Minnesota prosecutors drop sex charges against R&B singer R. Kelly, citing federal convictions

Kelly had faced charges that he invited a 17-year-old girl to his hotel room in 2001 and paid her $200 to dance naked with him.

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R. Kelly walks with attorneys and supporters into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in March 2019.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota prosecutors have dropped sex abuse charges against disgraced R&B superstar R. Kelly that alleged he invited a 17-year-old girl to his hotel room in 2001 and paid her $200 to dance naked with him.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office said in a statement Tuesday that it believes her and that Kelly would likely be convicted if tried, but prosecuting him on charges that had been dormant since being filed in 2019 wouldn’t make a difference now that Kelly’s federal convictions could keep him in prison for the rest of his life.

“The overwhelming impact of proceeding to trial in this case on the survivor victim, the community, and the Hennepin County legal system would be enormous, while a conviction would not add any additional time in prison,” the statement said.

The woman Kelly allegedly abused in Minnesota wanted to testify at a trial anyway, her lawyer said.

Attorney Gloria Allred issued a statement on behalf of the woman, identified only as Jane Doe. It said what Kelly did to her has been weighing heavily on her for more than 20 years and would continue to hurt her for the rest of her life.

“As a surviving victim of R. Kelly, I feel sad about the fact that Hennepin County Attorney’s Office in Minnesota decided not to hold him accountable for what he did to me when I was a minor,” the statement said. “If there had been a criminal trial, I would have been willing to testify against R. Kelly. Even though it wouldn’t have brought any extra prison time for him, it would have given me closure.”

Federal juries in Chicago and New York convicted Kelly, now 56, of crimes including child pornography, enticement, racketeering and sex trafficking related to allegations that he victimized women and girls. Born Robert Sylvester Kelly, he was sentenced to 30 years in the New York case last year and a mostly concurrent 20 years in February in the Chicago case.

The woman in Minnesota sued Kelly in 2021, but that case remans dormant, too, because Kelly is in prison and is unable to defend himself, court records show. He was transferred to a federal prison in North Carolina last month.

The Grammy-winning Kelly rose from poverty in Chicago to become one of the world’s biggest R&B stars. Known for his smash hit “I Believe I Can Fly” and for sex-infused songs such as “Bump n’ Grind,” he sold millions of albums even after allegations about his abuse of girls began circulating publicly in the 1990s.

When he announced the Minnesota charges in 2019, then-County Attorney Mike Freeman said Kelly met the young woman before a concert in Minneapolis when she tried to get his autograph. Freeman said the performer gave her his signature and a phone number, and when she called it, she was invited to Kelly’s hotel room. She was offered $200 to take off her clothes and dance, and Kelly took his clothes off as well and they danced together, Freeman said.

The criminal complaint said she told investigators that Kelly lay on his bed and she climbed on top of him “body to body.” He allegedly touched her all over her body and fondled himself.

Cook County prosecutors in Chicago dropped state sex abuse charges there in January, citing his lengthy federal prison sentences.

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