Untangling the Web of Indictments Surrounding R. Kelly

By Terrance Turner

On Feb. 22, embattled singer R.Kelly was charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse in Cook County, Illinois. Vox reported that each charge is a class 2 felony, punishable with three to seven years in prison. Per the Chicago Sun-Times, the indictment involves four victims, three of them minors from ages 13 to 16. The alleged abuse spanned from 1998 to 2010. Kelly was arrested and then bonded out.

On May 31, Kelly was hit with 11 new charges. According to CBS News, the new indictment included four counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault, three counts of criminal sexual abuse (of a victim ages 13-16), two counts of criminal sexual assault by force, and two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Kelly is accused of choking the victim and forcing her to perform oral sex on him. CBS News noted that some counts carry up to 30 years in prison. It also reported that the victim, referred to as “J.P.”, has the same initials as a victim from the February case.

On July 11, Kelly was arrested while walking his dog outside Chicago’s Trump Tower. He was soon hit with two indictments: one in Chicago and one in New York. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the 13-count indictment comprises nine counts of enticing a minor, three counts of child pornography, and one count of obstruction of justice. The New York Times said the New York indictment includes one count of racketeering and four counts of violating the Mann Act, which forbids interstate travel for prostitution.

Derrell McDavid, Kelly’s former manager, and former employee Milton Brown were also named in the Chicago indictment. Count 1 alleges that, between 1998 and 1999, Kelly “did knowingly coerce a minor, namely Minor 1 […] to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct, namely Video 1”. The next three counts repeat the charge for Video 2, Video 3, and Video 4.

Count 5 alleges Kelly had sexual contact with 5 underage girls and that he taped at least four of the victims. “Between in and around 1998 and in or around 2002, Kelly recorded himself on video engaging in sexual contact with minors, namely Minor 1, Minor 2, Minor 4, and Minor 5.” The charge further claims that “Video 1” led to Kelly’s indictment on 21 counts of child pornography in 2002. The case went to trial in May 2008; Kelly was acquitted on all charges the following June.

Kelly and McDavid are charged with conspiring “with the intent to impede, obstruct, and influence the investigation”, according to the indictment. Among other things, Kelly is accused of witness tampering. “In approximately May 2002, Kelly persuaded Minor 1 to provide false testimony to the Cook County grand jury investigating Kelly’s sexual relationship with Minor 1. Minor 1 falsely denied to the grand jurors that Kelly engaged in a sexual relationship with Minor 1.” The indictment also alleges Kelly tried to persuade Minor 5 to provide similar false testimony on his behalf.

But his obstruction predates the charges. In 2001, Kelly and McDavid learned that incirminating videos of Kelly having sex with minors were missing. The two allegedly worked with others to collect the videos (and thus conceal them from investigators). They paid $350,000 to Minor 2 in 2007 so she’d return the videotape that contained Kelly’s activities with Minors 1 & 2.

Counts six through eight charge that Kelly and others conspired to receive — and then received — child pornography. That refers to Videos 2,3, and 4. Counts nine through thirteen unfold similarly to the first four, saying that Kelly used mail or other interstate commerce to lure underage girls.

The New York indictment names Kelly and his associates as part of an “Enterprise” that was meant to promote Kelly’s music and recruit girls for illegal sexual activity. Count #1 (racketeering) names eleven acts that justify the charge. Between 1999 and the present, Kelly is accused of coercing a minor (“Jane Doe 1”) to engage in sexually explicit conduct (“Act 1”). The language is almost identical to that of the Chicago indictment. Crucially, however, prosecutors told the Chicago Sun-Times that none of the allegations from the Chicago indictment overlap with that of the New York one.

Count One also says that, between 2003 and 2004, Kelly (and others) secretly confined “Jane Doe 2” against her will (“Act 2”) and transported her within interstate commerce (“Act 3”) with the intent of illegal sexual activity (including aggravated sexual abuse). Acts 4-6 pertain to “Jane Doe #3”, including allegations of forced labor and sexual exploitation of a child.

Though many of the eleven acts cover similar ground, Act 8 stands out. It alleges that Kelly, in Oct. 2015, coerced and then transported “Jane Doe #4” through interstate commerce with intent of sex crimes: “to wit: violations of California Penal law Section 261.5(a) (rape, abduction, carnal abuse of a child and seduction) in violation of Title 18”, the indictment says.

“As part of the racketeering charge, Mr. Kelly is accused of sexually exploiting two underage girls by coercing them into engaging in sexually explicit conduct. He is also accused of coercing the third girl into illegal sexual activity and kidnapping a fourth victim. The Mann Act charges pertain to the fifth woman,” the New York Times reports.

“The indictment said that in May 2017 and February 2018, Mr. Kelly coerced the woman to engage in sexual activity in the New York City region that included exposing her to a venereal disease,” the Times reported. “The woman was not identified in the indictment, but the accusations and their dates match the claims made in a lawsuit filed last year in a Manhattan court by Faith A. Rodgers, a Texas woman who accused Mr. Kelly of sexual battery, false imprisonment and knowingly infecting her with herpes without disclosing it.”

Today, Variety reported that Kelly will be flown to a Brooklyn federal courthouse for a hearing on Aug. 2. He is currently being held in Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center. If convicted on all counts, Kelly faces up to 195 years in prison.

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