Trigger Warning: This article contains information about sexual assault which may be triggering for some. Please read with caution and exercise self-care.
Singer R. Kelly has had one of the most spectacular and controversial falls from grace since the onset of the #MeToo movement — although the allegations of his wrongdoings far precede the 2017 hashtag.
As Kelly’s criminal trial commences in New York, the former RnB superstar faces 22 federal counts, including human trafficking, racketeering, child pornography, kidnapping and forced labour — all of which he vehemently denies.
Kelly’s long history of abuse, grooming and entrapment was the subject of the 2019 documentary Surviving R. Kelly — in which several of the singer’s alleged victims detailed the sexual and mental abuse they had suffered at the hands of Kelly. The series examined how Kelly’s access to top lawyers, money and influence had enabled him to evade criminal charges up until that point.
The disgraced performer also made headlines when he agreed to an interview with US reporter Gayle King, subsequently towering over her and he screamed, cried, pounded his chest and proclaimed his innocence.
Two of the young women who were living with Kelly at the time also appeared with King, with both of them professing their love for the singer and stating that he was innocent of any wrongdoing. Their parents were adamant they had been brainwashed and one of the women later went public with her claims that Kelly had sexually and physically abused her, and forced her to have two abortions.
Kelly’s trial, which has experienced several delays, is expected to last six to eight weeks. Below is a non-comprehensive timeline of the allegations against R Kelly.
The singer’s misdeeds go back as far as 25 years ago, starting with his 1994 marriage to the late singer Aaliyah, who was just 15 at the time of their union, while Kelly was 27. The marriage was allegedly able to go ahead due to a false I.D. that said Aaliyah was 18 which Kelly obtained through his tour manager at the time, Demetrius Smith. Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001.
In 1996, a woman named Tiffany Hawkins filed a lawsuit against Kelly citing personal injuries and emotional distress. She alleged that he had forced her, at 15 years old, to engage in group sex with other teenage girls. Kelly settled the lawsuit for $250,000 in 1998.
Between 2002-2008, Kelly battled 21 counts of manufacturing child pornography after being indicted in 2002.
The allegations kicked off when a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times received an anonymous video that showed Kelly engaging in sexual acts with a girl who appeared to be a minor. Due to the fact the alleged victim did not testify against the singer, he was acquitted in 2008.
During a 2002 search of Kelly’s Florida property, authorities discovered 12 images of what appeared to be an underage girl that allegedly showed Kelly engaging in sexual acts with her. He was arrested in 2003 in Miami on 12 counts of child pornography possession, but the charges we dropped in 2004 after the search warrants were found to have a “lack of probable cause.”
In 2017, a couple of months before the #MeToo movement officially kicked off, Kelly was accused by three sets of parents of holding their daughters against their will in an alleged “sex cult.”
The parents alleged that Kelly was controlling every aspect of the women’s lives, and had even confiscated their phones in order to completely isolate them from their families.
The allegations were published in an exposé by Buzzfeed, however, none of the women mentioned in the article were minors and one later publicly denied being held against her will.
Following the release of Surviving R. Kelly, the singer was charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse for allegedly sexually abusing four women in Cook County, Chicago from 1998 to 2010 — three of whom were underage.
Kelly turned himself in, pleaded not guilty, and was late released on bail. A Chicago trial for these charges is slated to begin after the New York hearings conclude.
In July 2019, Kelly was arrested by federal authorities and indicted him on charges including child pornography, child sexual exploitation, kidnapping, forced labour, racketeering and obstruction of justice.
A second indictment levelled charges of one count of racketeering and four violations of the Mann Act, which is a federal law against the transportation of “any woman for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery”. These charges pertain to five women, three of whom allege to have been underage at the time of their association with Kelly.
Kelly has been in jail since the 2019 indictments, having been denied bail multiple times. The prosecution has since asked the court to include further evidence of Kelly’s history of abusing minors, including the first allegation against Kelly by a teenage boy.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a sexual assault, please contact the Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence National Help Line on 1800 Respect (1800 737 732) or head to The Australian Human Rights Commission for a list of state by state resources.