Updated: August 19, 2022
R. Kelly offered an underage autograph seeker $200 to take off her clothes and dance with him in his hotel room, then touched her sexually, according to officials in Minneapolis who announced new sexual misconduct charges against the singer on Monday.
Mr. Kelly, 52, who already faces federal and local charges of sexual assault, child pornography and obstruction of justice in Illinois and New York, was charged in Minneapolis with two counts of engaging in prostitution with a minor, said Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County attorney, at a news conference on Monday.
At a promotional event at the Minneapolis City Center in 2001, the girl, who was 17, approached Mr. Kelly for his autograph, Mr. Freeman said. When he handed it back to her, she saw that next to his name was a phone number. She called, and was invited to his hotel, where a member of his staff escorted her to Mr. Kelly’s suite.[How the cases against Jeffrey Epstein and R. Kelly reflect a change in the way prosecutors look at sexual assault.]
There, he offered her $200 to dance for him, Mr. Freeman said. She accepted.
According to the criminal complaint, the girl, now a woman in her mid-30s, told investigators this year that Mr. Kelly helped remove her clothing, then took off his own clothes, and they danced.
She said Mr. Kelly lay on the bed and that she climbed on top of him. Mr. Kelly then touched her all over her body, including her vagina and breasts, she told investigators. Mr. Kelly also offered the girl free VIP seating at his concert, which was restricted to adults.
The three-year statute of limitations does not hinder prosecution in this case, Mr. Freeman said, because the clock stopped when Mr. Kelly, who has lived in the Chicago and Atlanta areas, left Minnesota, and there was no indication that he had spent three years in the state since then.
The county attorney’s office became aware of the allegations in January when the woman contacted a tip line that had been set up by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in Chicago following the airing of “Surviving R. Kelly,” a Lifetime documentary series about the singer’s treatment of women. In bringing the charges, investigators interviewed the girl and her brother, who Mr. Freeman said had become suspicious when he saw that his sister had a front-row view of Mr. Kelly’s concert. Mr. Freeman said both were embarrassed about the incident at the time and were not willing to come forward until the outpouring of allegations against Mr. Kelly this year.
Through years of allegations, rumors, and even a previous trial on charges of child pornography — he was acquitted on all counts in 2008 when the girl and her parents refused to testify — Mr. Kelly, whose full name is Robert S. Kelly, seemed largely impervious to prosecution. But since January, when “Surviving R. Kelly” aired, the accusations appear to have caught up to him.
In February, he was charged in Cook County with sexual abuse of four women, three of whom were underage at the time. Then last month, he was indicted on federal charges in Brooklyn and Chicago, on counts including producing child pornography and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Crucially, the girl at the center of his 2008 trial, who refused to testify then, is now cooperating with federal investigators.
“Some might say, ‘Aren’t you piling on?’” Mr. Freeman said at the news conference.
“He’s got federal charges in New York, he’s got state charges in Cook County,” he said. “Well, frankly, Minnesota victims deserve their day in court.”
Mr. Kelly’s lawyer, Steve Greenberg, dismissed the new charges on Monday. “Re: New charges @RKelly give me a break,” he wrote on Twitter. “This is beyond absurd.” Last week, another lawyer for Mr. Kelly characterized the accusations as “groupie remorse.”
Mr. Freeman, the county attorney, said that after the two met in the hotel room, the girl called the phone number R. Kelly gave to her again and spoke with him briefly. Eventually the phone number was changed. That was the extent of their contact, Mr. Freeman said.
The People v. R. Kelly
The R&B singer now faces state or federal charges in three states.
Elizabeth Harris is a culture reporter. A Times reporter since 2009, she has covered education, retail companies for the business section, real estate and New York politics. @Liz_A_Harris