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R. Kelly’s day in court: pays $62K in child support; sex abuse suit will proceed

R. Kelly (center) goes through security after arriving at the Daley Center for a hearing in his child support case Wednesday. | Matt Marton/Associated Press

R. Kelly’s lawyer on Wednesday handed a $62,000 cashier’s check to the R&B singer’s ex-wife, bringing the embattled performer up to date on a back child support bill that landed him in jail in March.

The exchange of cash was just part of Kelly’s busy day at the Daley Center, where the singer also was on the docket for a hearing on whether to open records and hearings in his divorce case to the public, and, in a separate courtroom, argue for a do-over after a judge entered a default judgement against the singer in a civil lawsuit filed by a woman who said Kelly sexually abused her when she was a teenager.

Kelly, who faces sexual abuse charges involving four victims, including three underage girls, also visited the criminal courthouse across town on Monday for a status hearing.

The child-support hearing Wednesday was the first one in Kelly’s divorce case with ex-wife Andrea Kelly to be held in public since 2013, when the couple had a judge seal all proceedings in the case. Wednesday, Cook County Judge Lori Rosen ruled in favor of a motion by Andrea Kelly and lawyers for media organizations to unseal the case.

Outside the courtroom, Andrea Kelly’s lawyer, Alison Motta, told reporters they had sought to make records in the case public, to put pressure on R. Kelly to make child support payments on time after the singer racked up more than $160,000 in unpaid support and an additional $32,000 in legal fees and educational expenses.

“Ms. Kelly appreciates the fact that Mr. Kelly is not going to have any special protection above and beyond what anyone else has,” Motta told reporters. “[If] he doesn’t take his responsibilities seriously, doesn’t comply with his obligations to his children, it’s gonna get filed and people will know.”

The singer, whose lawyers have said has been in financial turmoil as income from music royalties and performances has dried up as long-running allegations Kelly had sex with underage girls have gotten renewed attention, culminating in sexual abuse charges filed by Cook County prosecutors in February.

“We’re done with Robert Kelly being slandered by his ex-wife, by her publicist, by her attorneys,” Damico said to the crowd of television cameras outside the courtroom. “He’s in a situation where it’s difficult right now for him to make any money. When money comes in, he’s going to take care of his kids. We’ve had enough of the bashing of Robert Kelly as a bad dad.”

In March, Kelly spent three days in jail on a contempt of court order issued by Judge Rosen, after the singer failed to pay the $160,000 in back child support. Two weeks before he was jailed for his back child support, Kelly spent another three-day stint behind bars while trying to pull together $100,000 to post bond in sex abuse cases. The check, for $62,499.70, paid Kelly’s support obligations for March, April and this month.

While one set of Kelly’s lawyers was arguing against unsealing records in his divorce case in Rosen’s basement courtroom at the Daley Center, another team of attorneys some 20 floors sought to vacate a default judgment entered against the singer last month after Kelly failed to respond to a lawsuit filed by a woman who said Kelly began a sexual relationship with her when she was 16.

Judge Moira Johnson last month had entered a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff. But Wednesday, Kelly’s new attorneys, Raed Shalabi and Zaid Abdallah, argued that Kelly never responded to that lawsuit— which was served on him while he was in the Cook County Jail— because he is illiterate. The next court date in the case was set for June 19.

The woman who filed the suit is one of the four people Kelly is accused of sexually abusing in a separate criminal case. Her lawsuit was filed Feb. 21 — a day before Kelly was charged with 10 counts of criminal sexual abuse.

The woman suing Kelly, who is not being named by the Chicago Sun-Times because she also is a victim in one of the four sex abuses currently pending against the singer, filed her lawsuit the day before Kelly was charged. Kelly’s lawyers said that move seemed intentional.

“They knew charges were being brought,” lawyer Raed Shalabi said outside Johnson’s courtroom at the Daley Center Wednesday morning. “Mr. Kelly believes the motive is money. He’s obviously going to be denying the allegations, and that’s our position at this point.”

Kelly’s growing legal team also will have to return to the courthouse later this month to review files in the divorce case before Judge Rosen makes a ruling on which records will be made public.

The singer began missing payments, set at about $20,000 a month according to court records, after Andrea Kelly began making public statements about abuse she suffered while married to the singer, Motta said. Kelly’s failure to pay money toward his daughter’s college tuition and living expenses forced her to drop out of college, Motta said. Andrea Kelly’s publicist said the singer has not spoken to his three children in years.

Kelly’s lawyer, Steve Greenberg, said that Andrea Kelly and the singer’s two adult children had “impeded [Kelly’s] ability to make a living” by publicly criticizing the performer, and suggested that Kelly’s 22-year-old daughter may have dropped out of school to sign onto a reality TV show. The line of reasoning that drew a quick rebuke from the judge.

“I would not go down that road,” Rosen said.

The woman who filed the suit is one of the four people Kelly is accused of sexually abusing in a separate criminal case. Her lawsuit was filed Feb. 21 — a day before Kelly was charged with 10 counts of criminal sexual abuse.

“They knew charges were being brought,” Shalabi said outside Johnson’s courtroom at the Daley Center Wednesday morning. “Mr. Kelly believes the motive is money. He’s obviously going to be denying the allegations, and that’s our position at this point.”

The plaintiff’s attorney, Jeffrey Deutschman, said while his client was cooperating with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, “I didn’t know there was going to be an indictment coming.”

“My client had a case and we filed it,” Deutschman said. “We filed it as fast as we could, pretty much because there were potential statute of limitations issues.”

Neither the singer nor his lawyer responded to summonses in the lawsuit, leading to Johnson’s default ruling. Kelly was served with a court summons in the case in March as he was being held in the Cook County Jail over his failure to pay more than $160,000 in child support owed to his ex-wife.

“When he got served, he got served while he was in jail,” Shalabi said after Wednesday’s hearing. “He didn’t know what the documents were. Once we found out there was a judgment against him we filed a motion to vacate right away.”

Before Abdallah and Shalabi were retained by Kelly, the singer’s publicist, Darrell Johnson, had told the Sun-Times: “We don’t care about the lawsuit. The lawsuit means nothing to us.”

The woman who brought the suit alleges she 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 Kelly’s phone number to the girl. The associate “indicated that the defendant 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 states.

The plaintiff was “star struck and wanted to meet with defendant to pursue a role in what she believed was a music video,” the suit states. The sexual abuse started within a month, the complaint alleges.

“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 states. “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.”