Chicago: A federal judge ordered R. Kelly held without bond Tuesday in Chicago on federal charges he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to recover child-sex tapes and pressured witnesses to change their stories before his Cook County pornography trial ended in an acquittal a decade ago.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber means the embattled R&B singer will remain in custody whenever he’s taken to New York to face a separate indictment alleging he sexually abused underage girls across the country.
In ordering Kelly to remain jailed, Leinenweber said the singer’s attorneys did not overcome a presumption that a defendant facing child pornography charges be detained pending trial.
Kelly’s attorney, Steven Greenberg, argued that his client did not pose a danger to the public because most of the charges were more than a decade old. He also contended Kelly wasn’t a risk to flee, citing his regular attendance at past court dates.
But federal prosecutors called Kelly, 52, an “”extreme danger” in seeking his detention.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Angel Krull said Kelly victimized a dozen women — mostly minors — in the separate cases in Chicago and New York and that prosecutors believe there are “many more.”
“The investigation is far from over,” said Krull, who also said prosecutors have three videos that show the “sadomasochistic abuse” of one 14-year-old girl.
Kelly’s long legal saga took its latest dramatic turn Friday when federal indictments against him were made public in Brooklyn and Chicago, charging a sweeping scheme by Kelly and those around him to groom and sexually exploit young girls and then cover it up.
The dual indictments are the most serious blows yet to the onetime superstar, who was arrested in downtown Chicago late Thursday as he walked his dog near his residence at Trump Tower.
The Chicago indictment alleged that Kelly paid his former manager, Derrel McDavid, and a former employee, Milton “June” Brown, to help him cover up his sexual transgressions. Both were also charged,
But it is the New York case that now casts the biggest shadow on Kelly’s future. That indictment, unsealed at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, alleges a racketeering conspiracy in which Kelly and his associates recruited women and underage girls for illegal sexual contact with the singer, then isolated them and threatened them to keep them under his control.
Kelly, who was already free on $1 million bond stemming from pending sex abuse charges in Cook County criminal court, has been held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in the Loop since his arrest Thursday.
Federal prosecutors said in a court filing that Kelly should remain in custody pending trial, contending he poses a flight risk in the face of such serious charges and that his “psychological abuse and control of the young girls, who are now adults, is real and ongoing.”
Kelly “spent many years of his adult life exploiting and manipulating young girls, including by threatening members of a victim’s family,” prosecutors said in the memo filed Friday.
Kelly’s lawyers, meanwhile, have said they will seek his release. In a statement Friday, Kelly’s lead attorney, Steve Greenberg, called the new charges an “unfair piling on” and an “abuse” of anti-racketeering law.
Before the no-bond order in Chicago, federal prosecutors in New York had said they would seek Kelly’s detention once he arrives in Brooklyn, arguing he’s a flight risk and a continuing “danger to the community.”
Since the New York indictment has the broadest scope and the highest potential penalties, it could become the leading case of the three Kelly now faces, experts have told the Chicago Tribune.
It also carries an intriguing legal twist, charging Kelly under an anti-racketeering law that historically has been used to prosecute Mafia bosses and street gangs for running criminal enterprises.
Kelly was named in the New York indictment as the leader of a criminal enterprise that included “managers, bodyguards, drivers, personal assistants and runners for Kelly.”
“The purposes of the Enterprise were to promote R. Kelly’s music and the R. Kelly brand and to recruit women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity with Kelly,” the New York indictment said.
According to the Chicago charges, Kelly recorded himself having sex with five minor girls beginning in 1998. After learning that some of the tapes were missing from his “collection,” Kelly, McDavid and Brown embarked on a scheme to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to recover the recordings from various individuals, the indictment alleged.
One of the girls Kelly is alleged to have abused, identified only as “Minor 1,” was the same girl at the center of the child pornography charges lodged against Kelly in 2002 — a case that ended with Kelly’ stunning acquittal by a Cook County jury six years later — according to the indictment.
The indictment alleges that Kelly instructed the girl — who was his goddaughter — to lie to police about her sexual encounters with the singer.
Kelly also pressured the girl’s father in May 2002 to falsely tell a Cook County grand jury that his daughter had never had a sexual relationship with Kelly and that she was not the person depicted in the sex tape, according to the charges.
The indictment also alleged that Kelly paid McDavid and Brown to help him cover up his sexual transgressions, including forcing those he allegedly abused to submit to lie detector tests to show they had turned over all of the sex tapes in their possession.
McDavid pleaded not guilty last week to four counts of conspiracy and child pornography-related charges. Brown is scheduled for an initial court appearance on Friday.
Controversy continued to swirl around Kelly despite his 2008 acquittal, driven largely by investigative stories by music critic and reporter Jim DeRogatis in BuzzFeed and The New Yorker as well as damning allegations in a Lifetime documentary series earlier this year.
In February, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced that a county grand jury had indicted Kelly on sexual abuse counts involving four people — three of whom allegedly were underage. Kelly has pleaded not guilty to those charges.