DON BABWIN AND MICHAEL TARM | THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CHICAGO — R&B singer R. Kelly’s attorney entered a not guilty plea on behalf of his client Monday as the singer faces multiple charges of sexual abuse in Chicago.
Kelly, one of the best-selling music artists of all time, entered the courtroom wearing an orange jail jumpsuit after spending the weekend in Chicago’s 7,000-inmate jail. He was arrested Friday on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse involving four females, three of whom were minors.
Kelly remains jailed after a judge on Saturday set bond at $1 million. The Grammy Award-winning singer is required to pay 10 percent, and his attorney said Kelly’s confidants are trying to pay $100,000 to get him released as he awaits trial.
Among the conditions of release is that Kelly have no contact with females younger than 18.
Kelly appeared at the arraignment hearing Monday with defense attorney Steve Greenberg, and the case was assigned to Cook County Associate Judge Lawrence Flood. Kelly’s next court date is March 22.
Greenberg told The Associated Press on Sunday that coordination of the bail payment is complicated. But he said Kelly could be released as early as Monday or Tuesday.
“He has to rely on others acting on his behalf,” Greenberg said. “And it’s just not that easy — because Kelly’s in jail.”
Attorney Michael Avenatti, who said he represents two Kelly victims, said his legal team will give prosecutors a second video on Monday that he alleges shows Kelly sexually assaulting a minor. Avenatti has said he recently gave prosecutors video evidence of the singer having sex with an underage girl.
In arguing for bail within the singer’s ability to pay, Greenberg told a judge over the weekend that Kelly wasn’t wealthy despite decades of success creating hit songs. The lawyer blamed mismanagement, bad contracts and other issues for his client’s financial woes.
There are multiple logistical issues that could have thwarted Kelly’s efforts to pay over the weekend, said Joseph Lopez, a criminal defense attorney in Chicago not connected to the Kelly case. He said 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.
Records on the Cook County sheriff’s website show Kelly is in Division 8 of the county jail, where the medical unit is located but also where inmates considered at risk from the general inmate population are held, Lopez said.
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.
A girl who attended Kelly’s child pornography trial in 2008 got his autograph after a court session. He later invited her to his home in the Chicago suburb of Olympia Fields, where they had sex multiple times starting the following May, when she was 16, according to the documents, which said he also slapped, choked and spit on the girl.
In 1998, another girl reported meeting Kelly at a restaurant where she was having a 16th birthday party. Kelly’s manager gave her the singer’s business card and suggested she call Kelly. The girl’s mother heard the exchange, took the card and told the manager her daughter was 16.
But her daughter later retrieved the card from her purse. She contacted Kelly, who told her to take a cab to his studio, where they had sex periodically for a year, the documents said. After the first encounter, she was given an envelope of cash.
In early 2003, a Chicago hairdresser told prosecutors that she thought she was going to braid Kelly’s hair, but he pulled down his pants and instead tried to force her to give him oral sex. The woman, who was 24, was able to pull away, but Kelly ejaculated on her and spit in her face, the documents said.
Prosecutors also described a witness who had access to videotapes showing Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl. The witness turned a tape over to authorities and identified the girl, who repeatedly stated her age on the footage, according to the documents.
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.”
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, has been trailed for decades by allegations that he violated underage girls and women and held some as virtual slaves. Kelly has consistently denied any sexual misconduct.
Kelly broke into the R&B scene in 1993 with his first solo album, “12 Play,” which produced such popular sex-themed songs as “Your Body’s Callin'” and “Bump N’ Grind.” 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.
In 2008, a jury acquitted Kelly of child pornography charges that centered on a graphic video that prosecutors said showed him having sex 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.”