The Chicago Sun-Times played a pivotal role in the investigations and the subsequent coverage of criminal charges against R&B star R. Kelly. The paper published its first interview with the rising star on May 15, 1994. “I love coming home,” he told reporter Dave Hoekstra. “I hang around the same places; I hang around the same ‘hood.”
News of Kelly’s marriage to his 15-year-old protege Aaliyah Haughton first surfaced in “Kup’s Column” later that year on Sept. 22. “[Kelly] maintains she’s 18, but her Detroit high school friends insist she’s an underage 15,” Kup wrote. Haughton’s parents had the marriage annulled soon after the reports began circulating.
On Dec. 21, 2000, Sun-Times reporters Jim DeRogatis and Abdon M. Pallasch broke the first story that Kelly was having sex with teenage girls. The expose delved into several lawsuits filed against Kelly by women who he targeted when they were underage. Despite the bombshell allegations, Kelly was not charged with a crime.
Two years later, DeRogatis received a videotape sent anonymously that appeared to show Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl, who was identified by her aunt. The reporter turned the video over to the police and, on Feb. 8, 2002, published another expose with Pallasch about the new investigation into the videotape.
Chicago police finally charged Kelly with pornography charges in June 2002. The paper followed developments in the case for the next six years before finally covering the trial when it began in May 2008.
All the while, columnist Mary Mitchell wrote countless articles asking why Kelly fans seemed to stick by the accused singer despite the seriousness of the charges and why the victims, all of them Black women, saw so little sympathy from their communities.
This content has been republished as Kelly’s latest trial in Brooklyn, New York, gets underway in August 2021. Current coverage of that trial is available here.
If you’re new to the case or need a refresher on what’s happened so far, read through a timeline of Kelly’s alleged criminal activity and history as outlined by federal prosecutors and investigative reporting from the Chicago Sun-Times. Find out who’s who in the Brooklyn courtroom here and brush up on your courtroom lingo with our trial glossary of terms.