After spending three nights in custody, R. Kelly was finally able to pull together the $100,000 he needed to secure his release from Cook County Jail on Monday after being charged with sexual abuse late last week.
Kelly left the jail in Little Village, fought through a crowd of media and got in a large black van. The van with Kelly inside then drove through the city, cutting through the West Loop, River North — and to the flagship McDonald’s at 600 N. Clark St. Every move was followed by media cameras and at least one helicopter, even as Kelly and his entourage got out of the van walked into the restaurant.
Kelly has been accused for years — including in the “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary that brought the singer back into the spotlight — of frequenting that same McDonald’s location to speak with young women.
Several onlookers, including children, gathered in the area as music blared. Some women took selfies, sat on the hood of a car next to Kelly’s van and danced after he left the restaurant and got back into his van.
Then Kelly was back on the road to Biggs Mansion, a cigar lounge on the Gold Coast, where he spent several hours inside.
Don Russell, an adviser and friend to Kelly, said outside the lounge late Monday night that the singer told him last year that he had “zero dollars in the bank” because he “trusted the wrong people” who took advantage of him. Since then, Russell claims, “Money is coming to him, but not as much as he would like.”
Russell said the stops for burgers and cigars were about Kelly — whose name is Robert Kelly — trying to get back to his roots.
“Rob is a connoisseur of the great cigar — that’s what distinguished gentlemen do,” Russell said. “[And] McDonald’s is where he spent time with his mother … Going to McDonald’s was taking him back to home; that’s where it started for him. He ate a lot of food. He had Big Macs and all that stuff.”
“He spent some time with close friends who know him and know he’s not capable of that,” Russell added.
Though Kelly hasn’t spoken to the media or answered reporters’ questions since he was charged, Russell said the singer planned to “tell his side” in the coming days. For now, Kelly is “relieved that he’s out of the position he was in,” Russell said.
Earlier, outside Cook County Jail, Tony Conway, 29, and his friend, Omar Bey, 25, were among a half-dozen or so Kelly supporters who cheered for the Chicago-born singer. Parked in a car across from the jail entrance, the pair blasted “I Believe I Can Fly” and other Kelly hits until they were shooed away by sheriff’s deputies, and then stood in the cold among the media throng as Kelly walked out in a blue jacket.
READ MORE The R. Kelly investigation
“I grew up to R. Kelly. Everybody in my household still loves R. Kelly. My mom is the one that told me we could get here to see him come out,” Conway said. “He’s going to get off. These charges are all old cases.”
The courthouse scene was reminiscent of Kelly’s trial in 2008 on child pornography, when mobs of fans, media members and other observers gathered outside the courthouse for each day of the trial. He was acquitted of the charges — and at least one woman who appeared in the Lifetime series “Surviving R. Kelly” said she first met him as a teenager while she was outside the courthouse.
Not guilty plea
Earlier Monday, the R&B singer pleaded not guilty to sex abuse charges involving four victims, three of them minors.
Kelly was largely silent during the 10-minute hearing, speaking his name when asked by a Cook County judge and saying something inaudible as defense attorney Steve Greenberg said the singer would plead not guilty to all 10 counts against him. Kelly’s next court date was set for March 22.
He had entered court wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, escorted by four stocky sheriff’s officers from the jail’s Emergency Response Team, which is assigned to ferry high-risk or high-profile defendants to and from the jail.
Kelly was charged Friday in four separate cases of sexual abuse, involving four different victims in incidents from 1998 to 2010. Three of the alleged victims were between the ages of 14 and 16 at the time the abuse occurred. Prosecutors have said they obtained a video of Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl at Kelly’s Olympia Fields home, filmed some time between 1998 and 2001.
Kelly surrendered to Chicago police Friday night, and appeared in bond court Saturday; bond was set at $1 million and at the time, Kelly was unable to post the required 10 percent that would have allowed him to be released.
At the bond hearing Saturday, attorney Steve Greenberg had said the singer’s finances are “a mess,” noting that Kelly has been dropped by his record label and has no tour dates.
“He’s in jail. Nobody wants to be in jail,” Greenberg told reporters Monday. “But he’s strong and he knows what’s there and he knows what kind of fight he’s going to be involved in. He was in it before.”
But later Kelly’s bond was posted by checks from a Romeoville woman who said she was “friend” of the singer on court paperwork. Kelly walked out around 5:30 p.m.
Lawyer Michael Avenatti attended Monday’s hearing with several of his clients, including a woman who said she had sex with Kelly when she was 16, and a couple who claims their daughter is being kept captive by the singer. Avenatti earlier this month turned over a VHS tape that he said showed Kelly having sex with a minor, a video he said is the basis for the charges in one of the new cases against Kelly. The Los Angeles attorney told reporters Monday that he had uncovered still another tape of Kelly, from around 1999 or 2000.
Avenatti said he has interviewed women who have contacted him describing similar abuse at Kelly’s hands, and “a decades-long system of abuse by Mr. Kelly of underage girls and conduct that is criminal.”
“All of these young women are not lying,” Avenatti said.