Prosecutors on Saturday painted a dark portrait of a manipulative and sometimes violent R Kelly, describing how the US singer-songwriter repeatedly sought out underage girls for sex, including one girl he encountered at her 16th birthday party and another who met the rhythm and blues star while he was on trial for child pornography.
The accounts emerged as Kelly made his first court appearance since being accused of sexually abusing four people in a case that could produce another #MeToo reckoning for a celebrity.
A judge gave Kelly a chance to go free while awaiting trial, setting bond at US$1 million. That means the 52-year-old Grammy winner had to post US$100,000 to be released or remain behind bars until he is tried on the allegations, which date back as far as 1998 and span more than a decade.
The prosecution released four documents, one for each accuser, outlining the basis for the charges.
A 16-year-old girl reported meeting Kelly in 1998 at a restaurant where she was having a birthday party, the files said. Kelly’s manager gave her the singer’s business card and suggested that she call Kelly, they said.
The girl’s mother heard the exchange, took the card and told the manager that her daughter was 16, but her daughter later retrieved the card from her purse, they said.
She contacted R Kelly, who gave her instructions and money that she assumed was for the taxi fare to his studio, where they had sex periodically for a year, the documents said.
Another accuser, also 16, met Kelly at his 2008 trial, where he gave her an autograph. He later invited her to his home in the Chicago suburb of Olympia Fields, where they had sex multiple times, according to the documents, which said that he also slapped, choked and spit on her.
In early 2003, a Chicago hairdresser told prosecutors that she thought she was going to braid Kelly’s hair, but he pulled down his pants and tried to force her to give him oral sex, the documents said.
The woman, who was 24, was able to pull away, but Kelly ejaculated on her and spit in her face, they said.
Prosecutors also described a witness who had access to videotapes showing Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl. The witness turned the tape over to authorities and identified the girl, who repeatedly states her age on the footage, the documents said.
Kelly’s DNA was found in semen on one of the accuser’s shirts and semen found on a shirt worn by another was submitted for DNA testing, said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, the district attorney for the Illinois subdivision that includes Chicago.
It was not clear whether the accusers turned their shirts over to authorities shortly after the alleged abuse or more recently.
At the bond hearing, R Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, said that his client is not a flight risk.
“Contrary to the song, Mr Kelly doesn’t like to fly,” Greenberg told the judge.
Kelly “really doesn’t have any more money,” he added, suggesting that others had mismanaged his wealth.
Still, he said he expected that Kelly would be able to come up with enough money for bail.
The judge called the allegations “disturbing.”
R Kelly looked down at the floor as the judge spoke.
After the hearing, Greenberg told reporters that Kelly did not force anyone to have sex: “He’s a rock star. He doesn’t have to have nonconsensual sex.”
The judge ordered Kelly to surrender his passport, ending his hopes of doing a tour of Europe in April.
Kelly was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008 and has consistently denied any sexual misconduct.
He has been charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse. Each count of the new charges carries up to seven years in prison and the sentences could be served consecutively, making it possible for Kelly to receive up to 70 years.
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