Judge Sets $1M Bond For R. Kelly In Sex Abuse Case | WBEZ
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Judge Sets $1M Bond For R. Kelly In Sex Abuse Case

Updated 1:50 p.m.

A Cook County Judge has ordered a $1 million bond for R&B star R. Kelly who is facing 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse involving four victims, including at least three girls between the ages of 13 and 17. It means Kelly, after paying the required 10%, or $100,000, will be free while he awaits trial on the charges.

Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr. set bond at a hearing early Saturday afternoon a day after prosecutors indicted the Grammy winner, whose real name is Robert Kelly.

In arguing for a high bond, prosecutors said Kelly met one of his alleged underage victims while he was on trial for child pornography charges in Chicago more than 10 years ago. They also argued they have strong evidence, including DNA evidence, from a semen sample. 

The judge said he found the allegations “disturbing” if true and said the bond was set for $1 million because the amount equals $250,000 for each of the four people Kelly is charged with sexually abusing. The singer stared at the floor while the judge was speaking and looked dejected.

Kelly’s attorney Steve Greenberg asked for a low bond saying Kelly’s finances are a mess and said the 52-year-old has no prior convictions. He also referenced Kelly’s megahit song “I Believe I Can Fly” in his arguments. 

"Contrary to the song, he [Kelly] doesn't like to fly,” Greenberg said. “And has no tours planned.”

The judge also ordered Kelly to turn over his passport and told him he may not contact any of the alleged victims, who are identified only by their initials in the indictment.

Outside court, Greenberg said he believes they’ll bond Kelly out of jail Saturday.

Kelly turned himself in to Chicago police Friday night. 

Earlier Friday, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx announced the 10 counts against Kelly. She said the abuse dated back as far as 1998 and spanned more than a decade. 

Kelly's attorney, Steve Greenberg, told reporters following the singer's arrest that one of the charges he faces appears to be tied to a decade-old child pornography case.

"Double jeopardy should bar that case," Greenberg said. "He won that case."

Kelly, who was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008, has consistently denied any sexual misconduct.

"Mr. Kelly is strong," Greenberg added. "He's got a lot of support and he's going to be vindicated on all these charges."

Kelly was charged a week after attorney Michael Avenatti said he gave prosecutors new video evidence of the singer with an underage girl.

At a news conference earlier Friday in Chicago, Avenatti said a 14-year-old girl seen with R. Kelly on the video is among four victims mentioned in the indictment. He said the footage shows two separate scenes on two separate days at Kelly's residence in the late 1990s.

During the video, both the victim and Kelly refer to her age 10 times, he said.

Avenatti said he represents six clients, including two victims, two parents and two people he describes as "knowing R. Kelly and being within his inner circle for the better part of 25 years."

"I don't know what the tape is," Greenberg said of the video Avenatti gave prosecutors. "We haven't seen it. No one's showed us the tape."

Avanetti says some of Kelly's associates over the years should also be charged because they "looked the other way" when girls were assaulted "because they didn't want to kill the golden goose."

In 2008, a jury acquitted Kelly of child pornography charges that arose from a graphic video that prosecutors said showed him having sex with a girl as young as 13. He and the young woman allegedly seen with him denied they were in the 27-minute video, even though the picture quality was good and witnesses testified it was them, and she did not take the stand. Kelly could have gotten 15 years in prison.

Each count of the new charges carries up to seven years in prison. If Kelly is convicted on all 10 counts, a judge could decide that the sentences run one after the other — making it possible for him to receive up to 70 years behind bars. Probation is also an option under the statute.

Legally and professionally, the walls began closing in on Kelly after the release of a BBC documentary about him last year and the multipart Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly, which aired last month. Together they detailed allegations he was holding women against their will and running a "sex cult."

#MeToo activists and a social media movement using the hashtag #MuteRKelly called on streaming services to drop Kelly's music and promoters not to book any more concerts. Protesters demonstrated outside Kelly's Chicago studio.

Last month, Kelly was given an eviction notice from his Near West Side studio. And in February 2018, he was evicted from two Georgia homes for allegedly having more than $31,000 in past due payments to SB Property Management Global.

Jim DeRogatis, a longtime music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, played a key role in drawing the attention of law enforcement to Kelly. In 2002, he received the sex tape in the mail that was central to Kelly's 2008 trial, and turned it over to prosecutors. 

He is also he co-host of Sound Opinions, a music show from WBEZ.

Fighting back tears at Foxx's press conference Friday where charges were announced, DeRogatis said he knew the names of 48 women who’d been abused by Kelly. He said law enforcement, journalism, and the music industry has been failing those women for decades.

“This was not a secret,” he said. “We failed young black women in Chicago for 30 years. I’d like to be optimistic today, I don't know if I am.”

Shannon Heffernan and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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