What You Need to Know About R. Kelly's Federal Cases

R. Kelly is currently being held without bond and faces federal charges in two different jurisdictions. Here's what you need to know about both cases.

R Kelly Trial Getty E. Jason Wambsgans

Image via Getty/E. Jason Wambsgans

R Kelly Trial Getty E. Jason Wambsgans

On Thursday night, months-long federal law enforcement investigations into R. Kelly came to a dramatic conclusion when the singer was arrested while walking his dog. In addition to existing charges in Cook County, Illinois, Kelly now faces federal charges in two different jurisdictions. 

Kelly is currently being held without bond, due to a judge’s decision at a hearing on Tuesday afternoon. Here’s a rundown of what Kelly is accused of doing. Keep in mind that the charges in the indictments are allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The information below comes from federal indictments, memos, and letters from both jurisdictions.

There are two cases

There are two separate cases against Kelly: one in the Northern District of Illinois, which includes his hometown Chicago; and one in the Eastern District of New York. Both cover a long span of time, from the late 1990s until very recently, but they are very different. The Illinois case deals with five girls who Kelly is accused of videotaping, and the fallout from that. The New York case accuses Kelly of being the head of a criminal enterprise “to recruit women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity.” It also accuses the singer of violating the Mann Act, and of intentionally exposing a woman to an infectious venereal disease.

What's happening in the Illinois case?

The Illinois case centers around Kelly’s alleged crimes against five unnamed minors. They all met the singer between 1996 and 1999. The youngest girl, named as “Minor 1” in the indictment, was 12 or 13 at the time she met Kelly, and the oldest was 17, the government claims. Minor 1, the paperwork makes clear, is the girl from Kelly’s 2008 trial. 

There are 13 counts in the Illinois case, which break down in this way: The first four counts accuse Kelly of enticing children into sex for the purposes of taping the encounters. Count 5 accuses him of obstruction of justice, centering around efforts from Kelly, his then-business manager Derrel McDavid, and his employee Milton “June” Brown to impede investigations into Kelly’s conduct. This involved, among other things, bribing and threatening the girls and their families into keeping quiet or lying about Kelly’s behavior. Counts 6 through 8 accuse Kelly of receiving child porn. There are allegedly videos of him having sex with these girls that he realized were missing and then tried to get back. The remaining five counts are for enticing the girls to engage in sexual activity. You can read the full Illinois indictment for yourself here.

Videos were missing?

Around 2001, Kelly and McDavid found out “multiple videos” of performing sexual acts with minors were missing, the Feds claim. The trio went to extreme lengths to get them back, allegedly paying one unnamed individual “hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Kelly, the government says, paid one of the girls $250,000 to return a video that included her, another girl, and Kelly; and then paid a different person $100,000 for a video of the same three people. Kelly even, it’s charged, paid an unnamed man $170,000 to cancel a press conference where he planned to announce that he had videos of the singer performing sexual acts with minors.

Once people had returned tapes to him, Kelly allegedly had people take polygraphs to prove they were telling the truth. He also, documents state, went to extreme lengths to keep people quiet, sending Minor 1 and her family overseas at one point to keep them out of the reach of investigators, and sending the same young woman a GMC Yukon Denali truck in 2013. 

How much time is he facing in the Illinois case?

For the Illinois case, Kelly faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years, and a maximum sentence of 195 years. 

What’s happening in the New York case?

You can read the New York indictment here. The case in New York involves a different five victims, bringing the total to 10 between the two cases. But it also sets up a legal theory that puts the singer as the head of a criminal enterprise, the purpose of which was “to recruit women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity with Kelly.” The indictment leans heavily into the idea that members of the enterprise set up travel and lodging arrangements for the girls. The Eastern District Press Office had no comment when Complex asked if they planned to charge additional members of Kelly’s entourage in the case. 

Why is the case in New York?

Kelly, of course, lives in Chicago, so charging him for crimes allegedly committed there makes sense. But the New York case deals with conduct in a number of states, and with moving between different states. So how does New York figure in? 

The government tells this story: In May 2017, the woman named as “Jane Doe #5,” who met Kelly at a concert when she was 19, was allegedly brought out by the singer to attend a concert in Long Island. They had sex in her hotel room, and Kelly did not use a condom. So what’s illegal about that? Kelly allegedly did not disclose that he had what the government delicately calls “an infectious venereal disease,” which is against New York law. (“Medical records confirm,” the government says, “that the defendant had an infectious venereal disease during the course of his sexual activity with Jane Doe #5.”)

A memo from the Eastern District arguing against bail for Kelly lays out another detail: “Notably, during the encounter in the hotel room, the defendant told Jane Doe #5, in sum and substance, that if she was really 15 or 16 years old, she could tell him, suggesting he would have preferred for Jane Doe #5 to be younger.”

During a later visit with Kelly, the Eastern District says, Jane Doe #5 was threatened by the singer, who kept a gun in the room as he asked her a series of questions, “warning her there would be consequences if she lied.” That encounter ended with Kelly demanding oral sex.

What else does the New York case cover?

The New York indictment breaks down just a few of the horrifying “rules” that they say Kelly made his victims follow:

(a) The women and girls were not permitted to leave their room without receiving permission from KELLY, including to eat or go to the bathroom; 

(b) The women and girls were required to wear baggy clothing when they were not accompanying KELLY to an event or unless otherwise instructed by KELLY;

(c) The women and girls were not permitted to look at other men and instead were told to keep their heads down; and

(d) The women and girls were required to call KELLY "Daddy." 

How much time is he facing in the New York case?

For the New York case, R. Kelly is facing a total of 80 years. Terms range between 10 and 20 years for each of the five counts.

What happens next?

Since Kelly was denied bond in the Illinois case, he will stay behind bars while the next legal steps play out. No date has been set as of this writing for anything in the New York case. Meanwhile, the next hearing in Illinois will happen on September 4. 

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