For over two decades, three-time Grammy winner R. Kelly has been accused of sexual misconduct with underage girls and women. After numerous charges, the R&B singer continues to maintain his innocence and his career has gone unscathed. From 1994 to 2018, here is a definitive timeline of R. Kelly’s disturbing history of sexual assault.
On August 31, 1994, R. Kelly, 27, illegally marries R&B singer Aaliyah, who was only 15 years old, in Chicago. Just a few months before, on May 24, 1994, Aaliyah’s debut album Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number was released, which Kelly wrote and produced. On the wedding certificate, her age was listed as 18, but the marriage was annulled in February of 1995. Later that year, VIBE famously published the wedding certificate, even though both Aaliyah and R. Kelly denied the marriage. See below:
In 1996, the same year he married Andrea Kelly, Tiffany Hawkins filed charges against the singer in Chicago for “personal injuries and emotional distress” she suffered during their three-year relationship. In 1991, Kelly, 24 at the time, reportedly initiated a sexual relationship with Hawkins, who was 15. Hawkins requested $10 million in damages, but allegedly, in 1998, she only received $250,000.
In May 1997, Aaliyah admits in court documents that she lied about her age to marry Kelly. She filed suit in Cook County to have all records of the marriage expunged because she was not of age under state law to get married without her parents’ consent. Reportedly, Aaliayh and R, Kelly never spoke again. Tragically, Aaliyah passed away at 22 years old in a plane crash in August of 2001.
On February 3, 2002, a 27-minute video tape surfaced of R. Kelly allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old. The video was sold on the streets and appeared to show Kelly urinating on the child. Kelly denied all accusations, saying, “It’s very difficult for me, but, you know, I’m innocent. It’s crap, and that’s how we’re going to treat it. All I know is this: I have a few people in the past that I’ve fired… people that I’ve thought were my friends that’s not my friends.”
Kelly was indicted in Chicago on 21 counts of child pornography and police investigators found 12 images of the singer with a teenage girl at his home in Florida. The girl is reportedly the one from the video tape. Despite the scandal, Kelly scores one of the biggest hits of his career with “Ignition (Remix),” which was released in November of that year and charted at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. In a now infamous interview, Kelly sat down with BET’s Ed Gordon that same year, defending himself by saying,”I’ve done a lot of wrong things in my life, but I’m not a criminal. I’m not a monster.” He refused to talk about his relationship with the late Aaliyah. See below:
Kelly was arrested on a total of 21 counts of child pornography in Chicago and Florida. He posted bail and prepared for trial. Again, his music career appeared to be invincible. Later that year, he has a top ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Step in the Name of Love (Remix)” and wins four Billboard Music Awards. See Kelly’s mugshot below.
All charges were dropped in Florida “due to a lack of probable cause for the search warrants.” R. Kelly’s responded with, “As I’ve said before, I am confident that when all the facts come out, people will see that I’m no criminal.” By 2008 and after going back and forth with the courts, Kelly’s charges dropped to 14 counts in Illinois.
In May, after years of delays, Kelly finally goes to trial for the charges in Chicago. On June 13, after less than a day of deliberations, a jury of nine men and three women found Kelly not guilty on all 14 counts. One of the prosecutor’s key witnesses, Lisa Van Allen, who was 27 at the time, told the Chicago Sun-Times she believed jurors were swayed by Kelly’s celebrity. “Star power. Definitely. I came forward. I told the truth. That’s basically it. That’s all I could do. I’m disappointed.” A year later, in 2009, after 13 years of marriage and three kids, R. Kelly and Andrea Kelly divorce.
2009 to 2017 are the longest stretch that there wasn’t sexual assault allegations against Kelly. However, in July of 2017, an explosive report from BuzzFeed accused him of holding several women hostage in a sex cult. One of the women who was reportedly in the cult, Jocelyn Savage, denied all allegations in an interview with TMZ. No criminal charges were ever filed.
A month later, BuzzFeed News reported a woman named Jerhonda Pace claimed she met R. Kelly when she was 15 during his 2008 child pornography trial (she lied about her age to gain access to the courtroom). Shortly thereafter, Pace was invited to Kelly’s home where he allegedly had sex with her and recorded her without her consent. In 2012, she signed a nondisclosure agreement and received a settlement, but claimed she never got the full amount. Pace told BuzzFeed, “I know speaking out against Kelly, Kelly could sue me. But I’m really not worried about it anymore. I feel like this is a healing process for me, because I’ve been holding this in for so many years, and to see that he always gets away with it, it’s just not right. I’m just going forward with my head held high.”
In a BBC3 documentary, Kelly’s former girlfriend Kitti Jones says that the singer told her he groomed 14-year-old girls to be sex slaves. She accused him of sexual assault and of keeping women in a “sex dungeon.” She also told this story to Rolling Stone back in October of 2017. Kelly and his representatives made no comment to the BBC, however, the singer has always denied allegations of sexual misconduct.
On May 10, after the #MuteRKelly hashtag went viral—a social media campaign which Kelly called a public lynching —Spotify removed Kelly‘s music from all playlists under their public hate content and hateful conduct policy. In addition, streaming service Pandora also agreed to no longer actively promote the 51-year-old’s music. However, even with new allegations and accusations, his streaming numbers were unaffected, and even had small growth.
On May 22, in Dallas, Texas, a woman named Faith Rodgers filed a lawsuit that claimed Kelly purposely gave her a sexually transmitted disease. She said the singer “willfully, deliberately and maliciously” infected her with herpes and that he “mentally, physically and verbally” abused her. She dated him for a year, said she was forced to call him “daddy,” that he introduced her to one of five women he was “raising” and said he filmed non-consensual sex.
Hopefully, the girls and women who were reportedly assaulted by R. Kelly will one day get justice.