R. Kelly, or Robert Sylvester Kelly, is a famous R&B artist with a long history of legal troubles and sexual assault allegations. While known as the “King of Pop-Soul,” Kelly’s long reign might come to an end in prison. The first known legal trouble of Kelly’s was in 1994, when as a 27-year-old adult, he married a 14-year-old girl illegally. Aaliyah, his then spouse, supposedly lied on their wedding certificates claiming to be 18 years old. When confronted, both Aaliyah and Kelly denied this. A year later, their marriage was annulled. 

Just two years after marrying a minor, Kelly was at a club in Louisiana in 1996, and what was intended to be a night out turned into a violent brawl. According to Christopher Mahoney, a football player turned actor, Kelly deliberately assaulted Mahoney which led to the star needing 110 facial stitches. However, sources later found out that Kelly was not wholly responsible. Yet, as he still had a part in this, Kelly was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation. 

Another two years later in 1998, Kelly’s ex-girlfriend, Tiffany Hawkins, charged Kelly for emotional distress and personal injuries. The pair had a three year (illegal) relationship with intimate beginnings in 1991, when Hawkins was 15 and Kelly was 24, before their breakup when Hawkins turned 18. Hawkins sued Kelly for $10 million due in damages, but she only received $250,000 when the lawsuit ended in 1998.

In 2001, Kelly’s intern, Tracy Sampson, sued him for leading her into an unwanted sexual relationship. Sampson said, “He often tried to control every aspect of my life including who I would see and where I would go.” In 2002, two more women sued Kelly for sexual crimes. The former sued him for impregnating her as a minor, and the latter sued him for recording intimate acts between the two without her consent or knowledge. Apparently Kelly paid both women, Patrice Jones and Montina Woods, a sum of money, but the amount has not been disclosed. Ultimately, there was no evidence that the girl in the video was underage, and therefore Kelly faced no repercussions. From 2002 to 2004, Kelly moved from videos to photos, and started to create child sexual abuse images. He was then arrested, but charges were soon pushed aside when a judge claimed that there was a lack of evidence to warrant an investigation. Personally, this continues to remind me that people with privilege can get away with illegal activities. This could mean politicians, or in this case, a famous artist. Due to his wealth and fame, these allegations were able to be ignored. I can’t help but think if this would be the same for someone without Kelly’s wealth and fame.

More recently, in 2017, Kelly faced allegations of a creating a sexual cult in which he seduced and kidnapped young women to perform sexual acts on tape. Kelly took away the women’s phones, and made sure that they had no autonomy in daily life. He controlled every aspect of their lives, from what they would eat, to when they would sleep, and what they were allowed to do with their bodies. From 2017 to 2018, more women came forward with their stories of Kelly forcing them to perform unwanted acts, or starving the women, or physically abusing them. In 2019, Lifetime created a documentary aimed at explaining Kelly’s complicated past with his many allegations, and his record company almost immediately dropped him after the episodes aired. Kelly was supposed to perform live, but his coming concerts were cancelled. In July of 2019, more allegations came through regarding Kelly’s illegal sex trafficing scheme, as well as obstruction of justice through demolishing evidence and using bribes and threats for witnesses. 

In early 2020, Kelly’s trial was delayed by six months, during which more than 100 devices containing evidence of sexual violence were found. More allegations continued to stream forward, with girls claiming to have been assaulted by Kelly at the young ages of 14 and 15. Kelly eventually went to jail in Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center. There, Kelly was supposedly attacked by another inmate, and Kelly’s lawyer claimed that he was not safe and therefore demanded his release. However, this request was denied. In June, all of Kelly’s lawyers stepped down from the case. Recently, Kelly was found guilty on all accounts. 

Although Kelly has been engaging in criminal acts for decades, he only recently started to face punishments, which continues to demonstrate the severity of illegal activities people with privilege can get away with in our country. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much that can be done about this specific situation, but it is always important to hold those accountable for their actions. Kelly will take part in a second federal trial and will await his sentence on May 4th, 2022. He faces up to a lifetime in prison for charges including bribery, sexual exploitation of children, racketeering, forced labor, and kidnapping.