The name used to make girls and ladies go gaga to the envy of boys. Perhaps today it still does make women squint to the chagrin of men.
For over three decades the name R. Kelly has continued to cloud over sex in a mysterious way. R. Kelly’s alleged abuse of young mainly Black women has gone largely ignored—by the legal system that has ruled in his favor; by the media that either sensationalized or diminished these allegations; by Kelly facilitators, who aided and abetted criminal and immoral behavior.
Jim DeRogatis first reported on allegations against Kelly in December 2000 and more recently published a story on his accused “sex cult” for Buzzfeed in 2017, made the legal peril facing R. Kelly abundantly clear in a recent piece for the New Yorker.
In it, DeRogatis notes that in addition to the state of Illinois targeting Kelly, the Department of Homeland Security, which investigates sex trafficking, has “formed a squad with roughly two dozen members, which is devoted to compiling evidence about a wide range of alleged crimes by Kelly.”
That squad is specifically looking at “charges that Kelly transported girls across state lines ‘for immoral purposes,’ in violation of the White-Slave Traffic Act, from 1910, which is more commonly known as the Mann Act.”
Stories of R. Kelly’s predatory behavior date back to 1994 when he secretly—and illegally—wed songstress and protégé Aaliyah.
(In 1995, VIBE magazine published a marriage certificate that falsified the budding singer’s age, listing her as 18, when in fact was only 15 years old.) The union was later annulled but rumors of Kelly’s predation of underage women continued to circulate. Though these headlines wouldn’t make national news yet, in the late ‘90s several Chicago-area women (Kelly is from Chicago), accused the celebrity of sexual coercion when they were minors.
At least one of these cases was settled for $250,000. Then, at the height of his career in 2002, a video leaked of R. Kelly engaging in sex with teenage girls, and urinating on an apparent minor, presumed to be 14 years of age. Kelly was indicted with 21 counts of child pornography, and after a strategically delayed trial that stretched over eight years, the recording artist was cleared of all charges.
In a way, R. Kelly is turning out to be the sin people love to live with and the illness that makes the society feel good.
After struggling to pay the $100,000 bail needed to free himself as he awaits trial on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse, R. Kelly was eventually released from Cook County jail last Monday evening on February 25. In fact, Valencia Love an R. Kelly girlfriend posted the $100,000 to secure Kelly’s release on February 25.
According to Don Russell, a friend and adviser to Kelly told the Chicago Sun-Times that Love decided to pay the sum because “she wanted Rob to have a chance at justice, and she thought he’d have a better chance outside of jail than inside.”
“He told me he was innocent,” Love said to Fox 32 News anchor Tia Ewing during a phone interview. “If he did it, he is wrong. I wasn’t there, you wasn’t there, give him the chance and allow him to prove his innocence. He’s not a monster.”
Valencia’s position resonates strongly among his fans.
Following Kelly’s CBS This Morning interview with Gayle King yesterday (March 6), after failing to pay $161,000 in back child support to his ex-wife, this chorus remained strong. Despite Kelly’s on-camera outburst and the desperate assertions he made in his own defense, his fans are still out here proclaiming “innocent until proven guilty” and painting his accusers as liars and fame-seekers.
In that interview, R. Kelly says “he is tired of the lies.” He doesn’t “quite know what a cult is, but I don’t have one.” He acknowledges he’s made mistakes in the past, but he never committed a crime in his relationships. But the more poignant position is the notion that R. Kelly will skirt these charges the way he did previous ones — most notably in 2008 after his six-year trial centered on child pornography — is also a stance seemingly held by
Kelly’s supposed invulnerability is a popular sentiment held by those currently posting in the unfortunate Facebook group “R. KELLY’S SINGLE LADIES” and others — fans and skeptics alike — who have echoed it across Twitter in recent days.
There is a bewildering number of people who still pledge allegiance to R. Kelly after long-standing allegations of sexual abuse, sexual assault, and pedophilia.
And for these devoted R. Kelly fans there stand is, “I’m not too sure if he did it or not, but I know he’ll beat the case.”
As infuriating as it’s been to see Kelly continue to enjoy success in spite of decades-long accusations that he is a predator who targets underage girls, it should be undeniable that times have changed.
With the rise of the #MeToo movement, founded by Tarana Burke, the #MuteRKelly campaign, launched by Oronike Odeleye and Kenyette Barnes, and the wide viewership of the Lifetime docu-series Surviving R. Kelly, helmed by dream Hampton, there is greater attention to Kelly’s alleged misconduct than ever before. Through his successful music career, R. Kelly was able to amass the fame and fortune that allowed him to create an ecosystem to commit his accused crimes without consequence.
Now a second grand jury has been convened in the Southern District of New York, based on investigations by the F.B.I. and the I.R.S.” Not to be outdone, officials in Fulton County, Georgia have reactivated what was previously considered a stalled investigation spurred by the parents of women who are allegedly being held against their will by Kelly.
Then there is Michael Avenatti, who, may not be everyone’s favorite esquire, but for all intents and purposes, has already been effective in helping bring R. Kelly to heel as he claims to have provided law enforcement with evidence of Kelly engaging in sexual acts with a minor. Avenatti says he is currently representing seven clients — three alleged victims, two parents and two whistleblowers and his crumbling finances — which landed him back in jail last night (March 6) after he failed to pay $161,000 in child support, reportedly leaving his fans scrambling to gather more bail money
There’s also the Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” which documents numerous allegations from alleged survivors of Kelly’s abuse.
And it is safely sounding that for the first time in decades; Robert Sylvester Kelly is in a most vulnerable position by all reckoning.
He should be.
He no longer has the tools he used to use to escape the consequences for his alleged crimes. He is not the multi-platinum selling singer he once was. He does not pen hits for himself and other hitmakers of varied genres. He is no longer the darling of his major recording label or publishing company. He continues to have a defiant fan base, but it is shrinking by the day.