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The History of R Kelly’s Legal Troubles

April 9, 2019

On Nov. 9, 1993,  Robert Kelly, better known as R Kelly, released his debut solo album 12 Play. Some of the singles released with the album include “Sex Me,” “Bump N’ Grind” and “Your Body’s Callin’.” Almost 26 years later, Kelly faces 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Although he was found not guilty of all previous charges against him during the peak of his career, it seems that Kelly cannot escape his legal troubles, all of which include sexual abuse or misconduct.

A lot of Kelly’s music through his career involve sexual themes.. One of Kelly’s most well-known songs, “Ignition (Remix)”, features overtly sexual lyrics. More recently, Kelly released an album on Dec. 10, 2013 entitled “Black Panties,” which features Kelly holding a topless woman in his arms as the album’s cover.

Early in Kelly’s career, he illegally married up-and-coming R&B singer Aaliyah and kept it secret from the media. Vibe magazine uncovered a marriage certificate between Kelly and Aaliyah revealing that they were in fact married on Aug. 31, 1994, when Aaliyah was only 15 years old, 12 years younger than Kelly at the time. Rumors regarding relationship emerged after Kelly worked closely with Aaliyah on her debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number.” Annulled in Feb. 1995, both Kelly and Aaliyah denied the marriage. Aaliyah passed away in a plane crash on Aug. 25, 2001.

Kelly’s legal troubles involving minors did not end with his illegal marriage to Aaliyah. On Feb. 3, 2002, a video emerged allegedly showing Kelly urinating on another underage girl and engaging in sexual intercourse with her. Kelly denied being the man in the video, but he was indicted with 21 counts of child pornography in June 2002. Six years later, a Chicago jury found Kelly not guilty of the charges against him pertaining the child pornography case.

Child pornography charges hit Kelly once again in 2003, after Polk County police officers searched his residence in Davenport, Florida and found a digital camera that contained 12 images of an underage girl. In these photos, Kelly appeared to engage in intercourse with her, which led to his arrest in Miami in Jan. 2003. However, these charges were dropped in March 2004, due to a lack of probable cause for search warrants.

Although Kelly continued making music following his child pornography cases, fans have not let him off easy. In 2018, following the #MeToo movement, Spotify announced plans to stop promoting or recommending music by Kelly. Spotify’s muting of Kelly’s music did not face any strong opposition. Despite his troubles with Spotify, Kelly managed to fend off his past legal troubles until now, when everything changed for Kelly.

On Jan. 3, 2019, Lifetime aired “Surviving R Kelly,” a six-part documentary that detailed the sexual abuse allegations against him. Chance the Rapper and John Legend, both of whom worked with Kelly in the past, appeared in the documentary and stated their deep regret in working with Kelly. After the documentary, R Kelly faced massive public backlash and his past behavior rose to national attention. His collaboration with Lady Gaga, “Do What U Want,” ended up being removed from music streaming services at Gaga’s request. Celine Dion also pulled her collaboration with R Kelly, “I’m Your Angel,”  from streaming services.

Not only does R Kelly face new criticism from the public, he now faces 10 new counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. The charges entail multiple instances of Kelly sexually abusing four women three of whom were minors at the time from 1998 to 2010. Despite not having bond money readily available, an anonymous supporter of Kelly paid his $100,000 bail, which led to Kelly’s release after he spent two nights in jail.

On March 6, 2019, CBS broadcasted an interview Kelly did with reporter Gayle King. In the interview, R Kelly becomes emotional on camera while discussing the charges against him. Kelly broke down in the middle of the interview and at one point, stands up from his chair and starts pounding his chest. In the following days, Chicago police arrested Kelly again, this time for failing to pay over $161,000 in child support payments following his divorce from Andrea Lee. He would be freed days later after another anonymous Kelly supporter made the payments on his behalf.

R Kelly’s future remains unclear. He will face a judge sometime in the future regarding his sexual abuse charges, and a judge recently refused to lower Kelly’s child support payments of $21,000 per month. Public opinion has not changed much on Kelly, and some people want him sent to jail for a long time.

“[Kelly] is an awful human being and should be locked up,” sophomore Miriam Gomez said.

It is a safe bet that if Kelly releases any music in the future, it would not be as successful as his past albums, especially those that came before his public legal troubles, but it would probably contain the same amount of sexual metaphors.

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