The clock is ticking for singer R. Kelly.
After the Lifetime documentary series Surviving R. Kelly presented the stories of multiple women who claim to have been victims of sexual abuse, authorities are scrutinizing Kelly and his activities over the last several years — even going back decades to his relationship with the late singer Aaliyah.
Prosecutors in Atlanta and Chicago are asking any potential witnesses or accusers to step forward to help them kick-start an investigation.
“Please come forward,” said Kimberly M. Foxx, the state’s attorney for Cook County, Ill., at a news conference Tuesday in Chicago. “There’s nothing that can be done to investigate these allegations without the co-operation of both victims and witnesses. We cannot seek justice without you.”
She said she was “sickened” by what she saw on Surviving R. Kelly.
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Kelly, a Chicago native who still owns a house in the area, has always denied any wrongdoing.
A Cook County jury acquitted Kelly of 14 counts of child pornography in 2008. Prosecutors had argued that a videotape showed him engaged in graphic sex acts with a girl as young as 13. Kelly and the alleged victim, in her 20s at the time of the trial, denied it was them in the video.
Steve Greenberg, a lawyer for Kelly, said abuse allegations made against the R&B star in the documentary are false. In a phone interview Tuesday evening, he dismissed the allegations, calling them “another round of stories” being used to “fill reality TV time.”
Greenberg further said it’s inappropriate for a state’s attorney to characterize allegations she’d seen on TV prior to charges or an investigation.
After the broadcast of Surviving R. Kelly on Lifetime, the district attorney’s office in Fulton County, Ga., started conducting interviews, said Gerald A. Griggs, a lawyer for a couple who claims the singer is currently holding their daughter hostage.
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A rep for the Fulton County office gave no comment and would not verify the accuracy of Griggs’ statement.
With more than 50 conducted interviews — including quotes from former collaborators and victims of Kelly’s alleged sex crimes — Surviving R. Kelly producer Dream Hampton aimed to expose the many allegations of predatory tendencies and sexual misconduct levelled against the 51-year-old singer.
The victims came forward about their experiences with Kelly in the 1990s and early 2000s, detailing his alleged acts of physical, mental and sexual abuse.
“Some very brave women have trusted us with their stories, their truth and their trauma,” said Hampton to Billboard upon announcing the production of the show. “They are survivors, and I’m honoured to share their stories with the world.”
Kelly has faced numerous sexual assault allegations since 1994, when he reportedly married Aaliyah — something that Kelly denied even after having the marriage annulled. Aaliyah was only 15 years old at the time. He was 27.
The two were introduced by her uncle and manager, Barry Hankerson, when she was 12 years old. Kelly then produced her first album, ironically named Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number (1994). It helped launch her music career.
After reportedly threatening to file a lawsuit against Lifetime, Kelly tried to craft a Facebook page discrediting the documentary accusers, but it was taken down almost immediately by the social media site. He has not filed any lawsuit.
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As of this writing, Kelly has not been charged or convicted of any of the recent allegations of sexual misconduct.
—With files from the Associated Press and Adam Wallis