R Kelly arrested on federal sex trafficking charges

R&B singer expected to be taken from Chicago to New York to face charges relating to child abuse images and obstruction of justice

R Kelly is facing two sets of federal sex abuse charges, one from New York prosecutors and another from prosecutors in his home town of Chicago, after he was arrested on Thursday night while out walking his dog.

The 18-page New York indictment charges Kelly with racketeering and sex-related crimes against women and girls, in an 18-page federal indictment that accuses the singer and members of his entourage of recruiting women and girls to “engage in illegal sexual activity”.

Besides racketeering, the indictment includes charges of transporting for prostitution and coercion or enticement of a female and alleges that Kelly had rules for the women, including not allowing them to eat or use the bathroom and not permitting them to look at other men and telling them to keep their heads down.

The 13-count Chicago indictment filed on Friday details efforts by the accused to cover up sexually explicit videos of Kelly with underage girls. Prosecutors say the defendants paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to victims and witnesses to make sure they would not cooperate with law enforcement.

It also accuses Kelly of using physical abuse, violence and blackmail to prevent victims from providing evidence to police.

Joseph Fitzpatrick, a US attorney spokesman, said the indictment also contained charges that revolve around child abuse images and obstruction of justice.

“The counts include child porn, enticement of a minor and obstruction of justice,” Fitzpatrick said. He said further details would be released later on Friday.

Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, confirmed his arrest. He said the charges are not a surprise and that Kelly hopes to be released at a bail hearing next week. The singer has denied wrongdoing.

Also on Friday, attempts by Kelly’s publicist to make a statement on his behalf collapsed into chaos in Atlanta when the family of Joycelyn Savage, a woman who reportedly lived with Kelly in Chicago, demanded information about her whereabouts.

Kelly’s publicist, Darrell Johnson, insisted he had “nothing to do” with Savage and that she was not being held.

The federal sex trafficking charges filed by prosecutors in New York appear to stem from allegations made by Faith Rodgers, one of Kelly’s main accusers, who has claimed Kelly manipulated her in a year-long relationship in which he locked her up in rooms and vehicles as “punishment” for “failing to please” him, according to the New York Daily News.

Rodgers previously sued Kelly in Manhattan in 2018, claiming he forced her to have “non-permissive, painful and abusive sex” in a New York hotel in 2017, and knowingly infected her with herpes.

“I trusted him and he betrayed my trust,” Rodgers told reporters at a news conference in January. “Once I recognized my worth, I knew I had to walk away.”

New York police department (NYPD) investigators met in January with Rodgers. Her lawyer, Gloria Allred, said at the time that her client was “doing her duty to provide information”.

The Grammy winner, whose real name is Robert Kelly, was arrested in February on 10 counts in Illinois involving four women, three of whom were minors when the alleged abuse occurred. He pleaded not guilty to those charges and was released on bail.

Then on 30 May, Cook county prosecutors added 11 more sex-related counts to the charges involving one of the women who accused him of sexually abusing her when she was underage.

The new charges, including one of aggravated sexual assault, carry a potential prison sentence of up to 30 years.

The charges came just weeks after the celebrity Los Angeles attorney Michael Avenatti disclosed he had a VHS tape he said showed Kelly having sex with a minor girl.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, that tape appears to be the basis for the charges against Kelly involving a girl, identified in court papers only as TJ, who allegedly had sex with the singer sometime between 1998 and 2001, when the girl would have been 14 to 16 years old.

Kelly has faced mounting legal troubles this year after Lifetime aired a documentary Surviving R Kelly, which revisited allegations of sexual abuse of girls.

The series followed the BBC’s 2018 R Kelly: Sex, Girls & Videotapes, which alleged the singer was holding women against their will and running a “sex cult”.

Soon after the Lifetime documentary aired, Cook county state’s attorney Kim Foxx said her office had been inundated with calls about the allegations in the documentary. Her office’s investigation led to the charges in February and additional counts in May.


Naaman Zhou, Edward Helmore and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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