R. Kelly Met Underage Girl While on Trial for Child Porn

February 24, 2019 Updated: February 24, 2019

CHICAGO—While on trial for child pornography in 2008, R. Kelly still found time to talk to fans, give autographs, and to meet an underage girl he later invited to his home, according to prosecutors who depicted the R&B star as manipulative and sometimes violent.

The accounts of other incidents emerged Saturday, Feb. 23, as Kelly made his first court appearance since being accused of sexually abusing four people.

A judge gave Kelly a chance to go free while awaiting trial, setting bond at $1 million. That means the 52-year-old Grammy winner must post $100,000 to be released or remain behind bars until he is tried on the allegations that date as back as 1998 and span more than a decade.

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R. Kelly turns himself in at 1st District police headquarters in Chicago on Feb. 22, 2019. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune via AP)

The prosecution released four detailed documents—one for each accuser—outlining the basis for the charges.

At the bond hearing, Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, said his client is not a flight risk. He told the judge, “Contrary to the song, Mr. Kelly doesn’t like to fly.” One of Kelly’s best-known hits is “I Believe I Can Fly.”

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R. Kelly’s defense attorney, Steve Greenberg, speaks to reporters at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse after R. Kelly was ordered held on a $1 million bond, on Feb. 23, 2019, in Chicago. (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Greenberg said Kelly “really doesn’t have any more money,” suggesting that others had mismanaged his wealth. Still, he said he expected that Kelly would be able to come up with enough money for bail.

The judge called the allegations “disturbing.” The singer-songwriter looked down at the floor as the judge spoke.

After the hearing, Greenberg told reporters that Kelly did not force anyone to have sex.

“He’s a rock star. He doesn’t have to have nonconsensual sex,” Greenberg said.

The judge ordered Kelly to surrender his passport, ending his hopes of doing a tour of Europe in April. Kelly defiantly scheduled concerts in Germany and the Netherlands despite the cloud of legal issues looming over him. Greenberg denied that any tour was planned.

The recording artist, whose legal name is Robert Kelly, was charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse.

Kelly, who was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008, has consistently denied any sexual misconduct. He broke into the R&B scene in 1993 with his first solo album, “12 Play,” which produced such popular sex-themed songs as “Bump N’ Grind” and “Your Body’s Callin’.”

He rose from poverty on Chicago’s South Side and has retained a sizable following. Kelly has written numerous hits for himself and other artists, including Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, and Lady Gaga. His collaborators have included Jay-Z and Usher.

The jury in 2008 acquitted Kelly of child pornography charges. He and the young woman, allegedly seen with him, denied they were in the 27-minute video, even though the picture quality was good and witnesses testified it was them, and she did not take the stand. Kelly could have been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Charging Kelly now for actions that occurred in the same time frame as the allegations from the 2008 trial suggests the accusers are cooperating this time and willing to testify.

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In this still image taken from video, R. Kelly is escorted by police in custody at the Chicago Police Department’s Central District on Feb. 22, 2019. (Nader Issa/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Because the alleged victim 10 years ago denied that she was in the video and did not testify, the state’s attorney’s office had little recourse except to charge the lesser offense under Illinois law, child pornography, which required a lower standard of evidence.

Each count of the new charges carries up to seven years in prison, and the sentences could be served consecutively, making it possible for him to receive up to 70 years. Probation is also an option.

The walls began closing in on Kelly after the release of a BBC documentary about him last year and the multipart Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” which aired last month. Together they detailed allegations that he held women against their will and ran a “sex cult.”

#MeToo activists and a social media movement using the hashtag #MuteRKelly calling on streaming services to drop Kelly’s music and promoters not to book any more concerts. Protesters demonstrated outside Kelly’s Chicago studio.

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