R&B star R. Kelly was charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse Friday in Chicago. The charges stem from a newly discovered video found by attorney Michael Avenatti that allegedly shows Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl, The Chicago Sun-Times and TMZ reported, citing court records.
The reports say the singer’s first court date is March 8.
Tandra Simonton, spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, confirmed to The Associated Press the charges had been filed against but declined to say the specific number.
Foxx scheduled a press conference in Chicago to discuss the charges at 3 p.m. ET. Avenatti is holding a news conference immediately after, he said on Twitter.
Avenatti, who remained quiet throughout his 10-month “investigation” of Kelly on behalf of multiple clients, responded to the indictment on Twitter, proclaiming, “After 25 years of serial sexual abuse and assault of underage girls, the day of reckoning for R Kelly has arrived.”
When Avenatti announced the existence of the new video two weeks ago, he told USA TODAY in an interview: “This is a bombshell of epic proportions. It’s over, after nearly two decades of abuse by R. Kelly. He will not survive this.”
The indictment of Kelly, 52, culminates nearly two decades of allegations, one failed criminal trial, a surging #MuteRKelly campaign, a breakup with his recording label, and the airing of a Kelly-damning film series, “Surviving R. Kelly,” in January.
That six-part film on Lifetime examined the long-standing allegations of sexual misconduct against Kelly, including sex with underage girls and accusations that he trapped scores of female fans in a “sex cult” that cut them off from their families and subjected them to degrading abuse.
Despite the years of hints and allegations, Kelly has been charged with a crime only once: He was tried on multiple counts of child pornography – stemming from a different video involving a different underage girl – in Chicago in 2008, six years after he was indicted in that case.
However, the video in that case was not clear and the alleged teenage victim in the video refused to testify against Kelly at the trial. Within hours of getting the case, the jury acquitted him on all counts and Kelly walked free, back to his life as a rich and famous singer-songwriter and R&B superstar.
Now he’s being prosecuted almost 11 years later amidst a sea change in attitudes among law enforcement and in society about sexual abuse, sex-crimes prosecutions, defendants and accusers.
If there is a second Kelly trial, it will take place in the wake of the #MeToo movement, turbocharged by the naming and shaming of powerful men in entertainment and media taken down over the last two years by accusations of sexual misconduct.