The criminal sex allegations surrounding R&B megastar, singer and producer R. Kelly have reached Minnesota, where he is charged with soliciting a 17-year-old in 2001, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced Monday.
It’s the latest charge against Kelly, 52, whose legal name is Robert Sylvester Kelly. He was indicted last month in New York on 18 federal counts including kidnapping and sending child pornography across state lines, as well as obstruction of justice for making hush money payments to victims.
The case in Minnesota came to light when the alleged victim called a Chicago tip line in January and said that Kelly paid her $200 to dance naked in a Minneapolis hotel room, said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.
Attorney Gloria Allred is representing the Minnesota victim, who has not been publicly identified.
“I commend my client in Minneapolis for the courage she displayed in speaking to law enforcement,” Allred said in a written statement. “As this new case demonstrates, it is not too late for there to be justice for even more victims of R. Kelly.”
Allred, who is also representing three of the five victims in the federal case against Kelly, said the woman in the Minnesota case “would like her privacy” and would not be granting any interviews.
Reached by phone Monday, Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, blasted the new charges against his client and Freeman’s interpretation of a three-year statute of limitations on the charges brought against Kelly. Freeman’s office charged Kelly with two felony counts of prostitution with a person under 18.
“The underlying facts, even if you take them at face value, don’t cry out for prosecution,” Greenberg said. Freeman is “just in it, just like many of these women, for publicity. It’s just a total perversion of the entire system and a waste of time.”
According to the criminal complaint: In July 2001, the victim obtained an autograph from Kelly at a preconcert event at City Center in downtown Minneapolis. He had also included a phone number.
She called the number and was directed to a hotel in downtown Minneapolis where an apparent a member of Kelly’s staff led her to his suite.
“After some discussion she was offered $200 to take off her clothes and dance for him,” Freeman said.
Kelly helped her take off her clothes and took off his own and engaged in sexual touching, the criminal complaint said. Freeman said there was no intercourse.
The singer left after the dancing and the 17-year-old was given free VIP seating for the concert restricted to guests age 18 and older. The victim’s brother saw her at the show, and she later confided in him about the events of that night, according to the charges.
Freeman said “there was some talk” of the juvenile traveling to Chicago to see the singer, but when she tried to call Kelly, they had trouble connecting and the phone number was soon changed.
Minneapolis police investigated the tip, interviewing the woman and her brother, Freeman said.
The statute of limitations doesn’t apply to the 2001 incident, because the clock would have started ticking only if Kelly had moved to Minnesota and stayed for a three-year span, the prosecutor said.
Greenberg accused Freeman of stretching the law, saying it is typically intended for someone who commits a crime and then flees that jurisdiction so they don’t get caught for that crime. Freeman is “abusing the intent of the law,” he said.
Greenberg said he learned of the charges Monday, and had not spoken to his client about the case. Kelly is in federal custody in New York.
Minneapolis police have not interviewed Kelly about the allegations, he said.
Allred was holding a news conference of her own regarding the federal case against Kelly about the same time Freeman announced the charges against him. She broadly addressed defense attorneys’ characterization of Kelly’s accusers, and briefly touched on the Minnesota case.
“Many victims of Mr. Kelly’s were underage and as a matter of law cannot consent to sexual abuse by Mr. Kelly or anyone else,” Allred said. “To suggest that they did consent or have consented to be targeted by a predator and his enablers … is extremely upsetting to many victims who were vulnerable …”
Allred stressed that the Minnesota woman was not a prostitute, adding that she was told the charges were the only counts that could be brought against Kelly in Minnesota.
Kelly has pleaded not guilty in New York and denied all allegations surrounding him, from child pornography in 2002 to running a modern-day sex cult. He also faces state sexual assault charges in Chicago and multiple lawsuits from alleged victims.
Minnesota appears to be the fifth state in which Kelly is accused of sex crimes involving minors.
It’s unclear whether Kelly will make a court appearance in Minnesota. Regardless of whether Kelly ever appears in a Hennepin County courtroom, Freeman said, “By charging the case, we are at the table.”
Greenberg said his client would appear in Minnesota to “win this case” after beating the previous cases against him.
Kelly is one of the most successful R&B singers of all time and has sold 75 million albums worldwide. He racked up two dozen hit singles in the Billboard top 40 from 1993-2007, including “I Believe I Can Fly,” “Ignition” and “Bump N’ Grind.”
He also made a big mark as a writer and collaborator with other artists ranging from Michael Jackson to Jay-Z, Lady Gaga and Celine Dion.
Rumors around R. Kelly date at least as far back as 1994 when at 27, he supposedly married his 15-year-old protégée Aaliyah in a secret and illegal ceremony months after the release of her debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.”
Kelly has performed in the Twin Cities a handful of times since 2001, including a nightclub date at Epic in 2010 and a concert at the Orpheum Theatre in December 2016.
Staff Writer Chris Riemenschneider contributed to this report.