In 1994, R. Kelly, then 27 years old, secretly married the 15-year-old pop star Aaliyah. In 1996, another singer, Tiffany Hawkins, said that he had sex with her when she was 15, in the first of many lawsuits over the years from women alleging misconduct by Kelly. In 2000, The Chicago Sun-Times published its first investigation of Kelly’s alleged sex with minors. In 2002, he was indicted on 21 counts of child pornography, leading to the 2008 trial at which he was acquitted. In 2017, BuzzFeed described Kelly corralling women into a sex “cult,” and in January 2019, several alleged victims spoke out in the documentary Surviving R. Kelly. This past February and May saw Illinois prosecutors bringing a total of 21 counts of sexual assault and abuse against him.
Now, in July 2019, arrive Kelly’s first federal indictments. They may help explain how the singer has evaded consequences for his alleged crimes—all of which he has denied, none of which he has been convicted for—for so long.
Last night in Chicago, federal agents acting on a 13-count indictment arrested Kelly while he was out walking his dog. Today, federal prosecutors in New York revealed a separate five-count indictment against Kelly. Kelly’s lawyer Steve Greenberg, in a statement about the Chicago case, says, “The conduct alleged appears to largely be the same as the conduct previously alleged against Mr. Kelly ... Most, if not all of the conduct alleged, is decades old.” This is both somewhat factual and misleading. The offenses described in both the Chicago and New York cases will not shock anyone who’s been following Kelly’s saga. In different but damning ways, though, and alongside some new information, the indictments string the allegations into a pattern. They target the conspiracy that may have protected Kelly for so long.