R. Kelly has $1.5 million in a royalties account, but who gets that money?

Kelly’s former Near West Side landlord and a woman who sued the singer alleging sexual abuse each say they should get the money.

SHARE R. Kelly has $1.5 million in a royalties account, but who gets that money?
R. Kelly walks with supporters out of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on June 6, 2019.

R. Kelly and supports walk out of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on June 6, 2019.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

R. Kelly has more than $1.5 million in a royalties account with Sony, the singer’s former record label. The question now: Who gets that money?

Kelly’s former Near West Side landlord secured a $3.5 million judgment earlier this year against the jailed singer to cover past-due rent. A woman sued the singer last year, alleging sexual abuse, and was awarded $4 million. That woman, who the Chicago Sun-Times is not naming, is one of Kelly’s four alleged victims in his pending criminal case in Cook County.

After the awards were issued in each suit, attorneys for both plaintiffs contacted Sony with a “citation to discover assets,” which revealed Kelly had $1,544,333 in a now-frozen royalties account.

The former landlord — Midwest Commercial Funding, a Wisconsin-based property management company — has argued it is entitled to all of that money because Sony acknowledged its citation one day before that of Kelly’s alleged victim.

R. Kelly owes money for alleged repairs and back rent to a warehouse he used as a studio in the Near West Side at 219 N. Justine.

A warehouse previously rented by R. Kelly at 219 N. Justine St.

Sun-Times file

Jeffrey Deutschman, the attorney representing Kelly’s alleged victim, said he tried to compromise with Midwest Commercial Funding’s attorney, Jamie Burns. Deutschman said he was rebuffed after he suggested Midwest Commercial Funding take $1 million and leave the rest for his client.

“They want all of it,” Deutschman said. “They have their building, but my client lost her childhood to a sexual predator.”

Deutschman said he expects the judge overseeing both suits to decide who gets the money in the coming days. Deutschman said he will appeal if the judge rules in favor of Midwest Commercial Funding.

Burns and Brian Nix, Kelly’s attorney in civil matters, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Kelly rented the warehouse at 219 N. Justine St. — which he used as a recording studio — from Midwest Commercial Funding until he was evicted in January 2019 over his failure to pay rent. A highly publicized inspection by the city’s Department of Buildings revealed numerous code violations.

The building is for rent and is in the midst of renovations, according to a rental listing for the property.

The woman who was awarded $4 million is one of four alleged victims in Kelly’s pending criminal case in Cook County. She filed her lawsuit against the singer in February 2019, a day before Cook County prosecutors approved charges against Kelly.

The suit alleged the woman met Kelly on May 26, 1998, when she was 16. Kelly was driving when he saw her walking down the street; he pulled over and talked to her, the suit states.

Later that day, an associate of Kelly’s met with the teen and her family at a restaurant and gave the girl Kelly’s phone number. The associate “indicated [Kelly] wanted to speak with the minor plaintiff and have her come to his studio and be in a video that he was making,” the suit stated.

The plaintiff was “star-struck and wanted to meet with [Kelly] to pursue a role in what she believed was a music video,” the suit stated. The sexual abuse started within a month, the complaint alleged.

“Commencing in or about June 1998 and thereafter until she was of the age of majority, defendant, Robert Sylvester Kelly, sexually abused plaintiff,” the suit stated. “Specifically, defendant, Robert Sylvester Kelly, had sexual intercourse with the minor plaintiff. The defendant also engaged in oral sex with the minor plaintiff. During these repeated incidents, defendant represented to the minor plaintiff that this behavior was appropriate.”

Kelly is facing criminal charges across multiple jurisdictions, including federal indictments in Illinois and New York alleging racketeering, sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. He also faces charges of aggravated criminal sexual abuse in Cook County and soliciting a minor and prostitution in Minnesota.

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