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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Via AP news wire

R. Kelly timeline: Shining star to convicted sex trafficker

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

R Kelly's musical accomplishments have been accompanied by a long history of allegations that he sexually abused women and children. Now the R&B singer faces a trial in his hometown of Chicago on charges of child pornography and obstruction of justice.

The trial comes after he was sentenced in June in federal court in New York to three decades behind bars on sex trafficking charges. While Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, has vehemently denied the allegations, his accusers testified that he subjected them to perverse and sadistic whims when they were underage.

A timeline of Kelly’s life through his rise and fall as an R&B artist:

1990s - R Kelly’s rise to fame and marriage to 15-year-old Aaliyah

R Kelly’s R&B group MGM wins the $100,000 grand prize on the syndicated television talent show “Big Break,” hosted by Natalie Cole. Because of money disagreements, that is the last time the group performed.

In January 1992, R Kelly & Public Announcement debuted “Born Into The ’90s”. The album went platinum when released a year later.

R Kelly’s album “12 Play” was released in November 1993 and eventually sold more than five million copies. Hit singles included “Sex Me” and “Bump N’ Grind,” which became the longest-running No. 1 R&B song in more than 30 years.

At age 27, R. Kelly married 15-year-old R&B singer Aaliyah D. Haughton in a secret ceremony arranged by Kelly at a hotel in Chicago on 31 August 1994 . The marriage was annulled months later because of Aaliyah’s age. Aaliyah died in a plane crash seven years later, at age 22.

In November 1996, R Kelly released his third album, “R. Kelly.” A month later, he incorporated Rockland Records. His song “I Believe I Can Fly,” from the “Space Jam” soundtrack, peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard pop chart.

The same year, he married 22-year-old Andrea Lee, a dancer from his touring troupe. The couple went on to have three children: Joanne, Jaya and Robert Jr.

Kelly then won three Grammys for “I Believe I Can Fly” in 1998.

Early 2000s - Sex abuse allegations land in court

In August 2001, Tracy Sampson filed a lawsuit against Kelly, alleging their sex was illegal under Illinois law because he was in “a position of authority” over her. The case was reportedly settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

Months later on 8 February 2002, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that it received a videotape allegedly showing Kelly having sex with a minor. The paper reported Chicago police began investigating allegations about Kelly and the same girl three years earlier. At the time, the girl and her parents deny she was having sex with Kelly.

The day the news broke, Kelly performed at the opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Kelly was indicted in Chicago on child pornography charges stemming from the sex tape on 5 June 2002. He pleaded not guilty and was released on $750,000 bail.

The trial didn’t begin until six years later in May 2008. He was ultimately acquitted on 13 June on all counts after less than a full day of deliberations.

2012 - Storm settles as Kelly refocuses on music

In June 2012, Kelly published his autobiography, “Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me,” focusing on his creative and family life rather than his legal troubles.

Later that year he was nominated for two Soul Train Awards, making him the most nominated act ever at the awards show.

2017 - Cult allegations emerge

Things took a turn for Kelly again in 2017 when BuzzFeed published a report on parents’ claims that he brainwashed their daughters and was keeping them in an abusive “cult.” One woman said she was with Kelly willingly.

Following the Buzzfeed report, activists launched the #MuteRKelly movement, calling for boycotts of his music. In May 2018, Spotify cut Kelly’s music from its playlists, citing its policy on hate content and hateful conduct. Shortly after, Apple and Pandora also stopped promoting his music. Kelly’s team pushed back, noting other artists on Spotify had been accused or convicted of crimes.

2019 - Release of Surviving R. Kelly followed by Chicago arrest for aggravated sex abuse

On 3 January 2019, Lifetime aired the documentary Surviving R. Kelly, which revisited old allegations against him and brought new ones into the spotlight. The series followed the BBC’s R Kelly: Sex, Girls & Videotapes, released the previous year, that alleged the singer was holding women against their will.

In the wake of the Lifetime documentary, multiple media outlets reported that Kelly and his label, Sony subsidiary RCA Records, had parted ways. Kelly continued to deny all allegations of sexual misconduct.

In February 2019, Kelly was arrested and charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse in Chicago. He pleaded not guilty and was released on bail hours later.

The singer went on to vehemently deny the charges in a CBS interview on 6 March 2019. He was then taken back into custody after telling a judge he couldn’t pay $161,000 in back child support he owed his children’s mother.

Kelly was hit with 11 new sex-related counts in the Chicago case in late May. The charges involved one of the women who accused him of sexually abusing her when she was underage.

In July, Kelly was indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago on charges including child pornography, enticement of a minor and obstruction of justice.

A separate indictment filed in the Eastern District of New York included charges of racketeering, kidnapping, forced labor and the sexual exploitation of a child.

He was again arrested in Chicago, before a federal judge ordered he held without bond after a prosecutor warned he poses an extreme danger to young girls.

In August, Kelly was charged in Minnesota with prostitution and solicitation related to an allegation that he invited a 17-year-old girl to his hotel room in 2001 and paid her $200 to dance naked with him.

2020 - Kelly pleads not guilty to updated federal indictment in Chicago

In March 2020, Kelly pleaded not guilty in Chicago to an updated federal indictment that included child pornography charges and allegations involving a new accuser.

Five months later, federal prosecutors announced charges against three men accused of threatening and intimidating women who have accused Kelly of abuse, including one man suspected of setting fire to a vehicle in Florida.

2021 - Kelly faces federal trial in New York

Kelly’s federal trial in New York began on 18 August 2021.

Just over a month later, he was found guilty of one count of racketeering, with 14 underlying acts that included sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery, and sex trafficking charges. He was also convicted on eight additional counts of violations of the Mann Act, which makes it illegal to take anyone across state lines “for any immoral purpose”.

Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison in the New York case in June 2022.

The punishment exceeded both the “excess of 25 years” recommended by federal prosecutors and the 10 years requested by the defence, which argued that any longer would be “tantamount to a death sentence”.

US District Judge Ann Donnelly also slapped Kelly with a $100,000 fine, after prosecutors asked for $50,000 to $250,000.

The judge said she would’ve handed down the prison term regardless of sentencing guidelines, adding that: “The public has to be protected from behaviors like this.”

2022 - Chicago trial begins

Kelly’s trial in federal court in Chicago on charges of child pornography and obstruction of justice began on 15 August with jury selection.

He stands accused of enticing minors for sex, of producing child pornography and of fixing his 2008 state child pornography trial at which he was acquitted.

One central focus of the trial will be on whether Kelly threatened and paid off a girl with whom he allegedly videotaped himself having sex when he was about 30 and she was no older than 14. That’s the allegation underpinning another of the charges against Kelly, conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Some jurors in the 2008 child pornography trial who acquitted Kelly later explained that they felt they had no choice because the girl did not testify. The woman, now in her 30s and referred to in court filings only as “Minor 1,” will be the government’s star witness in the federal trial that’s expected to last four weeks.

Days before the trial began, Kelly’s fiancée Joycelyn Savage - one of his alleged victims - announced she is pregnant with his child. His legal team denied the claim.

The Independent’s Megan Sheets contributed to this report

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