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Nation & World

R. Kelly charged with sexually abusing 4 alleged victims

Demonstrators rally in response to the R. Kelly allegations Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 outside his recording studio at 219 N. Justine St. in the West Loop. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
Demonstrators rally in response to the R. Kelly allegations Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 outside his recording studio at 219 N. Justine St. in the West Loop. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

CHICAGO — In a bombshell development, R&B superstar R. Kelly was indicted Friday on charges he sexually abused four victims, three of them underage, over a span of a dozen years.

Kelly was charged with abusing the one alleged adult victim in February 2003 — at the same time he was already fighting child pornography charges for filming himself having sex with an underage girl.

The four separate indictments charged Kelly with a combined 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse for alleged misconduct occurring between 1998 and 2010.

Three of the indictments refer to victims who were under 17 at the time of the alleged sexual abuse, identifying them by initials only.

Cook County, Ill., State’s Attorney Kim Foxx held a brief news conference at which she declined to take questions from reporters and mentioned only what was already laid out in the indictments.

Meanwhile, a county judge issued a warrant for Kelly’s arrest Friday morning, court records show. But in a text, Kelly’s lawyer, Steven Greenberg, said he was making arrangements for Kelly to surrender to police.

A bond hearing has been scheduled for Saturday afternoon at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, Foxx said.

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If convicted of the Class 2 felony charges, Kelly would face a sentence ranging from probation to up to seven years in prison.

The charges come in the wake of reporting in BuzzFeed and The New Yorker by Chicago-based journalist Jim DeRogatis and after damning allegations in a recent Lifetime documentary series.

Citing the “deeply, deeply disturbing” allegations in the documentary, Foxx made an unusual public plea last month for any Kelly accusers to come forward.

High-profile attorney Michael Avenatti said last week that he had given Foxx’s office a VHS tape showing Kelly engaging in sex years ago with a 14-year-old girl.

This marks the second time that Kelly, 52, whose legal name is Robert Kelly, has been charged with a sex crime by Cook County prosecutors. Armed with a sex tape, prosecutors indicted the singer in 2002 on child pornography charges, but following a sensational trial in 2008, a jury acquitted him of charges alleging he filmed himself having sex with his goddaughter, a girl estimated to have been as young as 13.

Greenberg, Kelly’s lawyer, has consistently denied the latest allegations of wrongdoing and expressed confidence the singer would be cleared of any possible charges.

The indictment alleges that Kelly sexually abused:

— H.W. on more than one instance between late May 1998 and late May 1999.

— R.L. on one occasion sometime between late September 1998 and late September 2001.

— L.C., the lone alleged adult victim, on one occasion on Feb. 18, 2003.

— J.P. on more than one occasion sometime between May 2009 and January 2010.

The alleged abuse occurred years ago, but prosecutors were able to still bring charges against Kelly. Three of the indictments fall within the Illinois statute of limitations because charges were brought within 20 years of each of the alleged victim’s 18th birthday, according to court records.

Records show the fourth charge, involving the February 2003 incident, could have been prosecuted at any time, since Kelly’s DNA was entered into a database within 10 years of the alleged incident and the victim reported the abuse within three years.

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The charges come about six weeks after Foxx called on any Kelly accusers to come forward, citing “deeply, deeply disturbing” allegations in the documentary series detailing long-standing accusations of sexual misconduct against the singer.

The six-hour documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly,” aired on the Lifetime channel and alleged that he has manipulated young women into joining a “sex cult,” forcing them to stay with him against their will and keeping them under his control.

In the days after Foxx’s plea for help from alleged Kelly victims, her office was inundated with tips after the top prosecutor urged victims to come forward.

While the allegations against Kelly have been long-standing, the singer has largely continued to enjoy widespread support. However, his scheduled performance at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago last year was canceled after a public outcry, and the recent documentary has helped bring the troubling allegations into the social media spotlight.

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