanta, where he was interrupted seconds after beginning by the family of a woman who lived with Kelly in Chicago. The relatives of Joycelyn Savage pleaded to speak with their daughter.
“I want to know where my daughter is,” Timothy Savage, Joycelyn Savage’s father, angrily interrupted Johnson. “Where is she at? Answer that question!”
Johnson said he had “nothing to do” with Joycelyn Savage and that she was not being held. In an interview with “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King in March, Joycelyn Savage defended her relationship with Kelly and denied reports she was being held against her will.
Kelly has faced mounting legal troubles this year after Lifetime aired a documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” which revisited allegations of sexual abuse of girls. The series followed the BBC’s “R Kelly: Sex, Girls & Videotapes,” released in 2018, that alleged the singer was holding women against their will and running a “sex cult.”
Soon after the release of the Lifetime documentary, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said her office had been inundated with calls about the allegations in the documentary. Her office’s investigation led to the charges in February and additional counts added in May.