Has R Kelly Ever Been Innocent?

Alex Ferryman and Harper Kolehmainen, Staff Writer

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“R Kelly,” whose birth name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, has recently come under fire for accusations consisting of ten counts of felony aggravated criminal sexual abuse.  Immediately after this, he was booked into jail for failing to pay child support to Drea Kelly. The amount totaled over $160,000. This is not the first time he has been in legal troubles; in fact, he has an extensive history with the law.

It all started with Kelly marrying a 15-year-old girl, named Aaliyah, who lied about her age on the marriage certificate.  Due to this, the marriage was voided in February of 1995.  Aaliyah later died in a plane crash in 2001 and R. Kelly, who had rarely commented on her before her death, ceased any discussion of her at all and continues to do so to this day. Accusations would continue into 1996 as Tiffany Hawkins sued the star for “personal injuries and emotional distress.” She said that she began having sex with the singer when she was 15 and he was 24.  She was seeking up to 10 million in damages, but was only awarded a fraction of that at 250,000 dollars when the court settled.  In 2001, he was sued by his formed intern named Tracy Sampson. The case was for being seduced  “into an indecent sexual relationship” at the age of 17, when she was underage. She stated that “He often tried to control every aspect of my life, including who I would see and where I would go.”  This aspect of control was reflected in many past and future cases brought against the singer. This particular case was settled in court with some monetary value being awarded to the woman, illustrating another common theme of women being “paid off” in a way to avoid going through trials and reliving their trauma.

It is sad because the alleged victims never got to see Kelly receive the punishment they thought he deserved. In 2002, he was sued for the third time by Patrice Jones, who claimed that he impregnated her when she was underage and that she was forced to have an abortion. He again settled this by paying the women and making a non-disclosure agreement with Jones. In June 2002, one of the most well-known accusations was brought against him as he was faced with 21 counts of making child pornography, involving intercourse, oral sex, urination, and other sexual acts. The Chicago Police accused him of videotaping these acts and this was verified by FBI forensic experts. This case took 6 years to go to trial, but after all of that, the jury eventually concluded they could not prove that the girl on the tape was a minor even though they proved he was in the video.

In 2017 he allegedly created a “cult.” This report by Buzzfeed contained allegations from three former employees and the parents of several women, who said their daughters had all but vanished. In the last few weeks, these accusations have resurfaced due to his being charged with ten counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Despite repeated accusations and prosecutions, Kelly is determined to continue his claims of innocence, leading him to plead not guilty to these charges despite a large amount of evidence against him. This evidence includes a videotape that has been submitted to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office that allegedly shows R. Kelly committing the accused crimes. Michael Avenatti, the lawyer who represents the six women leveling accusations against Kelly, stated publicly that he will be submitting a second video of this nature into evidence in the coming weeks. One of Kellys representatives stated that all of Kelly’s accusers “are lying … everyone’s trying to profit off of R. Kelly.” Critiques of this defense argue that it is unlikely that dozens of women over the years would come forward with various evidence and eerily similar stories of Kellys behavior if the accusations were fabricated.

Currently, Kelly is released on bail after paying the required $100,000, which is 10 percent of the $1 million dollar bond set by the judge. While this story is interesting enough on its own, it represents a larger picture of how much the United States has changed in how it responds to sexual abuse accusations. Kelly’s earlier accusations were met with much more doubt and disregard than those in his current trial, showing that this nation has evolved in how it treats both the accusers and the accused. The results of Kelly’s trial, whether he is found guilty or not guilty, will show how much things have changed, and how much has remained through the ages.