Didn’t we just do this? you might be asking. Didn’t R. Kelly just get sentenced for a bunch of horrible things? Oh, you sweet summer child, much more is to come. The so-called Pied Piper of R&B is accused of seemingly endless crimes. Yes, Chicago’s own Robert Sylvester Kelly was convicted in a federal court in Brooklyn last fall of racketeering and sex trafficking, for which he was given 30 years in prison in June. But the feds are piling on with 13 more counts in a trial due to start in Chicago on August 15. Additional charges, in state courts here and in Minnesota, are also pending.
Let’s rewind. If you so much as stepped foot on planet Earth in the 2000s, you heard about the tape — the VHS recording of the Grammy winner and Space Jam chanteur engaging in sexual acts with a girl alleged to be a minor. Blergh!
Cook County was the first jurisdiction to go after Kelly, indicting him on child pornography charges. But the girl in question refused to testify at the 2008 trial, so the jury couldn’t say for sure who was on the tape and if she was underage. Kelly was found not guilty on all counts.
The new charges, including the federal counts Kelly has been convicted of, were announced in 2019, after the docuseries Surviving R. Kelly renewed public and prosecutorial interest in the singer’s sex life. Turns out Lifetime airs more than just esteemed original films like The Pregnancy Pact.
In his Chicago fed sequel, Kelly, 55, faces charges that include — here’s the moment where you take a pull of a strong drink — producing child pornography, enticing a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. No, this isn’t double jeopardy, because these are new counts unrelated to the sex tape or the New York trial.
The feds are painting Kelly as not just a sexual predator but the head of a criminal enterprise committed to keeping the singer out of jail. Prosecutors allege Kelly and his associates shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars to recover sex tapes (tapes, plural!), freeing him to abuse more teenagers. What’s more, the feds allege Kelly’s employees intimidated victims and their families into keeping quiet.
In the New York trial, Kelly’s team portrayed his alleged victims as “groupies” upon whom Kelly doted. Considering he was guilty on all counts, the jury found this take, well, unconvincing. So Kelly is switching it up this time. He fired the bulk of his legal team in February, leaving his Chicago case to Jennifer Bonjean, the defense attorney who got Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction overturned.
Bonjean represents victims of police brutality, specializing more broadly in government overreach. Indeed, she argues the feds abused the RICO statute to convict Kelly in New York. Does this mean Kelly et al. are banking on a jury buying that the government violated his rights as a defendant? This remix to prosecution may get hot and fresh with the Constitution.