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R. Kelly Awaits Trial Date - Five Years Later

Legal proceedings against R. Kelly are slow to move forward as the singer turns to his allegations for inspiration.

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R. Kelly Awaits Trial Date - Five Years Later

More than five years ago a video made headlines.

It allegedly showed the extremely popular singer and producer R. Kelly in - shall we say - an untoward situation. Kelly was arrested and charged with 21 counts - later reduced to 14 - but the case has yet to go to trial.

For Chicago Public Radio, Sam Hudzik reports on the sluggish legal proceedings, and whether they’ve had any effect on the career of one of Chicago’s best-known R&B artists.


To hype the release of his latest album, R. Kelly set up a promotional voice mailbox.

KELLY (phone message): Yo. What’s up, y’all. This is R. Kelly, and I want y’all to stay tuned for a message from the Chocolate Factory, and you might even want to buy a ring-tone.

Even if they don’t buy a ring-tone, callers still hear a sample of the music.

KELLY (music/phone transition): Loving what I’m doing right now. I’m feeling myself right now. I’m all over the radio thanks to you. Support, and the whole nine, and I really appreciate it.

That support has held through a number of civil lawsuits and criminal allegations in recent years. In February 2002, the Chicago Sun-Times obtained a video, several-years-old, showing a man- allegedly Kelly- urinating on, and engaging in sexual acts with, a woman, or, rather, according to prosecutors, a girl in her young teens.

It’s been reported that the girl, now in her 20s, denies she’s in the video. And Kelly has continued to claim his innocence.

GORMAN: Mr. Kelly faces 14 counts of child pornography.

John Gorman is a spokesman for the Cook County State’s Attorney. He says most non-murder cases go to trial within two years. He says the delays in this case have a lot to do with the more than 30 motions from the defendant’s lawyers.

GORMAN: Each time they file a motion, we have to respond to it, then there’s a new court date, and then the judge rules, and that takes a lot of time.

R. Kelly’s attorneys did not return repeated calls for comment. And the artist himself was unavailable, according to his publicist.

MAYER: My name is Allan Mayer. I’m a spokesman for R. Kelly.

Mayer says the dozens of motions from Kelly’s lawyers were necessary.

MAYER: The prosecutors bring a shoddy case, and now they complain that R. Kelly’s lawyers have been raising questions about it. The fact is that Robert believes in our system of justice and he looks forward to his day in court.

GORMAN: Well, it would seem that if somebody were eager to get their day in court, they would have demanded trial a long time ago.

States Attorney spokesman John Gorman says Kelly could have -- at any point in the past 5 years -- demanded his constitutional right to a speedy trial. But DePaul University law professor Leonard Cavise says prosecutors have made their own questionable moves. For instance, he wonders why they charged Kelly with child pornography instead of statutory rape. But he says the defense does share responsibility for the delay.

CAVISE: They want delay so that R. Kelly can continue on with his career and make millions and millions and millions of dollars and not be faced with the possibility of going to jail for these charges.

Cavise says the judge in the case, Vincent Gaughan, could have set a final deadline for motions years ago, ruled on them, and moved toward trial.But there are also other reasons for the delay. Last summer the judge fell off a ladder. And in February, R. Kelly missed a court date for an emergency appendectomy. That brings us to the present, more than 5 years and 7 R. Kelly albums after those original charges were filed.

Ambi: outside, door swinging open, door shutting

Dr. Wax is a CD and vinyl store in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, just a few blocks from where R. Kelly went to high school, at Kenwood Academy. The store sells everything from TuPac to Miles Davis to the Beatles. Charles Williams has worked here for 16 years. He says the store sells a lot of R. Kelly albums.

WILLIAMS: We have to reorder stuff just about every week. To me, it’s like, a lot of listeners don’t really care about that as long as his music is good. That’s the only thing they’re concerned about.

Music: “I’m a flirt” from “Double Up”

R. Kelly’s newest release is the store’s number one seller. Williams says he’s sold hundreds of them.

Music: So Homie Don’t Bring Your Girl To Meet Me Cuz (I’m A Flirt)
And Baby Don’t Bring Your Girlfriend To Eat Cuz (I’m A Flirt)
Please Believe It, Unless Your Game Is Tight And U Trust Her
Then Don’t Bring Her Around Me Cuz (I’m A Flirt)

KOT: Innocent until proven guilty, ya know (chuckle).

Greg Kot is a music critic for the Chicago Tribune.

KOT: But, at the same time, he’s in that sort of purgatory gray area and he’s actually playing it for commercial gain, whereas a lot performers would be tanking right now.

Kot says that, in albums immediately after R. Kelly was arrested, the artist toned down the more explicit lyrics that made him famous.

KOT: But now, it seems like the reverse has happened. He’s almost reveling in the absurdity and the freakiness of this persona. In a way it’s almost like he’s rubbing our noses in it, by saying, ‘You think that’s freaky, well listen to this.’

Music: “Freaky in the Club” from new album

So girl come one let me take you to my private spot
Baby I just wanna get you to my private spot
Girl once I get your body to my private spot
Flex, time to have sex

The smart P-R move would be for the singer to scale back the sexual references. But his publicist says he won’t do that, because he’s an artist who answers only to his -- quote -- inner muse. Kelly’s next court date is set for July 20th. As to whether the trial will actually happen this summer -- no one involved would bank on it.

For Chicago Public Radio, I’m Sam Hudzik.


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