Reporting R. Kelly: ABC7 looks back on decades of sex abuse allegations against Chicago superstar

ByVal Warner WLS logo
Thursday, June 30, 2022
Reporting R. Kelly
"Reporting R. Kelly" takes a look back at ABC7's reporting on the sex abuse allegations against R. Kelly from the mid-1990s to the present day.

CHICAGO -- Born Robert Sylvester Kelly in 1967, Chicago R&B singer and songwriter R. Kelly rose to fame in the 1990s. At the peak of his career, Kelly was worth at least $100 million. To date, he has sold more than 75 million records.

Best known for his song "I Believe I Can Fly," the embattled singer's career has been checkered with allegations of sexual abuse involving minors. Seemingly untouchable for decades by law enforcement, he's remained behind bars since an arrest in July 2019.

Kelly was convicted in a U.S. District Court in Brooklyn on racketeering conspiracy charges alleging he used his music career to further a criminal enterprise. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison for that conviction on June 29.

His attorney Jennifer Bonjean, who also represented Bill Cosby, has tried to delay both the sentencing hearing and the start date of Kelly's separate Chicago trial. His Chicago trial is now set to begin on August 1.

In Chicago, Kelly is charged with running a years-long scheme to buy back sex tapes he allegedly made with underage girls. The five alleged victims were all underage when prosecutors said they had sex with Kelly in the late 1990s. Prosecutors also charged Kelly and two associates, including manager Derrel McDavid, with a decades-long conspiracy to silence victims and witnesses.

Here is a timeline of Kelly's embattled career:

  • Aug. 31, 1994:
  • At age 27, R. Kelly marries his 15-year-old protégé, Aaliyah Haughton. Kelly is the lead songwriter and producer on her debut album "Age Ain't Nothing But a Number." The couple weds in a secret ceremony arranged by Kelly at a hotel in Chicago. The marriage is annulled months later because of Aaliyah's age.

  • Feb. 18, 1997:
  • Legal troubles begin. Tiffany Hawkins files suit against Kelly as well as his record, publishing and management companies, claiming personal injuries and emotional damage arising from an alleged sexual relationship with Kelly, which she says began when she was 15 and ended when she was 18. That case is reportedly settled out of court.

  • Feb. 8, 2002:
  • The Chicago Sun-Times reported that it received a videotape allegedly showing Kelly having sex with a minor. The paper reported Chicago police began investigating allegations about Kelly and the same girl three years earlier. At the time, the girl and her parents denies she was having sex with Kelly.

  • June 5, 2002:
  • Kelly is indicted on 21 charges related to child pornography resulting from the second anonymously sent videotape of him appearing to have sex with a young girl. The singer is arrested at his Florida vacation home. Kelly maintains his innocence and is released on bail.

  • May 9, 2008:
  • Kelly's child pornography trial begins.

  • June 13, 2008:
  • Kelly is acquitted on all counts after less than a full day of deliberations.

  • Jan 8, 2009:
  • Kelly and his former wife, Andrea, finalize their divorce after 11 years of marriage.

    'Surviving R. Kelly:' Singer's ex-wife Andrea Kelly shares story of abuse ahead of documentary

  • July 17, 2017:
  • BuzzFeed publishes an explosive article outlining allegations that Kelly is holding a group of adult women against their will as part of what some of their parents say is a "cult." A group of people cited in the article allege their daughters, ages 18 to 31, are a part of an entourage of at least six women attached to Kelly.

    Timothy and Joycelyn Savage tell CNN they believe their adult daughter, Joycelyn, is having a sexual relationship with Kelly and she is being manipulated by him into cutting off contact with the outside world. Joycelyn Savage denies those claims and asks her parents, via a video shared with TMZ, to stop speaking out about her relationship with Kelly. Oronike Odeleye starts a petition to get Kelly's music off the airwaves in Atlanta, which catches the eye of activist Kenyette Barnes and the hashtag #MuteRKelly is born.

    RELATED: Parents of alleged R. Kelly 'victim' speak out

  • April 30, 2018:
  • The Time's Up campaign, devoted to helping women in the aftermath of sexual abuse, joins the #MuteRKelly social media campaign and pushes for further investigation into Kelly's behavior, which had come under closer scrutiny over the previous year as women came forward accusing him of sexual coercion and physical abuse. Kelly's camp responds: "We will vigorously resist this attempted public lynching of a Black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture.

  • Feb. 14, 2019:
  • Attorney Michael Avenatti says he gave Chicago prosecutors new video evidence of Kelly having sex with an underage girl, and that it is not the same evidence used in Kelly's 2008 trial.

  • Feb. 22, 2019:
  • Kelly is arrested and charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse.

    RELATED: R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sex abuse, in police custody

  • Feb. 25, 2019:
  • Kelly's attorney enters not guilty pleas on the singer's behalf. Hours later, Kelly posts $100,0000 bail and is released from jail in Chicago.

  • May 30, 2019:
  • Kelly is charged with 11 new sex-related counts in Chicago. They involve one of the women who accused him of sexually abusing her when she was underage.

    RELATED: R. Kelly facing 11 new counts of sex charges in Chicago, according to court docs

  • July 11, 2019:
  • The US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois releases a 13-count indictment that includes child pornography and obstruction of justice charges. Kelly is also charged in a separate indictment filed in the Eastern District of New York for racketeering, kidnapping, forced labor and the sexual exploitation of a child. He is again arrested in Chicago.

  • July 16, 2019:
  • A federal judge orders Kelly held in jail without bond after a prosecutor warned he would pose an extreme danger to young girls if set free.

  • Oct. 2, 2019:
  • A toenail infection caused Kelly to miss a federal court hearing. Greenberg said his client was in a walking boot after having his toenail removed and didn't want anyone to step on his foot.

  • Dec. 5, 2019:
  • Kelly is charged by federal prosecutors with paying a bribe in exchange for a "fraudulent identification document" for an unidentified female a day before he married R&B singer Aaliyah. He later pleads not guilty. Aaliya died in 2001 at the age of 22 in a plane crash.

  • March 5, 2020:
  • Kelly pleads not guilty in Chicago to an updated federal indictment that included child pornography charges and allegations involving a new accuser, while prosecutors say more charges alleging yet another victim were upcoming.

  • Aug. 18, 2021:
  • Opening statements begin in Kelly's long-anticipated federal trial in New York arising from years of allegations that he sexually abused women and girls while pursuing fame and fortune.

    RELATED: R. Kelly sex abuse trial begins in NYC

  • Sept. 27, 2021:
  • R. Kelly is found guilty on all counts in his New York sex trafficking trial.

  • June 29, 2022:
  • R. Kelly sentenced to 30 years in prison on New York sex trafficking conviction.