- R. Kelly was once one of the biggest pop stars in the world, with a streak of Billboard chart-topping albums.
- Now he’s charged with sexually abusing four women and could go to prison for the rest of his life.
- One of those women, Jerhonda Pace, was a teenager when he met Kelly during his 2008 child pornography trial.
- Here’s the full, sordid story of Kelly’s dramatic fall.
Two weeks before she turned 15 years old, Jerhonda Pace had the chance to meet one of her idols.
It was just before the summer of 2008, and R. Kelly would be making a public appearance near her home in Chicago. The R&B singer behind megahits like “Ignition (Remix)” and “I Believe I Can Fly,” Kelly was one of the biggest musicians in the world. His past 10 albums had all landed on the No. 1 or No. 2 spot of the Billboard music chart.
In fact, Kelly would be there nearly every day for more than a month: He was on trial on 14 counts of making child pornography. According to prosecutors, Kelly had sex with a different 14-year-old girl, his goddaughter, and made a video of the whole thing.
In 2002, the video was left anonymously in the mailbox of Jim DeRogatis, a reporter who covered R. Kelly’s alleged misdeeds for years at the Chicago Sun-Times. DeRogatis turned it over to police.
The prosecutors’ story matched a pattern of allegations that have dogged Kelly throughout his career. In 1994, he married the R&B prodigy Aaliyah when she was 15 and he was 27 (the marriage was later annulled). And throughout the late 1990s and 2000s, five women sued him for sexual misconduct crimes, all of which were settled out of court. After he posted bond for the court case, in 2002, Kelly attended a kindergarten graduation ceremony and went up on stage to sing his hit song “The World’s Greatest” with the kids.
Pace (then named Jerhonda Johnson) didn’t think Kelly was guilty. His defence team had compared one of the witnesses who testified against him to Satan. The charges were just more of the many false accusations of bad behaviour and sexual impropriety he faced at the time, she believed.
She cut class every day to see her hero in court, lying about her age to sheriffs standing guard outside the court because they didn’t allow people under 18 to enter the courtroom.
Kelly noticed Pace watching him in the courtroom one day. He thanked her for being a fan.
“One day he stopped and said, ‘Thank you for your support,’ and said when it was over he would give me something,” Pace told People. “He ended up giving me his autograph and later sent me a friend request on MySpace.”
Pace attended the trial until the very end. She even watched the videotape in question, which was shown in the courtroom several times on a 4-by-4 foot monitor. It showed Kelly urinating in the girl’s mouth and demanding she call him “daddy.”
The jury eventually acquitted Kelly of all charges, finding that while he was in the video prosecutors presented, they couldn’t be sure the female was his underage goddaughter. Pace agreed with their conclusion.
Flanked by bodyguards, Kelly saluted the crowd and put his hand over his heart as he left the courtroom. His next five albums also all landed on the No. 1 or No. 2 spot of Billboard’s Hip Hop and R&B chart.
“They can’t call him a pedophile anymore,” Pace told MTV at the time. “They can’t say he likes little girls. They don’t have proof of that. Because he’s innocent now. He’s free.”
Kelly started a domineering sexual relationship with the teenage fan he met at his trial, she later said
In May 2009, when Pace was 16, Kelly invited her to a party he hosted at his mansion in Olympia Fields, a Chicago suburb. He told her to tell everyone she was 19, she told BuzzFeed News years later, and gave her his number. On other occasions, the two hung out alone. Things quickly became sexual between them, and the two had sex repeatedly over the next seven months, she said.
Kelly used his power to his advantage, Pace said.
Here he was: One of the most famous musicians in the world, jetting around the country to perform in America’s biggest stadiums and owning a lavish mansion outside her home city. His music was played every day on WGCI, Chicago’s R&B station.
Pace hadn’t even graduated high school. She started spending weekends at his place.
“I had to call him ‘daddy,’ and he would call me ‘baby,'” Pace said. “He wanted me to have two pigtails, and I had to go out and find little schoolgirl outfits.”
Pace told BuzzFeed News that Kelly punished her if she broke Kelly’s “rules,” which dictated how she dressed, her phone use, and when she could shower, eat, use the bathroom, and leave his property. He slapped her, spit in her face, choked her until she fainted, and coached her on what to say to her mother,she told People. Pace’s claims passed a polygraph test she took later.
Kelly forced Pace to have sex with him and other women, Pace said. One of the women,Pace told BuzzFeed News, was the same girl Kelly had sex with in the video at the center of his child pornography case. They repeatedly had threesomes, Pace said, and she recognised the other woman because she repeatedly watched the video in court.
Pace didn’t stay in Kelly’s good graces for long. By January 2010, the two fought when Kelly found her texting a friend, she said. She left his house for good.
Prosecutors recently charged Kelly with sexually abusing four women – including Pace
In 2017 – following a report that Kelly kept women in a “sex cult” against their wills – Johnson broke a nondisclosure agreement she signed with Kelly in 2010. She spoke to DeRogatis, who by then was investigating the allegations about Kelly for BuzzFeed News and the New Yorker. And she appeared on the Lifetime docuseries about him, “Surviving R. Kelly.”
In the wake of DeRogatis’s reporting, “Surviving R. Kelly,” and the voices of around a dozen women who publicly accused Kelly of sexual abuse, authorities renewed their investigations into Kelly’s sexual misconduct.
Prosecutors in Cook County formed four separate grand juries, one for each alleged victim they thought they could make a case for. On February 22, they filed the 10 charges against him, all for aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
Each of the charges carry a sentence of up to seven years in prison. If Kelly is convicted on all counts, he could be there for the rest of his life.
One of the indictments identifies a victim by her initials, “J.P.” It says that she was the victim of three of the ten criminal counts, which all happened between May 2009 and January 2010. The victim met R. Kelly getting his autograph after court one day during her trial, according to prosecutors. She saved one of the shirts she wore when he ejaculated on her and gave it to the Olympia Fields Police Department for DNA evidence.
DeRogatis later confirmed that “J.P.” is Pace. The three other alleged victims haven’t been publicly identified.
‘A desperate liar and serial abuser of young girls who should die in prison’
The four grand jury cases could spell the beginning of an end for Kelly – one that’s been coming for a long time.
Already, he is no longer the chart-topping hitmaker he once was. Kelly is 52 years old. And if he is convicted on all counts, he could go to prison for the rest of his life.
And Kelly’s explosive interview with Gayle King on “CBS This Morning,” which aired on Friday, did little to endear him to the public. At one point, he sobbed, stood up and stormed around the room, ranting and raving about the accusations.
“I didn’t do this stuff! This is not me! I’m fighting for my life. You’re killing me with this s—!” he shouted. “I gave you 30 years of my f—ing career, 30 years of my career,” he said. “You’re trying to kill me. You’re killing me now. This is not about music – I’m trying to have a relationship with my kids. And I can’t do it.”
Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is currently living with 21-year-old Azriel Clary and 23-year-old Joycelyn Savage, whose parents say they have been brainwashed to stay in Kelly’s “sex cult.” Kelly denied having sex with Clary when she was 17, as her parents have alleged, and told King that he’s like other guys who date “five or six women” at a time.
Kelly also accused the women’s parents of selling them to him, claiming they allowed their children to date him in exchange for money and music career guidance.
“What kind of father, what kind of mother, would sell their daughter to a man?” Kelly asked King. “How come it was OK for me to see them until they were getting no money from me?”
Both sets of parents denied asking for or receiving any money from Kelly.
“We have 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,” Clary’s parents said in a statement. “R. Kelly is a desperate liar and serial abuser of young girls who should die in prison. All of the victims and parents cannot be lying.”
The renewed scrutiny of R. Kelly is part of a cultural shift with the #MeToo movement
Even before the recent indictments against Kelly, his empire had already begun to crumble.
After his 2008 child pornography trial, Kelly was still an enormously successful artist – but slightly less so. His albums started peaking at No. 4, 5, and 6 on the Billboard chart instead of No. 1. Critics greeted his 2015 album, “The Buffet,” with a shrug. His 2016 Christmas album was delayed for two years and then flopped.
DeRogatis’s stories about Kelly in the summer of 2017 also put a dent in Kelly’s career. Later that year, his career spiraled down further following the sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein, where more than 80 women publicly accused the Hollywood producer of sexual misconduct. The allegations shifted the way people think about sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry. It spawned the #MeToo movement, which led to the downfall of Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, Les Moonves, Matt Lauer, and Charlie Rose – and consequences for dozens of others. (Weinstein denies all allegations of sexual misconduct.)
Kelly didn’t escape the renewed scrutiny. Three more accusers have come forward since DeRogatis’s first BuzzFeed News exposé, including Pace. Kelly released the 19-minute song “I Admit” in June 2018, where he lashed out at DeRogatis and venues that canceled his concert dates. In the song, Kelly said he liked younger girls, but denied that it amounted to pedophilia. He also denied kidnapping, starving, or brainwashing anyone. To this day, Kelly denies all allegations of illegal sexual misconduct.
It got worse. In October 2018, Andrea Kelly, who was married to the singer for 13 years, between 1996 and 2009, told ABC’s “The View” that he physically abused her.
On one occasion, according to her recollection, he beat her in the back of his Hummer. The alleged attack made her think she would die and that he would “drive off with my body in the back seat,” she said. On another occasion, he pinned her down to a bed after an argument and hog-tied her, she said.
“He took both of my arms behind me, tied them, and then attached my legs to my arms,” Andrea Kelly said. “He hog-tied me and left me to the side of the bed. He actually fell asleep, and that’s the only way I got away.”
Andrea Kelly said she contemplated suicide, but couldn’t bear to leave her three children with her husband. Instead, she sought a divorce and restraining order. (Kelly denies the abuse allegations.)
Kelly has fallen far from his superstar heights
The trial Kelly faced in 2008 may still haunt him. One of the new Cook County indictments identifies the victim by the initials “R.L.” She was 14 years old at the time.
“R.L.,” according to DeRogatis’s reporting in the New Yorker, is the same woman allegedly in the tape at the center of the pedophilia case Kelly was tried for more than a decade ago.
Kelly has fallen in other ways, too. A judge ordered him to surrender his passport and avoid contact with anyone under the age of 18. And he was arrested again Wednesday for allegedly failing to pay Andrea Kelly $US161,000 in child support payments. Kelly told King he has just $US350,000 left in the bank.
In all, nine people have publicly accused Kelly of criminal sexual and physical conduct. Additionally, three of the four new indictments refer to individuals whose identities are still private, and DeRogatis’s reporting refers to other women whose identities may not be publicly known.
This is where R. Kelly is now.
He was one the man who created sexy hits that rocked Billboard charts, concert stadiums, and club dance floors. He is now seen as a gross middle-aged man living with two women less than half his age.
His kids are estranged from him, and he says he can’t pay child support.
He could soon go to trial on charges of criminal sexual abuse against four separate women.
One of the women may be the same person he went to trial over in 2008, having allegedly made a sex tape with her when she was 14.
Another woman is a former starry-eyed teenager he met in that courtroom’s audience, where he stopped to give her his autograph.
- Read more:
- R. Kelly was charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse after decades of accusations. Here are all the allegations against him.
- R. Kelly breaks down in explosive interview denying sexual abuse allegations: ‘You’re killing me with this s—!’
- In part 2 of R. Kelly’s explosive CBS interview, the singer calls his ex-wife’s abuse allegations a lie, and claims that much of his money has been stolen
- R. Kelly blames the parents of 2 young women he lives with for giving their daughters up to him in exchange for money
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