Earlier this month, the long-anticipated federal trial of R&B artist Robert Sylvester “R.” Kelly finally began in Brooklyn, New York.
The famed artist, who found name brand success with hits like “Ignition” and “I Believe I Can Fly,” has been indicted on nearly 36 different charges, ranging from racketeering to kidnapping, in addition to charges of bribery, forced labor, and transporting underage girls across state lines. Accusations of his operating a “sex cult,” as well as taking advantage of both underage girls and boys, go back decades. If convicted, he faces 20 years in prison. Here’s a timeline of his alleged crimes.
R. Kelly gets forged documentation, enabling him to marry Aaliyah Haughton, age 15 at the time. According to a witness listed as Jane Doe, a former victim and girlfriend of Kelly’s, he married the singer so that she could get an abortion, since only spouses and parents could give legal consent for minors to obtain them. Kelly previously met Aaliyah when she was 12, and began producing music for her – including writing the album titled Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.
R. Kelly uses forged documentation to marry Aaliyah so she can get an abortion at 15.
Demetrius Smith, Kelly’s former tour manager, testified recently that he helped him obtain a fake ID for Aaliyah and was also present at their marriage in Chicago. (Aaliyah achieved mainstream success through her own music career, and tragically died in a plane crash in the Bahamas in 2001.) Just days after marrying “the princess of R&B,” Kelly sexually assaulted two teenagers who had attended his concert in Miami earlier that night, one of the victims revealed.
A former girlfriend of Kelly’s, alleging “emotional distress” and personal injuries, sues him for $10 million. The victim, now known as Tiffany Hawkins, discloses that she dated Kelly when he was 24 and she was 15.
The suit is settled, and Hawkins is awarded $250,000.
In April, Patricia Jones emerges as another claimant. She sues Kelly for $50,000, alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress. Jones says that Kelly got her pregnant during their relationship and forced her to have an abortion at age 17. The suit was later settled for an undisclosed amount.
A Chicago court indicts Kelly on 21 counts of child pornography.
That same year, a Chicago court indicts Kelly on 21 counts of child pornography. These charges arose after a tape circulated which showed Kelly sexually abusing and performing “lewd” acts with an underage girl.
Jim DeRogatis for Buzzfeed News releases a shocking exposé of Kelly’s supposed “sex cult,” along with detailed descriptions of his abuse and statements from victims and their parents. Despite all of his entourage members technically being of legal age in Illinois and Georgia, three victims detail horrifying accounts of how they were “trained” to please Kelly sexually, as well as having to ask him to use the bathroom and wearing track suits in the presence of other men so their figures wouldn’t be easily seen.
The report also alleges that Kelly dictated when the women could bathe and what they could eat, and that they constantly had to submit to recorded sexual encounters at his discretion. Kelly controlled what each member wore and how they cut and colored their hair, and also punished them for contacting their parents or breaking any of his “rules.”
The cult, which mainly thrived in his Chicago property and at his rental houses in Georgia, was mainly young women who were aspiring musicians themselves that Kelly met backstage at his shows, or through curated meetings arranged by members of his “inner circle.”
In a TMZ exclusive, a victim named Faith Rodgers comes forward regarding her lawsuit against Kelly. She alleges that she met him after one of his concerts in Texas and began a relationship with him. He later flew her out to New York City, and according to her, made her engage in “abusive” sex. She states that during their relationship, he would lock her in rooms and cars for failing to fulfill him sexually, using a female assistant to “stand guard” to make sure she didn’t escape. As a result of their relationship, along with trauma from constant verbal and sexual abuse, Rodgers later contracted herpes from Kelly which she claims he didn’t reveal to her. Rodgers sues Kelly in 2018 for sexual battery, failing to disclose the STD, and false imprisonment.
Kelly would lock her in rooms and cars for failing to fulfill him sexually.
Lifetime’s docuseries Surviving R Kelly, detailing his victims’ stories and the inner circle who both helped him victimize women and cover up his crimes, is released. Due to the attention surrounding the documentary, prosecutors in Georgia’s Fulton County begin to look into the allegations and incidents that occurred at his Georgia homes. The series motivates a trend called #MuteRKelly, which asks that his music be removed from Apple and Spotify, and that Ticketmaster discontinue ticket sales to his shows. In February, Kelly is charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse tied to allegations made between 1998 and 2010.
After considerable delays due to witness tampering, a prison assault on Kelly by another inmate, the Covid-19 pandemic, and legal team replacement, Kelly’s trial begins on August 18. Kelly’s defense calls the allegations “exaggerated” and “overreaching.” Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Lead prosecutor for the Brooklyn federal court Maria Cruz Melendez summarizes the extent of Kelly’s damage: “This case is not about a celebrity who likes to party a lot. This case is about a predator who used his fame, popularity, and network to target, groom, and exploit girls, boys, and young women for his own sexual gratification.”
It’s almost incomprehensible how long Kelly’s depravity has been allowed to thrive unchecked, bolstered by his fans, supporters, and team of assistants. Many of his victims were hoping that through their connection with him, they’d find their big break – but instead, they were abused, humiliated, and grossly taken advantage of. But had they never found the courage to speak up against an influential celebrity, it’s unclear if Kelly would have ever faced the justice system as he is currently.
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