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R. Kelly Faces Federal Charges


Singer-songwriter R. Kelly is in federal custody following his arrest last night in Chicago. The arrest came as Kelly was out on bond on multiple counts of sexual assault and abuse in Cook County, Ill. He now faces new counts in an indictment just unsealed in the last hour. The charges include child pornography and transporting women across state lines for sex. They are among the first federal charges against R. Kelly in a string of sexual abuse and misconduct accusations that have followed the musician for years now.

NPR's Bobby Allyn is reporting on the case and joins us in studio. Bobby, what else can you tell us about these new charges?

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Yeah. So these are the first federal charges, as you mentioned, that Kelly has ever faced. And there are two federal cases here. So one is in Brooklyn and a second in Chicago - both were unsealed today.


ALLYN: And they alleged that over nearly two decades, R. Kelly committed just heinous acts against underaged women, according to prosecutors. Prosecutors say, you know, R. Kelly and his crew recruited and groomed minors, that he allegedly sexually abused them, he produced pornography with them and held them against their will.

And there was this bombshell allegation in one of the indictments, which was, you know, that Kelly, he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to recover sex tapes and tried to pressure witnesses to change their stories ahead of a trial 10 years ago - a decade ago - on pornography charges. And that trial he was acquitted of back then.

MARTIN: So this morning, we heard from R. Kelly's publicist, who spoke from Atlanta, where Kelly has a home. And I understand things got contentious. What happened?

ALLYN: Yeah, they did. So this guy, Timothy Savage, whose daughter, Joycelyn, is one of R. Kelly's two live-in girlfriends, kind of hijacked the publicist's press conference. And, you know, this guy has long maintained that his daughter has been basically brainwashed by Kelly.


DARRELL JOHNSON: Yesterday evening, Mr. Kelly was walking his dogs outside of Trump Towers. And he was arrested - nothing new, the same charges a decade ago the...

TIMOTHY SAVAGE: I don't want to hear all that, bro.

JOHNSON: The same...

SAVAGE: Where's my daughter at?

JOHNSON: The same charges he had before...

SAVAGE: R. Kelly is in there right now in jail. I want to know where my daughter at. Where is she at? Answer that question...

JOHNSON: Mr. Kelly was arrested yesterday...

SAVAGE: Answer that question.

JOHNSON: ...Walking his dogs yesterday...



ALLYN: Yeah. So everyone was tuned into this press conference expecting to hear R. Kelly's side of the story through his publicist. But instead, as you just heard, it was quite a spectacle.

MARTIN: Right.

ALLYN: And, you know, when the publicist did finally get a chance to speak, he said what he has been saying and Kelly has been saying for some time now, that Kelly is innocent and that these new federal charges are nothing new.

MARTIN: So how do the federal charges differ from the state ones?

ALLYN: That's really unclear right now because the victims in the two new federal cases have never been identified. They're named - you know, Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2, et cetera - in the same way that they're named in the state case in Cook County, Ill. We don't know their names. And so in the federal case, it doesn't really get into too much detail. It's kind of - it has a lot of legalese. It's kind of dry. It just says, here's an act that was violated, these are the dates that it happened. And it doesn't really get too, too graphic.

Now, the federal charges covered trafficking and sex videos while the state charges really focused on sexual abuse. But in all the cases, minors were involved and minors were really abused, according to prosecutors here.

MARTIN: NPR's Bobby Allyn. Thanks so much.

ALLYN: Hey, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.
Rachel Martin
Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.