Singer R. Kelly pleads not guilty to sexual assault charges

Singer Robert Kelly, known as R. Kelly, appears in a booking photo provided by the Chicago Police Department in Chicago, Illinois, US, on Feb 23, 2019.
Singer Robert Kelly, known as R. Kelly, appears in a booking photo provided by the Chicago Police Department in Chicago, Illinois, US, on Feb 23, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

CHICAGO (REUTERS) - Grammy-winning R&B star R. Kelly appeared in a Chicago courtroom on Monday (Feb 25) to plead not guilty to charges that he sexually assaulted three teenage girls and a woman in alleged incidents dating back to 1998.

Kelly, who has faced years of sexual abuse allegations, turned himself in to authorities on Friday after he was charged, and was held on a US$1 million (S$1.3 million) bond at a bail hearing on Saturday.

The 52-year-old performer, whose real name is Robert Kelly, is charged under a 10-count indictment with sexually assaulting three teenagers, with each count carrying a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Kelly appeared before Cook County Judge Lawrence Flood dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, and spoke only to confirm his name. His lawyer, Steven Greenberg, entered a not guilty plea on Kelly's behalf.

Prosecutors say the victims include a teenager Kelly met when she sought an autograph during his previous trial on child pornography charges, another he met at her 16th-birthday party and his hairdresser, who was then 24. The singer was acquitted of the pornography charges.

A fourth charge is based on a videotape that purportedly shows Kelly and a 14-year-old girl engaged in sexual acts, according to prosecutors.

Michael Avenatti, a lawyer representing two accusers, told reporters after Monday's hearing that he had turned over a second videotape to prosecutors earlier in the day.

 
 
 

The video was about 55 minutes long, dated from around 2000 and also showed a 14-year-old girl, though he did not make clear whether it was the same girl as in the first video.

On Saturday, Kelly's lawyer told reporters his client had been devastated by the charges.

"We haven't seen any evidence, any reason to believe these allegations are credible," Greenberg said. "He's a rock star. He doesn't need to have non-consensual sex."

The charges against the performer came just weeks after the Lifetime television network aired a six-hour documentary series entitled Surviving R. Kelly in which multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct and abuse.

His next court appearance was set for March 22.