R. Kelly's latest bail bid was stopped but he was accused of witness tampering in the sex trafficking case against him.
Trigger warning: Child sexual abuse
R&B singer R. Kelly, or Robert Sylvester Kelly, has faced allegations of abuse from multiple women over the span of his career. But it took more than two decades for him to face jail for it. In the 1990s, at the start of his career, he was accused of the predatory pursuit of underage girls, and now he is facing multiple charges from state and federal governments in the US.
The accusations include assault, abuse of a minor, making indecent images of minors, racketeering, and obstruction of justice. The 47-year-old has denied the claims, as per BBC. The earliest known infraction was his marriage to an underage pop star Aaliyah in 1994. They tied the knot when she was 15 and he was 27. She had reportedly lied on the marriage certificate and it was annulled in February 1995. He has never spoken about his relationship with her, and in 2016, he described their relationship as "best best best best friends" to a magazine.
However, in 1996, the singer was sued for "personal injuries and emotional distress" by Tiffany Hawkins, who was in a three-year relationship with the star. Hawkins, the first person to accuse the singer, said that she was intimate with him in 1991 when she was 15 and he was 24. The relationship ended when she turned 18. She had sought $10 million in damages but accepted $250,000. The case was settled in 1998.
Between 2001 and 2003, he faced three more cases of similar nature. Tracy Sampson accused him of inducing her "into an indecent sexual relationship" when she was 17 years old. Sampson was a former intern at Epic Records and she claimed she was "treated as his personal sex object and cast aside." She was quoted by New York Post saying that he "tried to control every aspect of my life including who I would see and where I would go."
He was also accused of impregnating an underage girl, who claimed that he forced her to have an abortion, as per BBC. Another woman accused him of videotaping her without her knowledge when they were intimate. The recording was allegedly circulated online, and he paid an undisclosed sum to both women for signing a non-disclosure agreement.
In June 2002, Kelly was finally arrested for 21 counts of child pornography. He was arrested after a recording of him having intercourse with an underage girl went viral, as per New York Post. "The charge is that there’s a young lady under the age of 18 on that tape – and there isn’t," said Kelly's attorney Ed Genson, after the girl and her family refused to identify her in the video.
Between then and 2017, he faced multiple more charges and in 2017, he was accused of operating a sex cult. An investigation by Buzzfeed News revealed that parents had told police that he was keeping their daughters in an abusive cult against their will. One mom said that she met her daughter last on December 1, 2016.
"It was as if she was brainwashed. [She] looked like a prisoner — it was horrible," said the mother, who remained anonymous. "I hugged her and hugged her. But she just kept saying she’s in love and [Kelly] is the one who cares for her. I don’t know what to do. I hope that if I get her back, I can get her treatment for victims of cults. They can reprogram her. But I wish I could have stopped it from happening."
Former members of the star's inner circle—Cheryl Mack, Kitti Jones, and Asante McGee—said that there were six women in properties rented by Kelly in Chicago and the Atlanta suburbs. He controlled each and every part of their lives. Mack said that women in Kelly's entourage think that they will get a better life but it becomes something worse. "You have to ask for food. You have to ask to go use the bathroom. … [Kelly] is a master at mind control. ... He is a puppet master," she said.
It took another two years for Kelly to be jailed on sex trafficking charges. He was denied bail in 2019, and in 2020, there were accusations of witness tampering. The case is ongoing.