Times up for R. Kelly

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New analysis

R. Kelly, it goes without saying, is up to his neck in hot water. His nearly three-decades-long trail of sexual abuse allegations has finally caught up with him.

As of August 6, the latest development landed in the Twin Cities’ lap with two sex abuse charges leveled by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. According to which Kelly, in 2001, paid a young girl to prance around his hotel room nude while he touched her and himself.  This would constitute one, hiring a person for sexual contact and two, engaging in prostitution with a minor. Both felonies.

The latest charges are arguably the least of Kelly’s considerable concerns.  Last month, in Chicago, an unsealed court document claimed he’d filmed sex tapes with a female between 12 and 13 years old — that’s child sex abuse — bribing her and the family to keep it to themselves.

The indictment further accuses him of exposing a different young girl to an STD, paying her off, and sending the whole family on a vacation so investigators couldn’t find them when he was indicted for child pornography charges in 2002. 

A Brooklyn, NYC indictment, unsealed the same week, alleged in detail that he’d similarly endangered the sexual health of several underage females. At length he was, this February, locked up in Chicago on 13 sex charges, including purchasing his victims’ and their families’ silence. This, while already being out on bail for past sex-related charges.

Freeman will have to get in line. Kelly was arraigned August 2 in federal court sex-crime charges and is behind bars at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. And, despite pleading not guilty to everything, won’t get another bail hearing. 

Between the U.S. Department of Justice, the State of Illinois and, now, Minnesota, Kelly’s looking at four sets of separate sex-crime charges — 40 counts, including sex-trafficking, possession of child pornography, obstruction of justice, and transportation of women and girls across state lines for the purpose of prostitution — and facing more time incarcerated than he’s likely to be alive, roughly 500 years if they throw the book at him.

There’s a great deal of they-said-she-said to sift through and no denying that even innocent celebrities draw claims of sexual victimization. Nonetheless, this is an awful lot of smoke for there to be no fire. Which raises the question of why this man has been able to survive sordid scandal after scandal for so long? And why have scores of Black women flocked to his defense? 

The documentary series Surviving R. Kelly (Lifetime, Jan. 3-5) averaged 2.1 million viewers. It highlighted old and new abuse allegations with comment from, among others, #MeToo Movement founder Tarana Burke. On one hand, Kelly’s being publicly depicted as a predator moved still more females to step forward with their stories. On the other, his recordings immediately spiked on Spotify. 

In February, on his release from Chicago’s Southwest Side jail, three days after being charged with criminal sexual abuse, he was greeted by stalwart, unabashed adoration with shouts of “Free Kells!”  

Valencia Patrice Love, who described Kelly as a friend, provided his bail to the tune of $100,000.  Brittany Martin, a subscriber to the Facebook group, R. Kelly’s Single Ladies (upwards of 11,000 strong) told the Washington Post, “I believe that he is being a target and he’s being set up.” She repeated Kelly’s comments that the charges amounted to a “lynching” and compared his circumstances to the cases against Bill Cosby.

But for others, the documentary was the final straw. Burke, #MuteRKelly Co-Founders Kenyette Barnes and Oronike Odeleye, writer Mikki Kendall, and Time’s Up Women of Color (including Ava Duvernay, Kerry Washington and Eva Longoria), who’d raised concerns about Kelly for years were instrumental in the activism that eventually moved a number of national radio programs to yank his music off their playlists.

Bottom line, barring Johnnie Cochran coming back from the grave, it looks like Kelly’s goose is finally cooked. Considering that federal prosecutors own a 90 percent conviction rate, Chicago trial lawyer Gal Pissetzky, who’s represented clients in plea discussions with the U.S. attorney’s office, told the Associated Press, the best Kelly should expect would be copping to one or two of the most serious charges. “And you’re talking allegations of sex crimes [against] minors. I don’t think any judge will feel any mercy.” 

In Pissetzky’s estimation, he still could get hit with 30 to 40 years. He’d be somewhere around 70 years old by the time he sees daylight again, whereupon the matter of whether R. Kelly is a sexual predator will pretty much be moot.