R. Kelly Arrested On Federal Charges, Including Child Pornography And Kidnapping
Updated at 12:45 p.m. ET
Federal prosecutors in New York and Chicago unsealed sweeping charges against R&B singer R. Kelly on Friday, accusing him of abusing women and girls for nearly two decades, including kidnapping, forced labor and sending child pornography across state lines.
The bombshell charges, the first federal criminal charges Kelly has faced, come a day after he was arrested while walking his dog outside his home in Chicago's Trump Tower. He faces a total of 18 federal counts.
Prosecutors have requested that Kelly be held in detention while he awaits trial, saying he is a danger to the community and a significant flight risk.
"The defendant is charged as the leader of a racketeering enterprise engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity spanning two decades involving the sexual exploitation of children, coercing and transporting women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity, kidnapping and forced labor," wrote Richard Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
The indictment in the Northern District of Illinois contains allegations of child pornography and obstruction of justice.
Those charges involve five minors. Prosecutors say that beginning in about 1998, Kelly made sexual videos with several of the victims. Also named in the Illinois indictment are two of Kelly's associates, Derrell McDavid, a manager of Kelly; and Milton "June" Brown, another Kelly employee.
Prosecutors allege Kelly and his associates paid out "hundreds of thousands" of dollars to collect copies of those videos, which had begun circulating, and that Kelly and others paid alleged victims, their parents, other family members and other witnesses to prevent them from testifying in court or otherwise coming forward. Those payoffs were said to include gifts and foreign travel as well as cash, and that Kelly also "used physical abuse, violence, threats of violence, blackmail, and other controlling behaviors" to silence his alleged victims.
In the indictment unsealed Friday morning in New York, federal prosecutors charged Kelly with one count of racketeering related to kidnapping and four violations of the Mann Act, which relate to allegations of trafficking victims across state lines for sexual purposes. Kelly abused five victims, including three minors, in incidents as far back as 1999 and as recently as 2018, according to the court document.
Prosecutors say Kelly worked with his bodyguards, drivers and personal assistants to form an illegal conspiracy to find and abuse women and girls "to engage in illegal sexual activity with Kelly," prosecutors wrote. "By promoting R. Kelly's music and the R. Kelly brand, the members of the Enterprise expected to receive financial opportunities and personal benefits and increased power."
Kelly and his entourage allegedly recruited and groomed women and girls, enticing them with access to the singer and promises of money. Authorities say he confined the victims against their will, forcing them to engage in sex acts and sometimes filming the sexual activity.
These incidents are alleged to have taken place in locations including Chicago, Connecticut, California and in Brooklyn, where prosecutors filed the sealed charges on June 20.
A law enforcement official tells NPR that Kelly is expected to be arraigned in Illinois on Friday, and that he likely will be arraigned in Brooklyn on the New York charges sometime next week.
Kelly, who already faces separate sexual assault charges in Illinois state court as well as activity in multiple ongoing civil cases, is now facing three possible criminal trials following his Thursday night arrest.
For decades, Kelly has been dogged by accusations of child pornography and sexual contact with minors. He had previously been prosecuted by Illinois authorities in a child pornography case, but in June 2008 Kelly was acquitted of all charges.
Kelly's attorney, Steve Greenberg, released a statement Friday morning saying his client was arrested while out walking his dog and that Kelly "was aware of the investigations and the charges were not a surprise." In his statement, Greenberg repeated assertions that he has made previously in connection to the Cook County indictments: namely, that they involve decades-old allegations.
In recent months, fresh interest has been generated around the longtime accusations against Kelly.
An interview Kelly did with Gayle King in March in which he emotionally denied sexual misconduct prompted widespread attention.
And Lifetime's recent six-episode Surviving R. Kelly documentary included accounts from several women who accused the singer of misconduct, drawing a new focus to the longstanding accusations lodged at him. More accusers began publicly telling their stories about alleged abuse and sexual misconduct perpetrated by him.
State prosecutors in Chicago this year have filed sexual assault and abuse charges against him, the latest of which were filed six weeks ago. Kelly, 52, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, has pleaded not guilty.
WBEZ's Patrick Smith and NPR's Colin Dwyer contributed to this report.