R. Kelly’s Alleged Sexual Misconduct: A Complete Timeline
This morning, BuzzFeed published a story about two young women whose parents believe they are being abused and manipulated in a cultlike relationship with R. Kelly. The shocking story alleges that the R&B legend recruited women as young as 18, banned them from communicating with their family and friends, controlled what they wore and ate, and recorded sexual encounters with them. The parents of the two women featured in the story believe their daughters are being held against their will, and have attempted unsuccessfully to have law enforcement intervene.
Though he has never been convicted of sexual misconduct, stories about Kelly’s relationships with young women have been circulating for years, many of them based on the dogged reporting of Jim DeRogatis, who also penned the recent BuzzFeed story. What follows is a brief timeline of those stories.
1994: Kelly marries then 15-year-old Aaliyah.
The late R&B singer recorded her first album, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, in 1994, at 14 years old, with Kelly, then in his late ’20s, as her primary songwriter. Following rumors of a romantic relationship, Vibe published a marriage certificate between the two filed in 1995, in Rosemont, Illinois, on which Aaliyah’s age had been falsified as 18. Neither artist publicly admitted to the marriage before Aaliyah’s death in a plane crash seven years later.
According to documents obtained by DeRogatis for a 2000 Chicago Sun-Times story, Aaliyah and her family obtained an annulment of the marriage from a Michigan judge shortly after. The family also successfully argued to expunge all records of the marriage in 1997, because Aaliyah was too young to be married without her parents’ permission under Illinois law at the time. According to DeRogatis, Aaliyah “quickly ended her personal and professional relationships” with Kelly after the marriage. Her second album, 1996’s One in A Million, was produced by Timbaland, with no contributions from Kelly.
“I’ve always said, out of respect for her mother who’s sick and her father who’s passed, I will never have that conversation with anyone,” Kelly said when a GQ reporter pressed him about the marriage last year.
1996: Tiffany Hawkins sues Kelly, claiming they had sex when she was 15 years old.
Derogatis’s first big Kelly story, the aforementioned Sun-Times piece from 2000, focused on a Chicago woman named Tiffany Hawkins. In a 1996 lawsuit that went mostly unreported at the time, Hawkins claimed to have had a four-year sexual relationship with Kelly that began in 1991, when she was 15, to 1994, when she was 18. According to the story, Kelly met Hawkins and at least one other teenaged girl with whom he allegedly had sex while he was visiting a choir class at Kenwood Academy in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, where he’d attended school years before. DeRogatis later said that Hawkins slit her wrists in a suicide attempt after the relationship ended.
Hawkins’ lawsuit alleged that Kelly encouraged her to participate in group sex with other underage girls, and sought $10 million in damages. The other alleged victim, who goes unnamed in DeRogatis’s story, said that she and Hawkins sang backing vocals on Kelly-produced songs, including some by Aaliyah. She said that Kelly urged her to drop out out school to be with him, and like the women in the more recent story, she believed that having sex with Kelly would help advance her own musical career. She added that Kelly did not physically force himself on her or other young women, and called his apparent predilection for underage girls a “sickness.”
According to DeRogatis’s sources, Hawkins and Kelly settled the suit out of court for $250,000.
January 2001: DeRogatis receives a sex tape showing R. Kelly with an underage girl from an anonymous source.
Shortly after publishing the story about Hawkins’s lawsuit, DeRogatis received a videotape from an anonymous source, which purported to show Kelly having sex with an underage woman. The editors of the Sun-Times elected to provide the tape to the Chicago Police Department, which investigated its contents but was unable to verify the age or identity of the woman.
August 2001: Tracy Sampson sues Kelly, alleging underaged sex and emotional abuse.
A former intern at Epic Records named Tracy Sampson filed a lawsuit alleging that Kelly encouraged her “into an indecent sexual relationship” in 2000, when she was 17 years old. Her suit foreshadows the more recent allegations about Kelly’s emotional manipulation of women. “I was coerced into receiving oral sex from a girl I did not want to have sex with,” she claimed in the suit. “I was often treated as his personal sex object and cast aside. He would tell me to come to his studio and have sex with him, then tell me to go. He often tried to control every aspect of my life including who I would see and where I would go.” Kelly and Sampson settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, the New York Post reported the following year.
February 2002: Chicago police investigate Kelly over sex tape with apparent 14-year-old.
DeRogatis received yet another anonymously sourced tape which purported to show Kelly having sex with an underaged girl, which the Sun-Times again elected to provide to local police. DeRogatis described the contents of the tape in a 2013 interview with the Village Voice:
You watch the video for which he was indicted and there is the disembodied look of the rape victim. He orders her to call him Daddy. He urinates in her mouth and instructs her at great length on how to position herself to receive his “gift.” It’s a rape that you’re watching. So we’re not talking about rock star misbehavior, which men or women can do. We’re talking about predatory behavior. Their lives were ruined.
The girl, who was 17 at the time of the story, was identified by her aunt for a Sun-Times story about the video. The aunt believed the girl to be 14 at the time the tape was recorded. (The Sun-Times elected not to publish the girl’s name.) In the story, DeRogatis reported that Chicago police had been investigating Kelly’s relationship with the girl for three years before they received the video, but that both the girl and her parents had denied that she and Kelly had sex. “Now, with the video, authorities tell the Sun-Times they are more optimistic about building a case against Kelly,” he wrote.
John M. Touhy, Kelly’s lawyer, claimed that the video was a forgery.
April-May 2002: Patrice Jones and Montina Woods sue Kelly.
The accusations against Kelly began piling up in the spring of 2002, when two women filed new lawsuits against him alleging sexual misconduct. The first, Patrice Jones, claimed that Kelly pressured her into a sexual relationship in the late ’90s, when she was 16 years old. Her suit, filed in April, alleged that she had sex with Kelly “20 and 30 times” before turning 17, and that Kelly impregnated her and coerced her into having an abortion, MTV reported at the time. Like many of the other girls, Jones said that Kelly had promised to help her as a musician. “She’s under psychological care now,” Jones’ lawyer said. “She had another baby later, but she’s still never gotten over what she did. It’s changed her life.”
In May, a woman named Montina Woods also sued Kelly, alleging that he recorded them having sex without her knowledge, and that the recording was later included on an R. Kelly sex tape compilation that was sold by bootleggers under the title “R. Kelly Triple-X.”
Kelly settled with both women out of court, for undisclosed sums, and denied wrongdoing in each case.
June 2002: Kelly is arrested and indicted on child porn charges for second tape provided to DeRogatis.
Four months after DeRogatis reported on the Chicago Police Department’s investigation into the second sex tape, the singer was charged with 21 counts of manufacturing child pornography. He was arrested in Florida, where he was hit with 12 more child porn charges based on photos police allegedly found, which also showed him having sex with an apparently underage girl. (These Florida charges were eventually dropped after a judge ruled that the photos were obtained without probably cause for a search warrant. Seven of the Chicago charges were also eventually dropped.)
Kelly pled not guilty and posted bail for the Chicago charges several days later.
June 2008: Kelly is acquitted.
After years of delays, Kelly went to trial for the Chicago child porn charges in June 2008. A jury found him not guilty of all 14 remaining counts. Fourteen witnesses for the prosecution identified the woman on the tape as the same unidentified girl, and several also identified Kelly as the man. An expert said that the tape had not been forged or otherwise tampered with.
However, the alleged victim herself did not testify, which presented “a big handicap” to the prosecution’s case, according to jurors who spoke with New York Times reporters at the time. According to WBEZ, the jurors said that they believed Kelly was the man on the tape, but could not be certain about the identity of the woman.
DeRogatis addressed the acquittal in the 2013 Village Voice interview:
We do have a justice system and he was acquitted. OK, fine. And these other women took the civil lawsuit route. He was tried on very narrow grounds. He was tried on a 29-minute, 36-second videotape. He was tried on trading child pornography. He was not tried for rape. He was acquitted of making child pornography.
2013: Allegations against Kelly resurface publicly after he is booked to perform at that year’s Pitchfork Festival.
After five relatively quiet years, the Kelly’s allegations became a topic of conversation again after DeRogatis publicly condemned Pitchfork for booking him to perform at that year’s Pitchfork Festival. “The saddest fact I’ve learned is: Nobody matters less to our society than young black women,” he said in the subsequent Voice interview.
2016: Kelly goes public with relationship with 19-year-old.
Last year, fans on social media were aghast when Kelly was photographed at a party with then-19-year-old Halle Calhoun. While the pair’s apparent relationship was not in violation of any laws, for some it brought up distasteful memories of Kelly’s past. “Kelly has a history of preying on underage girls,” Tom Sykes wrote at the Daily Beast. “So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the 49-year-old is now reportedly dating a teenager.”
2017: BuzzFeed publishes Derogatis’s “cult” story.
DeRogatis’s new story gives the most vivid rendering we’ve seen yet of the emotional abuse and manipulation that sources say goes along with Kelly’s sexual conduct. For example, a former personal assistant to the singer told DeRogatis that Kelly only permits the women to wear jogging suits so that other men can’t see the outlines of their bodies. When other men are in the same room, she said, Kelly “would make the girls turn around and face the wall in their jogging suits because he doesn’t want them to be looked at by anyone else.”
Linda Mensch, Kelly’s attorney, denied the claims in a statement to BuzzFeed. “We can only wonder why folks would persist in defaming a great artist who loves his fans, works 24/7, and takes care of all of the people in his life,” she wrote in part.