Allegations laid out by prosecutors Saturday afternoon painted a picture of Chicago-born R&B superstar R. Kelly as a predator who for more than two decades used his fame to prey on young women and girls — including one girl the singer allegedly met during his 2008 child pornography trial.
Kelly appeared at the Leighton Criminal Court Building — the same courthouse in which he was acquitted of the child pornography charges — wearing a black hoodie and jeans, and a frown that creased his face.
Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr. called the charges presented by prosecutors “disturbing” as he set Kelly’s bail at $1 million during the artist’s first court appearance since turning himself in to Chicago police late Friday.
Kelly failed to pay the $100,000 needed for his release ahead of trial on Saturday night, but could post bond Sunday after spending a second night in custody.
Kelly’s defense attorney, Steven Greenberg, said the singer’s finances were “a mess” and his income strangled after his record label dropped him. Greenberg said he expected Kelly to have the cash to bond out of jail before his next court appearance on Monday.
“He’s trying to get it together,” Greenberg told reporters after the hearing.
Kelly owes upward of $160,000 in back child support and was about to be evicted from his Near West Side studio after failing to pay $167,000 in rent, Greenberg said.
If Kelly posts the money, Lyke ordered the 52-year-old singer to surrender his passport and any weapons, and to have no contact with anyone under 18 or the alleged victims or witnesses in the case.
Greenberg told Lyke he already secured Kelly’s passport, which the singer has not used since it was issued in 2017.
“In fact, Mr. Kelly doesn’t like — contrary to the song — he doesn’t like to fly,” Greenberg quipped in court, referring to the singer’s hit song “I Believe I Can Fly.”
Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, stared at the ground as Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Gonzalez read off a proffer of the evidence against him in four separate cases — each involving a different victim — consisting of 10 counts of alleged sexual abuse that took place between 1998 and 2010.
The first case Gonzalez outlined took place in 2003, with the victim identified as a 24-year-old hairdresser who went to Kelly’s Near North Side studio to braid his hair. When she arrived, Kelly walked in with his pants down and said he didn’t want his hair braided, but his “head massaged,” and pointed to his penis, Gonzalez said.
Kelly then tried to force the hair dresser, identified in court records by the initials L.C., to give him oral sex. Kelly masturbated and ejaculated on the victim, and spit on her, Gonzalez said. Her shirt was taken for DNA analysis and was a match for Kelly.
The second case, comprising four counts of sexual abuse, involved a girl who said she met Kelly at her 16th birthday party. An associate of the singer allegedly passed the girl a card with Kelly’s personal number on it and asked her to call Kelly.
The girl’s mother told Kelly’s associate that the girl was only 16, and took the card. The girl later found the card in her mother’s purse, called Kelly and took a cab to his studio, where the two had sex, Gonzalez said. Afterward, Kelly allegedly told her to get an envelope of cash from a receptionist, money the girl assumed was for her cab fare.
“The envelope contained a large sum of money, more than was needed to pay for two cab rides,” Gonzalez said.
- Attorney Michael Avenatti stands with Angelo and Alice Clary at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on Saturday. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
- R. Kelly’s defense attorney, Steve Greenberg, waves to photographers as he walks into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse before the start of the R&B star’s first court appearance following his arrest on charges he sexually abused four people, including three underage girls, Saturday afternoon, Feb. 23, 2019. Attorney Michael Avenatti stands with Angelo and Alice Clary as they watch from the distance. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
- Attorney Michael Avenatti walks into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse. He has been charged in a 36-count federal indictment in Southern California. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
- Alice Clary walks into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for R&B star R. Kelly’s first court appearance following his arrest on charges he sexually abused four people, including three underage girls, Saturday afternoon, Feb. 23, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
- R. Kelly accuser Jerhonda Pace (left) walks into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, as Alice Clary (right) walks alongside, for the R&B star’s first court appearance following his arrest on charges he sexually abused four people, including three underage girls, Saturday afternoon, Feb. 23, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
- Joycelyn Savage, left, and Azriel Clary walk into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for R&B star R. Kelly’s first court appearance Feb. 23. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
- Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in February. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
- Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx speaks to reporters at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse after R. Kelly was ordered held on a $1 million bond. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
- Attorney Michael Avenatti, who is representing an alleged R. Kelly victim, speaks to reporters at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse after Kelly was ordered held on a $1 million bond. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
- R. Kelly’s defense attorney, Steve Greenberg, speaks to reporters at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse earlier this year. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
The third victim, “J.P.”, met Kelly when she got his autograph as the singer headed into court during his 2008 trial. She was invited to the singer’s Olympia Fields mansion, beginning a sexual relationship that spanned from May 2009 through January 2010, according to Gonzalez, who said the victim provided a shirt with semen on it that a preliminary test matched to Kelly’s DNA.
That story was identical to the account of a relationship Jerhonda Pace gave in the “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary. Pace, who said in the documentary she was 16 the first time she had sex with Kelly, was in the courtroom gallery Saturday.
The fourth victim, whom Kelly’s lawyer surmised was the same victim in Kelly’s 2008 trial, was allegedly filmed having sex with Kelly on a videotape obtained by a “witness” who was asked in 2001 by Kelly and his associates to locate sex tapes of the singer. The victim, “R.L.”, was identified on the tape by her aunt, Gonzalez said, which showed the pair having sex and the victim repeatedly saying she is 14 years old.
Notably, prosecutors said the videotape referenced in the current charges was not the same one presented as evidence in Kelly’s 2008 trial.
Former Cook County prosecutor James McKay said the state’s proffer would appear to offer up a strong case against Kelly, perhaps stronger than the case for which Kelly was acquitted in 2008.
“If that’s Kelly’s DNA on any of those crimes, that’s as good as gold, especially if you’ve got victims who will cooperate with the prosecution,” McKay said, noting that neither the victim, nor her parents, cooperated with prosecutors in Kelly’s child pornography case.
“The statute of limitations for these kinds of crimes was extended precisely because a child sex victim may not come forward in a timely manner,” McKay said.
Read the full bond proffer presented by Cook County prosecutors against R. Kelly:
Among Kelly’s supporters seated in the court gallery were Azriel Clary and Joycelyn Savage — the two women living with the singer whose parents have claimed are being held against their will. Clary’s parents have said they have had little to no contact with their daughter in the past three years.
Both women were initially seated one row in front of Clary’s father, but later moved up a row and ignored his attempt to speak with his daughter.
Speaking to the media after the hearing, high-profile attorney Michael Avenatti, who sat during the hearing with Clary’s family, claimed Clary was “shielded” from Angelo and Alice Clary by Kelly’s associates.
“Their daughter has been brainwashed by Mr. Kelly and his handlers,” Avenatti said. “I think it’s disgraceful that Mr. Kelly came here today — had his enablers and his handlers come here today — with an eye towards keeping their daughter from them.
“They brought them here in an effort to send a message that all is well with Robert Kelly and there is nothing untoward about his conduct,” added Avenatti, who has said he located and handed to prosecutors the VHS tape that provided evidence in one of the four cases.
Savage and Azriel Clary walked out of the courthouse after the hearing and did not answer reporters’ questions.
Avenatti also rejected a claim by Greenberg that some of the new charges constitute double jeopardy of the earlier child pornography charges.
“The tape at issue does not involve the same acts at issue in the 2008 trial,” Avenatti said. “The basic law of double jeopardy does not prevent Mr. Kelly from being charged for other acts separate and apart from those with which he was charged with in 2008.”
Greenberg, appearing in front of cameras moments after Avenatti, reiterated comments he made Friday night when he claimed all of Kelly’s alleged victims are liars.
“He did not force anyone to have sex,” Greenberg said. “He’s a rock star. He doesn’t have to have non-consensual sex.”
Read the R. Kelly indictment: