R&B star R. Kelly is the focus of a new docu-series on Lifetime that addresses allegations of child sex abuse against the star dating back years.
R. Kelly – who’s real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly – has never been convicted of a crime, and in many of the allegations, he was never charged with one.
For years, pre-teens and teenagers have come forward admitting to having a sexual relationship with the star. The adult women he has had public relationships with describe him as physically and sexually abusive.
Recently, the relatives of several women have filed a lawsuit against R. Kelly in metro Atlanta, claiming their loved ones are part of a sex cult with the singer at the helm.
Attorney Gerald Griggs, who represents some of the families in that lawsuit, said he’s been aware of allegations against R. Kelly for decades.
“The first allegations I was made aware of was in the early nineties, when there were allegations that Mr. Kelly frequented a certain high school and a certain McDonald’s, picking up women and going back to the studio,” Griggs said. “There is a lot of evidence, a lot of disturbing stories about what might have happened with some of these women and R. Kelly.”
He has had a string of high-profile relationships. In 1991, Tiffany Hawkins said she started a sexual relationship with R. Kelly at age 15, when he was 24. In 1994, he married singer Aaliyah when she was 15 and he was 27. In 1995, R. Kelly met Lizett Martinez. She was 17 and said the four-year relationship was filled with violence sexual abuse, and she later sued.
After 5 years of high-profile allegations, R. Kelly married Andrea Lee Kelly. Then, in 1998, sex tapes surfaced that appeared to show Kelly with underage girls. The allegations stretched into another decade, when he was charged with 14 counts of child pornography in 2008. The victim in that case never testified and Kelly was acquitted on all charges.
Afterward, he released a 19-minute song, called “I Did It.” However, he has publicly denied all allegations over time.
“I’ve had cases where you’ve had one or two accusers with no forensic evidence, no eye witnesses, no background evidence, and that person was indicted and convicted and serving a life sentence,” Briggs said.
So the question remains: After 20 years of allegations, lawsuits and a trial, why has it been so difficult to successfully prosecute R. Kelly, despite a landslide of allegations?
Griggs said his celebrity status comes with high-powered attorneys and financial resources. He also said there could be a possible lack of witnesses coming forward before the statute of limitations expires. And then – there’s the age of consent.
“Crossing state lines, you have issues of consent age in different municipalities,” Griggs said. However, he said local cases in metro Atlanta could stick.
“I do think there could be criminal liability in two locales – one being in Cook County and the other being in Fulton County,” Griggs said.
He firmly believes that if just some of the allegations mentioned the Lifetime docu-series ever make it to a grand jury, Kelly would be indicted and later convicted.
In terms of public perception, Griggs believes the series could create a compelling portrait of a pedophile – one that actually could affect his future.
“I think more people haven’t received all of the information yet. I think this particular package that Lifetime has put together has put everything into perspective,” Griggs said. “I think more people’s eyes are open.”