R Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse
The charges come after years of allegations directed at the singer.
R Kelly, the R&B star who has been dogged for decades by allegations that he sexually abused underage girls and women, has been charged with aggravated sexual abuse.
The charges involve four alleged victims, including at least three between the ages of 13 and 17.
In a brief appearance before reporters, Cook County state’s attorney Kim Foxx announced the 10 counts against the 52-year-old Grammy winner and said the alleged abuse dated back as far as 1998.
She did not comment on the charges or take questions.
The singer, who has consistently denied any sexual misconduct, was to appear in court Saturday.
R Kelly’s lawyer said the singer was “shell-shocked” and planed to turn himself in to authorities.
Steve Greenberg said his client was “extraordinarily disappointed and depressed” by the charges.
Greenberg said he had offered to sit down with prosecutors before charges were filed to discuss “why these charges are baseless.” But they refused, he said.
He said Kelly maintains his innocence and looks forward to being acquitted at trial.
His arrest sets the stage for another #MeToo-era celebrity trial.
Bill Cosby went to prison last year, and former Hollywood studio boss Harvey Weinstein is awaiting trial.
Kelly, best known for hits such as I Believe I Can Fly, was charged a week after Michael Avenatti, the attorney whose clients have included porn star Stormy Daniels, said he recently gave Chicago prosecutors new video evidence of the singer having sex with an underage girl.
It was not clear if the charges were connected to that video.
In 2008, a jury acquitted Kelly of child pornography charges over a graphic video that prosecutors said showed him having sex with a girl as young as 13.
Each of the ten counts carries up to seven years in prison.
If Kelly is convicted on all 10 counts, a judge could decide that the sentences run one after the other — making it possible for him to receive up to 70 years behind bars.
Probation is also an option under the statute.
Legally and professionally, the walls began closing in on Kelly after the release of a BBC documentary about him last year and the multipart Lifetime documentary Surviving R Kelly, which aired last month.
Together they detailed allegations that he was holding women against their will and running a “sex cult”.
After the latest documentary, Kim Foxx said she was “sickened” by the allegations and asked potential victims to come forward.
#MeToo activists and a social media movement using the hashtag #MuteRKelly called on streaming services to drop Kelly’s music and promoters not to book any more concerts.
Protesters demonstrated outside Kelly’s Chicago studio.
As recently as Thursday, two women said that Kelly picked them out of a crowd at a Baltimore party in the mid-1990s when they were underage and had sex with one of the teenagers when she was under the influence of marijuana and alcohol and could not consent.
The women, Latresa Scaff and Rochelle Washington, joined lawyer Gloria Allred at a New York City news conference to tell their story publicly for the first time.
Mr Greenberg said earlier this year that his client was the victim of a TV hit piece and that Kelly “never knowingly had sex with an underage woman, he never forced anyone to do anything, he never held anyone captive, he never abused anyone”.
Mr Avenatti said his office was retained last April by people regarding allegations of sexual assault of minors by Kelly.
He said the video surfaced during a 10-month investigation. He told the Associated Press that the person who provided the VHS tape knew both Kelly and the female in the video.
Despite accusations that span decades, the singer and songwriter who rose from poverty on Chicago’s South Side has retained a sizeable following.
He has written numerous hits for himself and other artists, including Celine Dion, Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga. His collaborators have included Jay-Z and Usher.