Chicago-based singer R. Kelly had a busy day in court on Wednesday: He avoided going back to jail for unpaid child support, a judge threw out a ruling against him in a civil lawsuit, but he also lost his bid to keep his divorce records hidden from the public.
Kelly is facing legal battles on multiple fronts, all of them connected in some way to the years of allegations that he sexually preys upon underage girls.
Kelly is charged criminally with 10 counts of sexual abuse of four women. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges.
One of the alleged victims in the criminal case is also suing Kelly. Last month, a judge entered a default order against Kelly in that lawsuit because Kelly never responded to the lawsuit, despite being served notice while he was locked up in Cook County Jail.
However, on Wednesday in a Daley Center courtroom, a judge vacated that default ruling at the request of Kelly’s attorneys.
“He didn’t know what he was served with,” Kelly’s attorney Zaida Abdallah said on Tuesday. “He was served in jail. There was a lot of pressure on him, and once the news broke that there was a default judgment, we acted right away.”
The decision to vacate the default ruling means the lawsuit will continue and Kelly will be allowed to defend himself.
About 22 floors lower, in the basement of the Daley Center, attorneys for WBEZ argued that Kelly’s divorce and child support case with his ex-wife, Andrea Kelly, should be opened to the public. The case has been under seal since 2013.
During a hearing on whether the court files should remain secret, Judge Lori Rosen asked attorneys repeatedly whether the secrecy represented special treatment for celebrities. Ultimately, the judge ruled that the sealing of the court file caused a “constant harm to the public,” because court records are supposed to be open and accessible.
Rosen ordered the court file unsealed, over the objection of Kelly’s attorney. The decision to unseal the court records will not take effect for three weeks so that attorneys have time to ask that specific documents be hidden from the public.
Rosen’s ruling means that all filings and hearings going forward in Kelly’s child support case will be open to the public, and on Wednesday, reporters were allowed to sit in on a hearing over Kelly’s child support payments. At that hearing, Kelly’s attorney handed over a $62,000 check to cover unpaid child support from March, April and May.
Kelly and his ex-wife Andrea Kelly had three children together. The youngest is now 17, and the other two children are now adults.
Andrea Kelly’s attorney, Alison Motta, said Kelly could have been thrown in jail again if he had failed to come to court with money to pay what he owed in child support.
She said Kelly stopped making his court-ordered payments once Andrea Kelly began speaking publicly about alleged abuse by her ex-husband.
In court Wednesday, Kelly’s attorney, Lisa Damico, argued that those public claims by Andrea Kelly and her children were hampering the singer’s ability to earn a living and make timely child support payments.
Judge Rosen stopped Damico in the middle of her argument, warning her that she did not “want to go down that road.”
Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice desk. Follow him @pksmid.