Then, on Friday in Chicago, Kelly was charged.
Authorities are accusing him of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four victims, three of whom were underage, according to the Cook County state’s attorney Kim Foxx. Aggravated criminal sexual abuse can carry a sentence of three to seven years in prison for each count. Kelly faces 10 of them.
Foxx said the events occurred between 1998 and 2010. Kelly was accused of ejaculating on a fourth victim, identified by the initials L.C., during an attempted criminal sexual assault.
This is not the first time that Kelly has been charged with a crime. He was arrested on child pornography charges in 2002 over a tape prosecutors said showed him having sex with and urinating on an underage girl. He was acquitted on all 14 counts he faced in the case, in 2008.
Kelly came under renewed scrutiny after the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” was broadcast on Lifetime in January. The six-part series included testimony from several women who accused the singer of abuse. Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti said last week that he had obtained a video showing Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl and had given it to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office in Chicago. He has said that Kelly and the girl refer to her age multiple times in the video, which is more than 40 minutes long.
On Thursday, two additional women came forward at a news conference in New York organized by their lawyer, Gloria Allred, to accuse Kelly of sexual abuse and misconduct when they were minors. The women, Latresa Scaff, 40, and Rochelle Washington, 39, said they met the singer after a concert in the mid-1990s when they were 16 and 15; they said he asked for a threesome and had sex with Scaff.
“This may not be the only prosecution of Mr. Kelly, because we are aware of other open investigations in other jurisdictions,” Allred said Friday.
Steven Greenberg, Kelly’s lawyer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but he has said that Kelly “denies that he has engaged in any illegal conduct, of any kind whatsoever.”
“We’re glad to see the allegations against R. Kelly are being taken seriously and hope that these charges empower victims to come forward,” RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, said in a statement. “The survivors who shared their stories showed admirable courage and strength.”
Kelly, 52, has never been convicted of a crime, but he has faced accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse for years. More than 20 years ago, Vibe magazine questioned a marriage certificate that said singer Aaliyah was 18 when she and Kelly were wed. She was, in fact, 15 at the time, and the marriage was annulled. Greenberg has said Kelly did not know she was underage at the time. Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001.
Now a legacy act selling concert tickets largely on the strength of his catalog, Kelly was a powerful hitmaker when he was arrested on child pornography charges in 2002. He continued to release hits as his lawyers filed motion after motion, delaying the trial for six years. The girl from the video never testified, and though 14 witnesses identified her, Kelly’s lawyers argued successfully that her identity could not be proven.
In 2017, the allegations picked up again when music journalist Jim DeRogatis wrote articles for BuzzFeed News that described Kelly keeping women in a “cult,” in which he separated them from their families and exerted tremendous control over their lives.
While Kelly seemed impervious to the accusations, things appeared to take a turn in January, after “Surviving R. Kelly” caused a stir. Law enforcement authorities in Illinois and Georgia, where he has lived, began looking into his conduct. And after tremendous public pressure from activists, Kelly was dropped by his label, RCA, just two weeks after the program aired.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.