UPDATED: 8:15 a.m., Aug. 18, 2021
Opening statements in disgraced singer R. Kelly‘s sex trafficking trial are scheduled for Wednesday morning, more than two years after he was arrested in his native Chicago over suspicions about his sexual activity with underage girls.
A jury of seven men and five women were selected last week to decide the fate of Kelly, 54, who is charged with racketeering for allegedly kidnapping and exploiting underage girls and women sexually and otherwise under the so-called Mann Act, which makes illegal transporting “any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.”
The trial could last as long as two months. A guilty verdict would likely send Kelly to prison for most of the rest of his life.
For more than two decades, the three-time Grammy winner has been accused of sexual misconduct with underage girls and women. After numerous charges, the R&B singer continues to maintain his innocence. But following the explosive docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly” that debuted early last year, he has been caught in a whirlwind of lawsuits.
From 1994 to his arrest in 2019, here is a definitive timeline of R. Kelly’s disturbing history of sexual assault allegations.
On August 31, 1994, R. Kelly, then-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.
“Surviving R. Kelly” premieres on the Lifetime channel and trends all over social media. Executive produced by Dream Hampton, the docuseries examines more than two decades of R. Kelly allegedly sexually assaulting children and women. Within weeks there are reports the FBI is investigating the singer and there is reportedly a criminal investigation.
Kim Foxx, the first Black woman to be the Cook County State’s Attorney, says at a press conference, “In order to have an investigation, we have to have victims and witnesses who are willing to come forward with information. Allegations of domestic violence or sexual assault require someone to say what they’ve seen, heard or experienced.”
She continued, “There is nothing that can be done to investigate these allegations without the cooperation of both victims and witnesses. We cannot seek justice without you.”
Via his lawyer, Kelly denies the allegations and says all the women are lying.
Michael Avenatti, who is best known for representing Stormy Daniels, claims he has another sex tape of the singer with an underage girl. Soon after, Kelly is charged with multiple sex crimes. On Feb. 22, Kelly turns himself into Chicago police and he is ht with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse in Cook County Friday morning. He is facing three to seven years in prison for each count and needed $100,00 bond to be released from jail. However, Kelly’s lawyer reports the singer who has won several Grammys and sold millions of albums does not have the money.
On Feb. 25, he is bailed out by a “friend” named Valencia Love on Monday. The 47-year-old, who is a corporate officer for a child care center and a manager of a restaurant, both in Chicago, quickly came under fire after paying the $100,000 bond. There were calls for a boycott of the restaurant she works for — Love on the Blu — and many were questioning how a woman who works with children could bring herself to bail out an accused pedophile.
The latest sex tape is reported to be extremely graphic. R. Kelly and his lawyer continue to deny all charges.
R. Kelly and his alleged girlfriends, Azriel Clary and Joycelyn Savage sat down with Gayle King for an explosive interview. Due to Kelly’s screaming and King’s calm demeanor, the interview quickly went viral.
Shortly after the interview, the 52-year-old returned to jail for back child support. Another fan reportedly bailed him out. Audio also surfaced of Savage talking to voice coach after her family found out she had a a sexual relationship with the singer. “I told him what was going on,” she said to her voice coach. “He can’t trust me … I have to gain his trust back because he really likes me a lot.” She also said that Kelly wanted her to send a text message saying, “I lied about me and you having sex.” Savage is also scared that R. Kelly may have gave her an STD, specifically herpes.
Lisa Van Allen, one of R. Kelly’s accusers, also claimed that he had a sexual relationship with Aaliyah’s mother, which Kelly reportedly denied.
R. Kelly was a no-show in court for a civil lawsuit for an underage sex abuse charge. In a statement to the Chicago Sun-Times, Darrell Johnson, Kelly’s publicist said, “We don’t care about the lawsuit. The lawsuit means nothing to us.” The 52-year-old singer lost the civil lawsuit and the accuser is seeking more than $50,000 in damages.
Chicago prosecutors charged R. Kelly with 11 new sex-related counts involving one victim. The charges included aggravated criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sex abuse. Four of the new charges were Class X felonies. According to USA Today, a Class X felony “could land Kelly in prison for six to 30 years should he be convicted on any of them.” The Illinois General Assembly wrote on its website that a prison sentence for anyone convicted of a Class X felony “shall be not less than 30 years and not more than 60 years.”
The singer’s alleged sex tape with a minor from two decades is now in the hands of his defense attorneys. According to CNN.com, Judge Lawrence Flood put a protective order on the tape being leaked, saying, “If there’s any violation of this protective order, I’m going to impose sanctions, severe sanctions. I just want everybody on notice with that. Plus, there could be criminal implications to violation of this protective order.”
R. Kelly was arrested in Chicago on federal child pornography charges. On the evening of July 11, he was walking his dog and “was arrested by Homeland Security Investigations agents and NYPD Public Safety Task Force,” officials told News 4. This is his first time facing federal charges. CBS reports, “He is facing two separate federal indictments, one in northern Illinois and one in New York. The New York Eastern District was expected to file racketeering charges on Friday.” The Illinois charges are sex trafficking, child pornography, enticement of a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity, and obstruction of justice.