The day before superstar R. Kelly was set to return to a federal courtroom in Chicago, celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti added to the allegations against the singer, claiming that Kelly “bought his acquittal” in 2008 with a $2 million payoff.
Avenatti said that money went to the alleged victim and her family to keep them off the witness stand in the child pornography trial. Jurors in that case said they voted to acquit Kelly because of the alleged victim’s refusal to testify.
A decade later, Kelly is again behind bars. And Avenatti said he now represents nine people involved in the prosecution of Kelly — including three of the victims in the federal cases. Two are victims in the Chicago case, and one is a victim in New York.
“It was bogus,” Avenatti said of Kelly’s 2008 trial. “R. Kelly bought his acquittal. He bought this victim and their parents and ensured that the truth was never told to that jury in 2008.”
Avenatti, who faces his own federal fraud and extortion charges, made his comments at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago.
Federal prosecutors here have so far alleged that Kelly “paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to at least three separate people to collect and round up videotape evidence that would prove his guilt.”
Steve Greenberg, Kelly’s attorney, told the Chicago Sun-Times that, “it is a shame that Mr. Avenatti isn’t willing to extend the same presumptions of innocence and fairness to Mr. Kelly that he so rightfully begs us all to give to him.”
During his press conference, Avenatti said he also represents parents and whistleblowers he described as “longtime employees and associates of Mr. Kelly.” He said one of them agreed to retrieve a lost Kelly sex tape for money. Avenatti also said that person lied during a polygraph exam about whether copies had been made — and passed.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago declined to comment on Avenatti’s remarks.
Kelly is due for arraignment Tuesday afternoon before U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber. The judge is expected to also consider whether Kelly should be freed while he awaits trial. Prosecutors in Chicago and New York want him locked up.
In their paperwork seeking detention, federal prosecutors in New York said agents found a holster and ammunition when they searched Kelly’s home Thursday. Greenberg explained that Kelly had turned his gun in to state court officials. And he said the ammunition amounted to two bullets in a change cup in Kelly’s Trump Tower residence.
Federal prosecutors last week broadsided Kelly with a pair of indictments that threaten to put the singer behind bars for the rest of his life. In Brooklyn and Chicago, Kelly faces a combined 18 counts for alleged crimes against 10 victims.
In Chicago, Kelly faces 13 counts revolving around child pornography, enticing a minor into illegal sexual activity, and a conspiracy to obstruct justice — in which Kelly allegedly thwarted his prosecution a decade ago with threats, gifts and six-figure pay-offs.
In Brooklyn, Kelly faces a broader racketeering case that alleges his music career was designed to enable and protect him as he sexually exploited young women by isolating them, controlling them and making them call him “Daddy.”
Kelly has been locked up in Chicago’s downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center ever since federal agents arrested him here Thursday.