By Mark Savage
BBC Music reporter

R KellyImage source, Getty Images
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R Kelly has faced accusations of sexual misconduct since the 1990s

For more than two decades, chart-topping R&B singer R. Kelly had faced allegations of sexual abuse.

The accounts went back to the start of his career in the 1990s, with many centring on the predatory pursuit of teenage girls.

In September 2021, he was found guilty of eight counts of sex trafficking and one of racketeering in a New York court, and now faces a lengthy jail sentence.

Kelly is separately facing trial in Chicago on child sex images and obstruction charges. He is also due to face sex abuse charges in Illinois and Minnesota.

Kelly was himself the victim of child sex abuse, and detailed in his autobiography how he was raped by a female family member when he was eight years old.

Here is a history of the accusations against him.

1994: Marries Aaliyah

The star, then aged 27, wed 15-year-old singer Aaliyah at a secret ceremony in Chicago.

Vibe magazine later discovered Aaliyah had lied about her age on the wedding certificate, listing herself as 18. The marriage was annulled in February 1995.

A former tour manager for Kelly testified at his trial that he bribed a government worker in 1994 to obtain a fake ID for Aaliyah – so the singers could marry.

For the rest of her career, Aaliyah dodged questions about the nature of her relationship. “When people ask me, I tell them, ‘Hey, don’t believe all that mess,'” she told one interviewer. “We’re close and people took it the wrong way.”

Image source, Getty Images
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Kelly wrote and produced Aaliyah’s debut album, calling it Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number

Kelly rarely spoke about Aaliyah after she died in a plane crash in 2001. She is not mentioned in his autobiography, where an author’s note explains “certain episodes could not be included for complicated reasons”.

In a 2016 interview with GQ magazine, he described their relationship as “best, best, best, best friends”, but declined to comment on their marriage, saying: “I will never have that conversation with anyone. Out of respect for Aaliyah, and her mother and father who have asked me not to personally.”

1996: Sued for emotional distress

Tiffany Hawkins sued R. Kelly for the “personal injuries and emotional distress” she suffered during a three-year relationship with the star.

In court documents, she said she began having sex with Kelly in 1991, when she was 15 and he was 24, and the relationship ended when she turned 18. According to the Chicago Sun Times, Ms Hawkins sought $10m in damages but accepted a fraction of that amount ($250,000) when the case was settled in 1998.

Kelly’s spokeswoman said she had “no knowledge” of the accusations.

Image source, Getty Images
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Kelly continued to release successful songs, and win major awards, as accusations accumulated around him

2001: Sued by intern

Tracy Sampson sued R. Kelly, accusing him of inducing her “into an indecent sexual relationship” when she was 17.

The woman, a former intern at Epic Records, said she was “treated as his personal sex object and cast aside”.

“He often tried to control every aspect of my life including who I would see and where I would go,” she said. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, according to the New York Post.

April/May 2002: Two more court cases

Kelly is sued by Patrice Jones, a Chicago woman who claimed he impregnated her when she was under age, and that she was forced to have an abortion.

Montina Woods also sued Kelly, alleging that he videotaped them having sex without her knowledge. The recording was allegedly circulated on a “sex tape” sold by bootleggers under the title R. Kelly Triple-X.

The star settled both cases out of court, paying undisclosed sums in return for non-disclosure agreements.

June 2002: Charged over child abuse videos

The star is charged with 21 counts of making child sexual abuse videos involving various sexual acts.

Chicago police accused him of taping the acts and enticing a minor to participate in them. All the charges related to one girl, born in September 1984.

His arrest stemmed from a video that was sent anonymously to the Chicago Sun Times earlier in the year. They passed it on to police, who verified its authenticity with help from FBI forensic experts.

Kelly, who posted $750,000 bail, immediately denied the charges in an interview with MTV and later pleaded not guilty in court.

It took six years for the case to come to trial, during which time Kelly released his wildly successful Trapped In The Closet album and was nominated for an Image Award by the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), prompting widespread criticism.

The jury eventually concluded they could not prove that the girl on the tape was a minor, and Kelly was found not guilty on all counts.

2002-2004: Arrest prompts further charges

Kelly was charged with a further 12 counts of producing child sexual abuse images in Florida, where he was arrested at his holiday home.

These charges came after police seized a camera during the arrest, which allegedly contained images of the star having sex with an underage girl.

The charges were dropped when a judge agreed with Kelly’s defence team that police lacked sufficient evidence to justify a search.

2017: Allegations of a “cult”

A long and detailed Buzzfeed report accused R. Kelly of trapping six women in a sex “cult”.

The article alleged that Kelly seduced young women when they approached him for help with their music careers, before taking control of their lives – dictating “what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records”.

The star also confiscated the women’s mobile phones, the report said, barring contact with friends and family.

The allegations came from three former employees and the parents of several women, who said their daughters had all but vanished.

2017-2018: Victims approach the press

Buzzfeed’s report prompted further allegations.

Jerhonda Pace broke a non-disclosure agreement to speak about having sex with Kelly while she was underage. Another woman, Kitti Jones, claimed the star starved her, coerced her into sexual encounters with other women and physically abused her. Ms Pace would go on to testify against Kelly in the 2021 trial.

Ms Kitti, along with other members of R. Kelly’s inner circle, also spoke to a BBC Three documentary in March 2018. One former friend and collaborator, Lovell Jones, said Kelly asked him to scout out women “that looked young” at parties, and claimed that it was “common knowledge” that the singer preferred young girls.

2018: #MuteRKelly, staff departures and new court case

The #MuteRKelly campaign lobbied record label RCA to sever ties with the singer. They also targeted concert promoters, ticket sellers and streaming services – with Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora all agreeing to demote Kelly’s songs from their playlists (a decision that was later reversed).

Around the same time, the star’s lawyer, publicist and personal assistant all quit – although attorney Linda Mensch said her departure was “unrelated to any allegations related to Mr Kelly’s social life”.

Kelly continued to perform live despite protests outside his shows, and was filmed saying the campaign against him was “too late”.

“Only God can mute me,” he sang defiantly on a song called I Admit. “Am I supposed to go to jail or lose my career because of your opinion?”

Meanwhile, the star was sued by a former partner who said he “intentionally” infected her with a sexually transmitted disease.

2019: New documentary leads to charges

Over the course of six hour-long episodes, Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly presented the most comprehensive look yet at the allegations against the musician.

Two weeks after the programme was broadcast, Kelly was dropped by his record company. Planned concerts in the US and New Zealand were cancelled.

In February, celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti said he had obtained a video showing Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl. Weeks later, the star was charged in Chicago with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. He pleaded not guilty and gave a histrionic TV interview.

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R. Kelly in tearful sex abuse charges interview

Prosecutors later filed an additional 11 charges of sexual assault and abuse against a minor aged between 13 and 16.

The charging documents described sex and oral sex with a minor “by the use of force or threat of force”. The accuser was thought to be one of the women featured in Surviving R. Kelly, who said she met the singer during a previous trial.

July 2019: Sex Trafficking charges

Image source, Reuters
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R. Kelly appears for a hearing at Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Illinois

Kelly was hit with two separate federal indictments in Illinois and Brooklyn.

Combined, the allegations depicted an organised effort from the star and his associates to recruit and transport underage girls over state lines for illegal sexual purposes, including the production of child sex abuse images, as well as conspiracy to obstruct justice by destroying evidence and bribing or threatening witnesses.

August 2019: Prostitution charges

Prosecutors in Minnesota filed prostitution charges against the star, meaning he faced criminal cases in three US states.

He was accused of soliciting a teenager who asked him for an autograph in 2001. Kelly allegedly invited the 17-year-old to his hotel room and offered her $200 (£164) to undress and dance with him.

Kelly’s lawyer said the charges were “beyond absurd”.

Image source, Getty Images
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R. Kelly in court in September 2019

August-September 2020: Prison assault

Towards the end of August, Kelly was attacked in his sleep by a fellow inmate in Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Centre.

The star’s lawyer called for his immediate release, saying “the government cannot ensure his safety”. However, the request – along with numerous other attempts to get Kelly released on bail – was denied.

August 2021: Aaliyah relationship confirmed

In the last pre-trial hearing before Kelly’s trial, US District Judge Ann M Donnelly made a series of rulings to narrow down what evidence could be shown to jurors.

During the hearing, she asked one of the singer’s lawyers whether they denied the star had sexual relations with Aaliyah while she was underage.

According to the Associated Press, Thomas A Farinella “let out a deep sigh and responded, ‘No.'”

August-September 2021: Trial and guilty verdict

The trial began on 18 August in New York.

Read more about the trial:

On 27 September, following two days of deliberation, the jury found the US star guilty on all nine counts.

Gloria Allred, a lawyer who represented several victims, told reporters: “I’ve been practising law for 47 years. During this time, I’ve pursued many sexual predators who have committed crimes against women and children.

“Of all the predators that I have pursued, Mr Kelly is the worst.”

November 2021: Witness intimidation

A man was sentenced to eight years in prison after intimidating a witness before Kelly’s New York trial.

In June 2020, Michael Williams set fire to a car belonging to the father of a witness who was due to testify in order to “prevent the victim-witness from continuing to co-operate”, according a statement from the attorney’s office in New York.

“Williams attempted to use violence and intimidation to divert the course of justice and prevent a victim’s voice from being heard,” they said.

June 2022: New York sentencing

Sentencing for Kelly’s New York conviction is due on Wednesday, 29 June, and the disgraced 55-year-old will end up spending a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life behind bars.

Prosecutors recommended at least 25 years, saying he showed a “callous disregard” for his victims and no remorse.

“Indeed, the defendant’s decades of crime appear to have been fuelled by narcissism and a belief that his musical talent absolved him of any need to conform his conduct – no matter how predatory, harmful, humiliating or abusive to others – to the strictures of the law,” they said.



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