CHICAGO (CBS) — R. Kelly pleaded not guilty Monday to 10 counts of sexual abuse, hours after an attorney representing several alleged victims claimed he has uncovered another video showing the R&B singer sexually assaulting a minor.
Kelly, 52, appeared before Cook County Judge Lawrence Flood, who was assigned to oversee the singer’s trial on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Kelly was dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, but no handcuffs, and was flanked by three sheriff’s deputies as he pleaded not guilty to all charges.
After Kelly’s court appearance, Michael Avenatti, an attorney representing one of the victims, said he has uncovered a new 55-minute video of Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl.
“This reign of abuse and assault by Mr. Kelly is about to come to an abrupt and permanent end,” Avenatti said.
Avenatti said the new video appears to have been made in 1999 or 2000.
“It leaves no question as to Mr. Kelly’s guilt. On the tape, Mr. Kelly repeatedly refers to the victim as having a 14-year-old body part; a vagina, although that is not the word that he uses on the tape,” Avenatti said.
A week before Kelly was charged, Avenatti said he had discovered a 45-minute video of Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl. He said both tapes involve one of the four victims Kelly is accused of abusing.
Avenatti also said Monday he has learned of the existence of a third tape of Kelly, although he declined to describe the contents, or say if the victim in that tape is one of those Kelly is charged with abusing.
Kelly’s attorney, Steven Greenberg, said he has not seen any of the tapes, and suggested anyone who has viewed a tape of someone allegedly having sex with a minor could be charged with child pornography, noting that prosecutors and defense attorneys need a court order to view tapes of that kind.
“I have not seen any tapes. I have not seen the tapes that are involved in this case. I will you that, to the extent someone is showing tapes to somebody, someone is watching tapes, that warrants its own investigation,” he said. “I have no reason to believe that there is any tape of Mr. Kelly acting inappropriately in relation to any of these cases, or that he’s done anything else wrong.”
Greenberg said, even if he does see a tape that appears to show Kelly having sex with an underage girl, he would continue to represent him.
“Everybody is entitled to a defense. Everybody is entitled to the presumption of innocence,” he said. “We should all just be taking a step back. Mr. Avenatti doesn’t decide how the case is decided. The prosecutor doesn’t decide how the case is decided. I don’t decide how the case is decided. All of this is ridiculously premature, and let’s see what happens, what the evidence is, and how things play out.”
Meantime, Avenatti said he and his team interviewed additional witnesses this weekend, and is preparing to have them meet with prosecutors.
“Each of these witnesses describe a decades-long system of abuse by Mr. Kelly, of underage girls, and conduct that is illegal, criminal, and is indicative of someone that should never walk free another day in his life,” he said.
Greenberg has maintained Kelly is innocent, and has never forced anyone to have sex.
“He’s a rock star. He doesn’t have to have nonconsensual sex,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg also has said he believes all of the women accusing R. Kelly are lying.
Avenatti scoffed at that claim.
“All of these girls are not lying. It is impossible and it is outrageous for Mr. Greenberg and other enablers of Mr. Kelly to suggest that all of these young ladies, after 28 years, are lying about this conduct,” he said. “Had these victims not been black, and had they not come from in many cases disadvantaged households, or households of a lower socioeconomic status, this guy would not be walking free today.”
Greenberg accused Avenatti of grandstanding, and said it’s not up to anyone but a jury to determine Kelly’s fate.
“If they think they’ve got evidence, turn it over, and the people who are supposed to investigate will investigate. But to stand up here and insult people, and rip on our system, and say that here in Cook County we’re amateur hour, that’s just in appropriate,” he said.
Kelly is due back in court on March 22. He has spent three nights at Cook County Jail, after another judge set his bail at $1 million on Saturday. The singer has been unable to pay the 10 percent required to be release. Greenberg said he believes Kelly will be able to post bond on Monday, and if he does, it likely will be after 6 p.m.
Sheriff’s officials confirmed Kelly has been held at the jail’s hospital for security reasons.
“That’s the most secure place for him to be, and he’s certainly hoping to get out of jail,” Greenberg said. “I think that if he was in the general population, there may be a concern for his safety. I think it’s better for the sheriffs that he’s not in general population. They’re in charge of that, and they put him wherever they see fit.”
Greenberg said Kelly’s finances are a mess, and it has been complicated coming up with the $100,000 he needs to get out of jail, but he hopes to be able to post bond on Monday.
“This all happened on Friday. He wasn’t really prepared. He was surprised. Then Saturday, by the time we went to bond court, banks were closed,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg said Kelly owes more than $161,000 in unpaid child support, but that won’t have an impact on his ability to bond out of jail.
“They can’t hold you in jail on a criminal case because you haven’t paid child support. He’s going to take care of the child support also. He’s been paying child support for years and years. It’s only recently he fell he fell a little bit behind,” he said.
If Kelly is released from jail, he has been ordered not to have any contact with any of the alleged victims, witnesses, or anyone under the age of 18.
Kelly has been accused of sexually abusing four victims, three of them underage girls. The alleged abuse goes back 20 years, spanning from 1998 to 2010. He turned himself in Friday night, hours after a grand jury indicted him on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
The charges identify the victims only by initials, and the dates of the alleged abuse:
- H.W. (13-16 years of age), victim of four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse between May 26, 1998, and May 25, 1999;
- J.P. (13-16 years of age), victim of three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse between May 1, 2009, and Jan. 31, 2010;
- R.L. (13-16 years of age), victim of two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse between Sept. 26, 1998, and Sept. 25, 2001;
- L.C. (no age given), victim of one count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse on Feb. 18, 2003.
Prosecutors have said the first victim, HW, was celebrating her 16th birthday when she met Kelly, who told his manager to give HW a business card. HW’s mother saw the encounter, and told Kelly’s manager her daughter was 16 years old.
HW later took the business card from her mom’s purse. She called Kelly, who told her to take a cab to his Chicago studio. During that first sexual encounter on May 26, 1998, Kelly had difficulty maintaining an erection and penetrated the victim orally and vaginally. HW was then given a large sum of money, much more than the cost of the cab fare.
Prosecutors said the encounters continued until May, 1999.
The second victim, JP, met Kelly after a court hearing for Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial and asked for his autograph. She was later invited to his house in Olympia Fields and Kelly had sex with the victim from May 2009 through Jan. 31, 2010. During those encounters, Kelly would spit, slap and choke her. She was also under the age of 16.
The victim provided a shirt with semen to police, and a test found the DNA was a match for Kelly.
A third victim, RL, had sex when she was 14 at Kelly’s house in Olympia Fields. A witness was asked to take sex tapes of the victim and Kelly. The witness watched the tapes and turned them over to the state’s attorney’s office. Kelly and the victim had sexual encounters between Sept. 26, 1998 and Sept. 25, 2001. The video was not the same as the one at the center of Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial, prosecutors said.
The fourth victim, LC, was an adult who worked for Kelly as a hair dresser. On Feb. 18, 2008, Kelly walked into a room in his Chicago studio and said he “wanted his head massaged.” His pants were down and he pointed to his penis. When the woman resisted, Kelly masturbated, ejaculated and spit on her. A semen sample tested was a DNA match to Kelly, prosecutors said.
Allegations of Kelly’s sexual abuse go back decades and have prompted a recent nationwide protest called #MuteRKelly to boycott his music, in the wake of a Lifetime documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly,” featuring interviews with the music artist’s alleged accusers.
In 2008, Kelly was acquitted of child pornography charges connected to a videotape of him allegedly having sex with an underage girl. It took six years from the time Kelly was charged with the offense to the end of the trial. It took the jury less than a day to deliberate.