CHICAGO (CBS) — When singer R. Kelly goes on trial on sexual assault charges in Cook County in September, prosecutors will first proceed with the case involving his former hairdresser, who says Kelly tried to force oral sex on her in 2003.
Kelly did not attend Wednesday’s hearing in his case in Cook County, because he recently had a “medical procedure,” according to his attorney, Steve Greenberg, who declined to elaborate.
The singer is being held without bound in federal custody, as he also faces separate federal sex crime charges in Chicago and New York.
“He is resting, he is on painkillers, so they didn’t bring him today,” Greenberg said. “He’ll be fine, it’s nothing serious.”
R. KELLY NO SHOW for “medical procedure.”
An order had been signed for singer R. Kelly to appear in Cook Co. Criminal Court but Judge Flood said he did not appear due to an undisclosed medical procedure @cbschicago
— Megan Hickey (@MeganHickeyTV) January 22, 2020
Kelly is facing four separate indictments in Cook County, involving multiple counts of sexual assault and sexual abuse against four women years ago. Three of the alleged victims were children at the time, according to prosecutors.
Last month, Cook County Judge Lawrence Flood had scheduled a tentative trial date of Sept. 14, and gave prosecutors until Wednesday to decide which of those four cases to try first.
During a status hearing in the case on Wednesday, prosecutors elected to proceed first with the case involving a victim identified in court documents only as “L.C.”
However, Kelly’s former hairdresser, Lanita Carter, came forward as one of the victims in the sexual abuse case in Cook County last March, a month after Kelly was first charged. She has accused Kelly of trying to force oral sex on her in 2003.
Greenberg said Cook County prosecutors declined to charge Kelly at the time, and the case hasn’t improved since then.
“It’s not like wine, it doesn’t get better with age,” he said. “There’s a reason why they didn’t bring this case many years ago.”
Carter, a hairdresser who said she braided Kelly’s hair for more than a year, first came forward in an interview with CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan, describing an alleged assault Kelly committed when she was 24 years old in 2003.
“This is a release,” Carter said with tears streaming down her face. “I’ve been carryin’ this since 2003. I have had to sit on a public bus and watch public conversation: ‘Did you hear about what they did with R. Kelly? They need to leave that man alone.’ And I can’t stand up for myself.”
Carter is the first of the alleged victims in the Cook County case to come forward.
“When I finally realized I don’t want to be this victim, I don’t want to be a part of this, every time I tried to pick myself up again, I felt like something on the news brought me back to what I thought I swept under the rug,” Carter said. “Today — today I say: no more. You can talk about me. You can not like what I’m sayin’ about your favorite singer. But this is my life… This is my truth. This is what I have. If I die tomorrow, I know that I told the truth. I know that I want to be the best person I could be. I know that I want to help people. If it’s anybody that want to speak [their] truth, it’s hard when it’s a celebrity. It’s not easy. It’s not easy if it wasn’t a celebrity. It makes it 10 times worse.”
Carter was Kelly’s hairdresser at the time. She claimed Kelly tried to force her to perform oral sex on him, but she resisted. She said Kelly then masturbated and spit in her face. Carter submitted her shirt to the authorities for DNA testing, and the semen sample on the shirt was a match to Kelly’s DNA profile, Cook County prosecutors said.
Identified in the indictment against R. Kelly as “L.C.,” Carter said she stood up for Kelly when he was arrested on child pornography charges in 2002, and believed he was a “perfect gentleman.”
She said he never propositioned her or asked her to do anything sexual until Feb. 18, 2003.
“I get a phone call to come down and do his hair… When he came to the room and he asked me for that head massage, and I told him I didn’t do massages, I laughed it off. And I didn’t know he was for real,” Carter said. “If I could change that day – I wouldn’t have been there.”
“He pulled my braid down by him. And he say, ‘Suck it for daddy, suck it for daddy.’ And I said, ‘No.’ And I did like this. And he just started going, [spitting noises]. He did it, like, six times,” Carter added.
Carter said Kelly stopped only after someone knocked on the door.
“He didn’t open the door right away. He says, ‘Fix your face! Fix your m*********ing face!'” Carter recounted. “I knew that it’ll be my last day there… And I get to the bathroom, and I grabbed a wall, and it was a rose-colored towel… I wiped my face… I’m not dressed no type of way. I look at myself in the mirror, like, I’m not a beauty queen. I didn’t perceive myself to be nothing more than just his hair braider.”
“And I was kept thinking to myself, like, ‘Why did this happen to me?'” she added.
That day, she said she called the police.
“They asked for my clothing. And I gave them my favorite Tommy Hilfiger shirt,” Carter said. “And that’s where they found DNA evidence.”
“DNA evidence from R. Kelly on your shirt?” Duncan asked.
“Semen,” Carter said.
At the time, charges were not filed in Carter’s case. Shauna Boliker, who was then the lead sex crimes prosecutor, has not responded to our multiple requests for comment.
“Celebrities are powerful. Celebrities have support systems. I have no support system outside of my immediate family,” Carter said.
Ten months after the incident, she signed a $650,000 settlement in which Kelly denied any wrongdoing and Carter agreed to keep quiet.
In 2009 Kelly released a song about having sex with a woman who braids his hair. “Zig-zag braids, got em looking like spaghettay,” the lyrics said.
“That was one of the hair styles that I was known for doing, that I never did on him,” Carter said. “We were on the L-shaped couch when the incident happened.”
That song led to another confidential settlement – this time for $100,000. Kelly again denied any wrongful conduct but agreed to never perform the song or include it in future albums.
In January, following the uproar sparked by the Lifetime docuseries, “Surviving R. Kelly,” Carter responded to a plea by the current Cook County state’s attorney, Kimberly Foxx, for victims to call her office. “We need actual witnesses and victims to have the courage to tell their stories,” Foxx had said.
“I would be going on with my day, you turn on the news, here’s another R. Kelly victim, another R. Kelly victim, another R. Kelly victim. And you just – you just want to be there for them,” Carter said.
Carter said she saw Kelly’s interview with “CBS This Morning” host Gayle King in March where he denied all accusations. “I didn’t do this stuff. This is not me! I’m fighting for my f***ing life! Y’all killing me with this s**t!” Kelly had said in the explosive interview.
“What did you think when you were watching that?” Duncan asked.
“Felt like it should be a crime to publicly tell a story… that was able to get on television and lie,” Carter said.
“Did seeing that interview embolden you to want to speak even more?”
“Yes. It’s actually the reason that I’m here,” Carter said.
Kelly’s next court date in Cook County has been scheduled for April 16, but the judge said Kelly won’t have to appear for that status hearing.
Meantime, Kelly also faces two separate trials on sex crime charges in federal courts in Chicago and New York.
Kelly faces a federal trial in April in Chicago, on charges of videotaping himself having sex with underage girls, and paying hush money and intimidating witnesses to cover up his crimes. Federal prosecutors say he sexually abused five girls in the late 1990s, made videos of four of the victims, and then tried to cover it up.
The charges also include allegations he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to recover tapes of him sexually abusing the girl at the center of his 2008 child pornography trial and coerced the victim to lie about what happened.
In May, he faces another federal trial in New York, on racketeering and sex trafficking charges accusing him of using his fame to recruit young women and girls for illegal sexual activity. The racketeering case also accuses him of kidnapping, sexual exploitation of a child and forced labor. The defense has labeled the accusers disgruntled groupies.
Kelly also faces bribery charges in federal court in New York, connected to his 1994 marriage to the late singer Aaliyah, who was a teenager at the time. Prosecutors accused Kelly of scheming with others to pay for a “fraudulent identification document” for someone identified only as “Jane Doe” on Aug. 30, 1994.
A day later, R. Kelly, then 27, married 15-year-old R&B singer Aaliyah – full name Aaliyah D. Haughton – in a secret ceremony arranged by Kelly at a hotel in Chicago. The marriage was annulled months later because of Haughton’s age.
Kelly also is charged with engaging in prostitution with an underage girl in Minnesota, but no trial date has been set in that case.
He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against him.