CHICAGO (AFP) – R&B superstar R. Kelly was freed from jail Monday (Feb 25) after posting bail and pleading not guilty to 10 counts of aggravated criminal sex abuse against four victims, three of them minors.
The 52-year-old, who did not speak to reporters, was released from custody after spending three nights behind bars during which time his associates and family members worked to gather the US$100,000 (S$134,940) necessary to bail him out.
Hours earlier, Kelly stood in a Chicago courtroom wearing an orange jumpsuit as his lawyer entered a not-guilty plea. The musician had turned himself in three days earlier.
The star’s bail had been set at US$1 million, of which he was required to pay 10 per cent. His lawyer Steve Greenberg – who has called his client’s finances “a mess” – maintained the chart-topper’s innocence.
“Mr Kelly’s done absolutely nothing wrong,” he told reporters at the courthouse.
Michael Avenatti, the high-profile lawyer representing at least two of the alleged victims, said his team had turned over a second, 55-minute-long tape to prosecutors that depicts the artist “engaged in illegal sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl.”
“The conduct in the tape can be described as nothing short of outrageous and illegal,” the lawyer told reporters.
Mr Avenatti earlier this month gave Chicago prosecutors approximately 40 minutes of previously unreleased footage of Kelly allegedly having sex with a teenager.
He said his team was in the process of obtaining a third tape of a similar nature, and that additional witnesses had come forward over the weekend.
“This reign of abuse and assault by Mr Kelly is about to come to an abrupt and permanent end,” Mr Avenatti said.
Kelly, best known for hits such as “I Believe I Can Fly,” is next due in court on March 22.
Kelly surrendered to Chicago police Friday, after a documentary series refocused attention on decades of accusations against him, including possession of child pornography, sex with minors, operating a sex cult and sexual battery.
After a dramatic trial, Kelly was acquitted in 2008 of child pornography charges, also in Chicago. The new 10-count indictment included three people who were minors aged between 13 and 16 when the alleged abuse occurred.
Kim Foxx – the state’s attorney for Cook County, which includes Chicago – told journalists the alleged crimes occurred between 1998 and 2010. The charges carry three to seven years of prison time each.
Kelly’s lawyer has said the charges are based on old and false accusations, adding that “all of the women are lying.”
Lizzette Martinez – who detailed allegations against Kelly in the docu-series and is now a client of prominent women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred – lashed out against Mr Greenberg’s comments, calling them “irresponsible.”
“I’m a mother and I have a daughter,” said the 41-year-old, who claims Kelly abused her between 1995 and 1999. “I felt like I had to be transparent and vocal about what happened to me, to save others,” Ms Martinez said when asked by journalists in Los Angeles why she came forward. “I was hurt when I was young.”
Kelly is known for marrying his protege Aaliyah in 1994, when the late R&B star was 15. Kelly, then 27, had produced the teenage singer’s debut album titled “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.”
Their marriage was later annulled, and Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001.
Despite the slew of disturbing claims against him, the award-winning musician continued to perform for years and maintained a solid fan base.
Last month’s release of the “Surviving R. Kelly” series once again brought accusations against him to the fore. A #MuteRKelly movement – aimed at preventing his music from airing – has gained steam.
Lisa VanAllen, who spoke out against Kelly in the 2008 criminal trial and again in the recent documentary, wrote in The New York Times that she had feared no vindication would come for “a young, struggling, black girl victim like me.”
“It’s been a long time coming, but here we are,” she wrote. “More than 10 years after I nervously faced Rob in court, I know one thing: This will not end the way it did before. It cannot.”