It was a poorly kept secret in the ’90s. Or was it a bad joke? If someone mentioned R Kelly, someone else was quick to quip about his sexual assaults and exploitation of minors. But it turns out, it wasn’t a joke or even much of a secret. R Kelly was in fact assaulting children. It’s the typical case of power buying access to victims, and it has taken years to bring him to justice. Now, nearly 30 years after he publicly illegally married a famous minor, R Kelly has been found guilty on charges of sex trafficking and racketeering. 

What Did R Kelly Do?

R Kelly

Decades of rumors have followed the singer, but let’s go back to when the allegations stemming from this trial occurred. Per NBC News:

  • Late 1993: Kelly becomes a national face, releasing his debut album “12 Play.”
  • August 31, 1994: Kelly marries singer and hip hop star Aaliyah. Their marriage occurs in secret and was annulled only a few months later because she was only 15 at the time they were married. That should have been enough to end his career and bring out the magnifying glasses, but in the ’90s, it wasn’t. 
  • November 1996: Kelly’s hit single “I Believe I Can Fly” hits number 2 on Billboard, and he marries 22 year old dancer Andrea Lee. They have three children together.
  • December 1996: Tiffany Hawkins, a high school student, files a lawsuit against Kelly. The lawsuit alleges that Kelly and she began sleeping together in 1991; she was 15, he was 24. Hawkins seeks $10 million. The lawsuit is settled for $250K but it come out during the court case that Kelly has used his position to access and have sex with girls as young as 15.
  • August 2001: Tracy Sampson files a lawsuit against Kelly. Kelly interned at Epic Records as a teenager, and alleges that her sexual contact with Kelly was illegal pursuant to Illinois law because he had a position of power and authority over her, which aligns with the court findings from Hawkins’ lawsuit. 
  • February 2002: A music critic reveals to The Chicago Tribune that he received a sex tape of Kelly and a minor girl. The police have been investigating his relationship with that same girl for three years by this point.
  • June 2002: Kelly is arrested on charges of child pornography related to the sex tape. Kelly lodges a not guilty plea and is released on $750K bail.
  • May 2008: Kelly’s trial on charges of child pornography begins, and in June he acquitted on all counts.
  • January 2009: Lee and Kelly are officially divorced; Lee had previously filed for an order of protection after saying Kelly threatened to hit her when she asked for a divorce the previous year.
  • 2017: The music critic who revealed the prior child pornography tape releases a behind the scenes expose detailing how Kelly used his power and influence to create a cult-like atmosphere that lured teenaged girls away from their parents.
  • 2018: After digging into Harvey Weinstein and the advent of the #MeToo movement, the public demands a closer look at Kelly.
  • May 2018: Faith Rodgers, 20, files a lawsuit against Kelly claiming sexual battery, mental and verbal abuse, and knowingly giving her herpes.
  • January 2019: A documentary titled Surviving R Kelly is released, and it puts into alignment the allegations against the singer, with interviews from alleged victims.
  • February 2019: Due to the revelations in the film, Kelly is arrested on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse. 
  • May 2019: 11 new sex-related charges are added against Kelly in Illinois.
  • July 2019: A federal grand jury in Chicago indicts Kelly for 13 counts including child pornography, enticement of a minor and obstruction of justice. On the same day, federal prosecutors from New York charge Kelly with one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act. The Mann Act prevents transporting people across state lines for prostitution. 
  • August 2019: Kelly is charged in Minnesota for prostitution and solicitation. 
  • August 2021: Kelly’s trial for sex trafficking begins.
  • September 27, 2021: R Kelly found guilty in New York of one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act.

Guilty 

R Kelly

Kelly’s lawyers have tried to paint him as a man who walks the line of impropriety but who is the victim of a public “lynching” due to being Black. It’s a defense that hasn’t played well across any audience. It’s offensive to suggest that he’s just misunderstood; most people aren’t “misunderstood” this chronically for decades. 

After marrying Aaliyah, Kelly should have been held accountable for sexual contact with a minor. The fact that it barely registered as a blip on most people’s radars really points to how oblivious the general public was to the abuse of power among the rich and elite of the time. Bringing Kelly to just has proven that people can’t hide from crimes, no matter how old they are.

Now in a post-#MeToo era, there’s a lot of chatter online about people getting unfairly tagged by the movement. However, every time a Kelly gets picked up and brought to justice; it’s a reminder that the movement has an urgent place in society. 

What’s Next? 

Now that Kelly has been found guilty, what’s next? Per Newsweek via MSN, “Kelly will face sentencing for his crimes on May 4, 2022. Until then the judge ordered that Kelly remain in custody until he receives his sentence.

If Kelly’s lawyers appeal against the verdicts it’s possible that this date could move depending on the outcome of that.”

And while Kelly is awaiting sentencing, victims of the singer can breath a little easier now. The process isn’t over, but the healing may be starting. They’re speaking out in the wake of the verdict. Jerhonda Pace, the first woman to testify against Kelly in the trial, says her voice has now been heard. Per MademNoire via MSN, “Today the jury found R. Kelly guilty. For years, I was trolled for speaking out about the abuse that I suffered at the hands of that predator. People called me a liar and said I had no proof. Some even said I was speaking out for money. Speaking out about abuse is not easy, especially when your abuser is high-profile. However, I DID IT. Me speaking out caused a domino effect and so many people came forward. There are still some people that haven’t came forward. I’m so grateful to be a voice for those who didn’t have the courage.”

And another woman, only listed in court records as, “Sonja,” says, “‘I’ve been hiding from Robert Kelly in fear due to threats made against me and I’m ready to start living my life free from fear and to start the healing process,’ the statement read, according to [attorney Gloria] Allred. ‘Thank you for shining a light and helping me to get out from under that rock that I stayed under for far too long.'”

R Kelly Responds

 

R Kelly

R Kelly, for his part, is remaining defiant. On Facebook Monday, he posted, “To all my fans and supporters I love you all and thank you for all the support. Today’s verdict was disappointing and I will continue to prove my innocence and fight for my freedom,” with a hashtag, “#notguilty.” 

During the trial, the egregious nature of his assaults against these children came to light, and includes holding them captive and using coercion and violence. It’s a small drop in the bucket to see the guilty verdict, but it’s progress in the right direction. The 54 year old will face a minimum 10 years to life on these charges alone.