R. Kelly Still Jailed in Lieu of Bond Payment

February 24, 2019 Updated: February 24, 2019

CHICAGO—R. Kelly, one of the best-selling music artists of all time, remained jailed in Chicago on Sunday in lieu of a $100,000 bond payment that would allow him to go free pending his sex abuse trial.

The 52-year-old R&B star is behind bars in the 7,000-inmate Cook County Jail, according the county sheriff’s online inmate locator. Kelly was charged Friday with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four victims, three of whom were minors.

In bond court Saturday, a judge set bail at $1 million, requiring Kelly to pay 10 percent to go free.

There are multiple technical issues that could be thwarting Kelly’s efforts to pay, said Joseph Lopez, a criminal defense attorney in Chicago not connected to the Kelly case.

Bond can be paid by credit card, cash or check. Court officials must be able to talk to bank officials directly to confirm that an amount written on a check is covered, and that’s not possible when banks are closed on Sunday, Lopez said.

Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, did not respond to a message seeking comment on Sunday.

Greenberg said at the bond hearing that his Grammy Award-winning client wasn’t wealthy, despite decades of success creating hit songs for himself and others. Greenberg blamed mismanagement, bad contracts and other issues for Kelly’s financial woes.

“This is someone who should be wealthy at this stage of his career. … He really doesn’t have any more money,” he said, arguing for a bail amount within his client’s means. Greenberg said later he was happy with the amount set by the judge, saying he hoped Kelly could be out by Saturday evening.

Disturbing details of the allegations against Kelly emerged Saturday when the prosecution released four detailed documents—one for each accuser—outlining the basis for the charges. The allegations date back as far as 1998 and span more than a decade.

R.Kelly
Musician R. Kelly leaves his Chicago studio on his way to surrender to police on Feb. 22, 2019. (Victor Hilitski/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Kelly’s DNA was found in semen on one of the accuser’s shirts, and semen found on a shirt worn by another was submitted for DNA testing, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said. It was not clear when the accusers turned the shirts over to authorities, whether it was shortly after the abuse or more recently.

At the bond hearing, 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.”

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, has been trailed for decades by allegations that he violated underage girls and women and held some as virtual slaves. He was charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse.

Kelly has consistently denied any sexual misconduct. He broke into the R&B scene in 1993 with his first solo album.

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.

In 2008, the jury acquitted Kelly of child pornography charges that centered on a graphic video that prosecutors said showed him with a girl as young as 13. 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.

Because the alleged victim 10 years ago denied that she was on 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.

By Michael Tarm

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