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R. Kelly Taken Back Into Custody, Two Women Deny Being 'Brainwashed'

R. Kelly gave a tense interview to <em>CBS This Morning</em>, at one point standing and shouting tearful denials at the cameras and at anchor Gayle King.
R. Kelly gave a tense interview to CBS This Morning, at one point standing and shouting tearful denials at the cameras and at anchor Gayle King.

Updated March 7 at 11:21 a.m. ET

R&B star R. Kelly was taken into custody on Wednesday for failure to pay more than $160,000 in child support to his ex-wife and their three children.

Kelly was detained by the Cook County sheriff in Illinois and transported to the county jail on Wednesday evening, sheriff's department spokesperson Sophia Ansari told NPR.

The 52-year-old singer will remain in custody, Ansari added, until he pays what he owes — $161,633. His next court date in the matter is set for March 13.

On Wednesday, CBS This Morning broadcast the first parts of the first interview Kelly has given since he was charged on Feb. 22. The conversation, which Gayle King taped Tuesday at Kelly's apartment at the Trump Tower Chicago, began airing on Wednesday in three segments on CBS This Morning.

On Thursday morning, CBS This Morning aired the second parts of the interview. As was the case during the initial interview segments, Kelly appeared highly emotionally volatile.

In the interview portions which aired Thursday, Kelly screamed and wept when King asked about abuse allegations made by his ex-wife, Andrea Kelly, and the outstanding child support debts. He denied her accusations once again, shouting: "How can I pay child support — how — if my ex-wife is destroying my name and I can't work? ... What kind of woman would tear down a dad who's trying to have a relationship with their kids?" He admitted to King, however, that he has "zero" contact with their three children.

Kelly also claimed, "So many people have been stealing my money," but also told King that he had not stepped foot in a bank by himself to sort out his finances until about three to four weeks ago, and that he did not understand where his money or royalties have gone.

He also told King that it is a "lie" that he's paid out any settlements to women with allegations against him, although court documents show that he has paid out three such settlements to women who say they were minors when they had sex with the singer.

The segments which aired Thursday also included King's interviews with two women, 23-year-old Joycelyn Savage and 21-year-old Azriel Clary, who currently live with Kelly. They said that they are both happy living with the singer, and that they are both in love with him.

Also on Thursday, CBS 2 Chicago reported that police in Detroit are investigating claims from a woman who says that she had sex with Kelly when she was 13 years old, in 2001, that she had sex with him on visits to Atlanta over the following four years, and that she contracted herpes from him at age 17.

Kelly was charged in Cook County on Feb. 22 with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse against four alleged victims, three of them minors. As he has throughout his career, Kelly denied all the allegations against him during the CBS interview. By turns belligerent, tearful and relatively calm, he also asserted that the women who have accused him are chasing money and fame of their own. He was released from jail on Feb. 25 after posting $100,000 of bail.

The most striking element of the interview was Kelly's behavior. In narrated commentary, King said the singer became outwardly emotional several times. At one point, he stood towering over a calm King, shrieking, crying, pounding his fists and beating his chest on camera while a handler held him back.

It was an astonishing visual, especially given the decades-long list of public accusations from women who say Kelly abused them — and considering that the interview may well be used in court.

"Y'all trying to kill me!" he screamed. "You're killing me, man! This thing's not about music. I'm trying to have a relationship with my kids, and I can't do it. Y'all just don't want to believe the truth!"

Among Kelly's past accusers is his ex-wife, Andrea Kelly, who alleged physical abuse in a 2018 interview. Last month, multiple press outlets reported that according to court documents, Kelly owes more than $160,000 in unpaid child support from that relationship. In January, Kelly's estranged daughter, Buku Abi (whose birth name is Joann Kelly), posted a lengthy note on Instagram in which she called her father a "monster" and wrote: "My mother, siblings, and I would never condone, support or be apart [sic] of ANYTHING negative he has done and or continues to do in his life."

In the course of speaking with King, Kelly made a startling new accusation. King broached the subject of two women who are currently living with him, 23-year-old Joycelyn Savage and 21-year-old Azriel Clary; the women's parents have claimed that their daughters are being held in an R. Kelly "cult," an allegation first made public in a 2017 BuzzFeed investigation.

In the portion of the CBS interview aired Wednesday, Kelly asked, "What kind of father, what kind of mother, will sell their daughter to a man?" He alleged that the two women's parents had approached Kelly when their daughters were teenagers with hopes that Kelly would make their children into stars. He also intimated that the parents had received some kind of compensation from him.

Both women's parents responded to Kelly's comments on Wednesday morning. Through their lawyer, Michael Avenatti, the Clarys stated: "We never received a penny from R. Kelly. We have never asked R. Kelly for money. And we never 'sold' our daughter to him or anyone else. R. Kelly is a desperate liar and serial abuser of young girls who should die in prison."

The lawyer for the Savages, Gerald Griggs, wrote on Twitter: "At no point did the Savages sell #JoycelynSavage to @rkelly. No money was ever requested or given to the Savages."

In the interview portion aired Thursday, Clary and Savage both denied to King that Kelly has lured them in any way or that they have been brainwashed. They both said that they love Kelly, and are happy to be with him.

Both women asserted that their parents are lying in order to manipulate and extort Kelly. Azriel Clary made a stunning claim of her own, saying that her parents encouraged her to make sexual videos with Kelly when she was just 17, in order to blackmail the singer at some future point, and said that her parents had specifically asked for $30,000 from Kelly. Addressing her parents angrily, Clary said, "You're trying to solicit me like I'm some f****** ho. I'm not. I'm your child."

Savage concurred, saying: "Everything she's saying is true. Our parents are basically just out here trying to get money and scam."

Clary also claimed in the CBS interview that pressure from her parents regarding a singing career forced her into a suicide attempt. King noted that CBS has seen medical records from doctors, indicating that Clary said at the time that the attempt had been related to a difficult breakup with a boyfriend, and that she found solace in music.

King said in a narrative portion of Thursday's broadcast that despite an agreement that he would remove himself when she spoke to the women, Kelly stayed close by and coughed intentionally several times, as a way of signaling to the women that he was near and listening to the interview.

In a statement released through Avenatti on Thursday morning, the Clary family reiterated their position and denied Azriel Clary's and Kelly's claims, saying in part: "Azriel's parents never attempted to blackmail anyone and never suggested their daughter take nude photos or sexual videos. .... These are absolute lies fabricated by R. Kelly and we have evidence to show that these claims are bogus."

CBS says that it will air a fuller version of the interviews in a primetime special scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on Friday.

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Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.
Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.