At least two women have contacted the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office since Wednesday afternoon to complain of alleged inappropriate conduct by R. Kelly.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx made a public plea Tuesday evening for accusers to come forward so that the office could investigate. Foxx said she was “sickened” by the accounts described in the “Surviving R. Kelly” Lifetime television series, but said she has not — and cannot — open a criminal probe in the absence of cooperating witnesses.
Kelly, who has been dogged by allegations of sexual impropriety for two decades, has not been charged with any crimes since he was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008.
Two women contacted the Sun-Times Wednesday and gave accounts of what they allegedly experienced at the hands of Kelly.
Neither woman lives in Chicago, but both said they were the victims of inappropriate conduct by Kelly in the city — one in a home on the South Side in the mid-1980s and the other at the R&B singer’s warehouse/studio space in the 200 block of North Justine in 2002.
After they described their experiences to the Sun-Times, both women said they called the phone number that Foxx publicized Tuesday evening — the direct line to the state’s attorney’s office’s Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Division — and left messages after their calls went straight to voicemail.
State’s attorney confirms calls
Tandra Simonton, a spokeswoman for the state’s attorney’s office, would not say how many calls related to R. Kelly have been received since Foxx’s plea. In a statement, Simonton said, “We can confirm that the office has received calls related to this matter. We are in the process of reviewing and following up on these calls and have no additional information to provide at this time.”
One woman, who’s originally from Georgia, said that Kelly engaged in inappropriate conduct with her at his rented warehouse/studio space in 2002. She said she ran away from home in Georgia, met Kelly in Florida and eventually came back to Chicago with him.
Cook County court records show that an eviction order was entered against Kelly on Monday to vacate the warehouse/studio space. The building’s owners sued him in June, alleging he owed nearly $80,000 in back rent.
Another woman, who was born in Chicago but has since moved to Detroit, said that her incident with Kelly happened while at her grandmother’s house on the South Side in the mid-’80s.
Neither woman had previously reported their allegations to law enforcement.
Hours after the women contacted prosecutors, more than 30 people turned out for a demonstration across the street from Kelly’s warehouse/studio space.
The group, largely made up of women, chanted “black girls matter” to show support for Kelly’s accusers. A volunteer activist with #MuteRKelly, a national group leading protests against the Chicago singer, described the latest accusations as “atrocities.”
At the warehouse, a couple dozen people could be seen filing into the building. Outside, a woman stood on the sidewalk calling the protestors “liars.”
On Tuesday, Foxx said her office has been in touch with two Chicago-area families who have lost touch with relatives — both women over 18 — who the families claim were coerced by Kelly into staying with him.
Steve Greenberg, Kelly’s attorney, said in an emailed statement: “Mr. Kelly did not sexually abuse anybody, at anytime, not when he was in high school and not after.”
Greenberg also has blasted Foxx’s press conference.
“I don’t think Kim Foxx should be giving any legitimacy to reality TV allegations,” he said Tuesday. “The lead prosecutor should be silent until there’s evidence . . . She essentially went up there and said, ‘We have no evidence of a crime, but if someone would like to make something up, please call us.’”
He continued: “No one here has reported a crime. There’s no evidence of anything. You can’t disprove something that didn’t happen.”
In 2000, the Sun-Times was the first major media outlet to report on allegations of inappropriate behavior involving Kelly and underage girls.
Two years later, someone mailed a copy of the now-infamous sex tape to former Sun-Times reporter and music critic Jim DeRogatis. Kelly was hit with 21 counts of child pornography and was found not guilty in 2008.
No statute of limitations
Even decades-old allegations could be trouble for Kelly. State lawmakers in 2017 eliminated the statute of limitations for prosecutors to charge sex crimes against children, in the wake of revelations of abuse of students by former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert that dated back to the 1970s.
The law got rid of the 20-year window to file charges in child sex cases for all cases from 1997 forward, meaning that even illicit sexual encounters that took place months before the videotaped sex acts that led to his 2008 trial on child pornography could still be grounds for prosecution. At trial, witnesses testified that Kelly was in a sexual relationship with the then 15-year-old girl in the video as early as 1998.
Prosecutors could bring new charges based on the evidence in that case — Kelly faced only charges related to child porn, and no counts of child sex abuse — without concern for double jeopardy issues, but prosecutors’ decision to wait more than 15 years to file them might trouble jurors, said Jeffrey Urdangen, director of Northwestern’s Bluhm Legal Clinic.
But new charges stemming from that case are unlikely, said Richard Kling, a criminal law professor at IIT-Kent College of Law. If prosecutors were aware of crimes Kelly committed that were connected to the sex captured on the video, they would have brought those charges within a few months of his initial indictment.
But if a number of alleged victims come forward amid the furor from the “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary series, it may also be helpful for Kelly should he face any new charges, said Chicago defense lawyer Joseph Lopez.
“In any kind of a sex case, the big thing is always when did the victim make the outcry, and why,” Lopez said. “If you do it because of a lot of publicity from a TV series, or the prosecutors going out and soliciting for victims, that’s a lot less credible.”
Contributing: Nader Issa