R Kelly timeline: Shining star to convicted sex trafficker
R Kelly’s musical accomplishments have been accompanied by a long history of allegations that he sexually abused women and children. Now the R&B singer has been sentenced to spend the next three decades behind bars.
A jury found Kelly guilty in September of sex trafficking charges. While Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, has vehemently denied the allegations, his accusers testified in detail that he subjected them to perverse and sadistic whims when they were underage.
Kelly still faces a trial in Chicago on charges of child pornography and obstruction of justice.
A timeline of Kelly’s life through his rise and fall as a hitmaking R&B artiste:
– 1990: R Kelly’s R&B group MGM wins the US$100,000 grand prize on the syndicated television talent show, Big Break, hosted by Natalie Cole. Because of money disagreements, that is the last time the group performed. Music executive Wayne Williams of Jive Records discovers Kelly singing at a barbecue that summer.
– January 1992: R Kelly & Public Announcement debuts Born Into The ‘90s. Released a year later, the album goes platinum.
– November 1993: His album 12 Play is released and eventually sells more than 5 million copies. Hit singles include Sex Me and Bump N’ Grind, which became the longest-running No. 1 R&B song in more than 30 years.
– August 31, 1994: At age 27, R. Kelly marries 15-year-old R&B singer Aaliyah D. Haughton. 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.
– September 1994: Aaliyah’s debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number, which Kelly produced, is certified platinum. (Aaliyah died in a plane crash seven years later, at age 22.)
– November 1996: R. Kelly releases his third album, R Kelly. A month later, he incorporates Rockland Records. His song I Believe I Can Fly, from the Space Jam soundtrack, peaks at No. 2 on the Billboard pop chart. The same year, he marries 22-year-old Andrea Lee, a dancer from his touring troupe. The couple goes on to have three children: Joanne, Jaya and Robert Jr.
– February 18, 1997: Tiffany Hawkins files a complaint against Kelly alleging intentional sexual battery and sexual harassment while she was a minor.
– January 1998: Hawkins’ lawsuit is reportedly settled for US$250,000.
– February 1998: Kelly wins three Grammys for I Believe I Can Fly.
– November 1998: His album R. hit stores. It has since sold 6 million copies.
– November 2000: His album TP-2.com debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart.
– August 2001: Tracy Sampson files a lawsuit against Kelly, alleging their sex was illegal under Illinois law because he was in “a position of authority” over her. The case was reportedly settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
– February 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.
The same day the news breaks, Kelly performs at the opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
– June 5, 2002: Kelly is indicted in Chicago on child pornography charges stemming from the sex tape. He pleads not guilty and is released on US$750,000 bail.
– January 2003: Kelly is arrested at a Florida hotel on additional child pornography charges after investigators said they found photos of him having sex with a girl. Charges are later dropped after the judge ruled police didn’t have a warrant to search Kelly’s house.
– February 18, 2003: Kelly’s album Chocolate Factory is released, selling 538,000 copies in its first week.
– July 2005: Kelly’s seventh solo album, TP.3 Reloaded, hits No. 1 spot on the Billboard chart.
– September 2005: Andrea Kelly asks for an order of protection from her husband, accusing the singer of hitting her when she said she wanted a divorce.
– February 2006: R Kelly’s brother, Carey Kelly, says his brother offered him US$50,000 and a record deal to say he was the person on the sex video.
– May 29, 2007: Kelly releases his album Double Up, which peaks at No. 1 on the Billboard albums chart.
– 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.
– January 8, 2009: Kelly and his former wife, Andrea, confirm they divorced after 11 years of marriage.
– July 12, 2011: Crain’s Chicago Business reports that a US$2.9 million foreclosure is filed by JPMorgan Chase bank against Kelly’s suburban Chicago mansion. A spokesman claims the singer is not having financial trouble.
– March 21, 2012: Kelly announced he is reviving his video series, Trapped in the Closet. The project begins as five videos for his dramatic cliffhanger songs in 2007, and eventually grows to several dozen musical chapters dealing with a web of sexual deceit. Kelly teams with IFC to premiere the old and new series, and performs the rap opera at events such as a sing-along at Bonnaroo. There was talk of a Broadway show.
– June 15, 2012: The Chicago Sun-Times reports Kelly owes the IRS more than US$4.8 million in back taxes.
– June 27, 2012: Kelly publishes his autobiography, Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me, focusing on his creative and family life rather than his legal troubles.
– September 29, 2012: Kelly is nominated for two Soul Train Awards, making him the most nominated act ever at the awards show.
– March 18, 2013: Kelly’s mansion, once valued at more than US$5 million, sells for US$950,000 in a foreclosure auction.
– July 17, 2017: BuzzFeed reports on parents’ claims that Kelly brainwashed their daughters and was keeping them in an abusive “cult”. One woman says she was with Kelly willingly. Following the BuzzFeed report, activists launched the #MuteRKelly movement, calling for boycotts of his music.
– February 13, 2018: Kelly is evicted from two Atlanta-area homes over more than US$31,000 owed in unpaid rent.
– April 30, 2018: Time’s Up campaign joins the #MuteRKelly social media campaign and pushes for further investigation into Kelly’s behaviour. Kelly’s camp responds: “We will vigorously resist this attempted public lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture.”
– May 2018: Spotify cuts R Kelly’s music from its playlists, citing its policy on hate content and hateful conduct. Shortly after, Apple and Pandora also stop promoting his music. Kelly’s team pushes back, noting other artists on Spotify had been accused or convicted of crimes.
– May 21, 2018: Faith Rodgers, 20, files a lawsuit accusing R Kelly of sexual battery, mental and verbal abuse, and knowingly inflicting her with herpes during a yearlong relationship.
– January 3, 2019: Lifetime airs the documentary Surviving R Kelly, which revisited old allegations against him and brought new ones into the spotlight. The series followed the BBC’s R Kelly: Sex, Girls & Videotapes, released the previous year, that alleged the singer was holding women against their will.
– January 9, 2019: Lady Gaga says she will remove duet with Kelly from streaming services.
– January 14, 2019: Faith Rogers says Kelly had written a letter the previous October to one of her lawyers, threatening to reveal embarrassing details of her sexual history if she didn’t drop her May 2018 lawsuit accusing him of sexual abuse.
– January 21, 2019: Multiple media outlets reports Kelly and his label, Sony subsidiary RCA Records, part ways. Kelly continues to deny all allegations of sexual misconduct.
– February 6, 2019: Kelly announces by tweet a new tour outside the US, saying he’d be going to Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. The tweet was later deleted following backlash from Twitter users who urged fans not to buy concert tickets.
– February 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.
– February 22, 2019: Kelly is arrested and charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse.
– February 25, 2019: Kelly’s attorney enters not guilty pleas on the singer’s behalf. Hours later, Kelly posts bail and is released from jail in Chicago.
– March 6, 2019: CBS airs interview in which Kelly vehemently denied the sexual abuse charges against him. Later, authorities in Cook County take Kelly into custody after he tells a judge he couldn’t pay US$161,000 in back child support he owed his children’s mother.
– 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.
– July 11, 2019: Kelly is indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago on charges including child pornography, enticement of a minor and obstruction of justice. A separate indictment filed in the Eastern District of New York included charges of racketeering, kidnapping, forced labour 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.
– August 2, 2019: Kelly pleads not guilty to federal charges accusing him of sexually abusing women and girls who attended his concerts, as his lawyers continue to label the alleged victims disgruntled “groupies”.
– August 5, 2019: Kelly is charged in Minnesota with prostitution and solicitation related to an allegation that he invited a 17-year-old girl to his hotel room in 2001 and paid her US$200 to dance naked with him.
– October 2, 2019: Kelly is denied bail in his New York City sex abuse case after a judge agreed with prosecutors that freeing him from jail would create a risk of him fleeing or tampering with witnesses.
– December 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.
– 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.
– August 12, 2020: Federal prosecutors announce charges against three men accused of threatening and intimidating women who have accused R&B singer Kelly of abuse, including one man suspected of setting fire to a vehicle in Florida.
– August 14, 2020: Kelly’s manager is arrested in California on charges that he threatened a shooting at a Manhattan theatre two years ago, forcing an evacuation and the cancellation of the screening of a documentary addressing allegations that the singer had sexually abused women and girls.
– July 24, 2021: Federal prosecutors in Kelly’s sex trafficking case say he had sexual contact with an underage boy in addition to girls, and the government wants jurors in his upcoming trial to hear those claims.
– August 18, 2021: Opening statements begin in Kelly’s long-anticipated federal trial arising from years of allegations that he sexually abused women and girls while pursuing fame and fortune.
– September 27, 2021: The jury finds Kelly guilty of sex trafficking and violating the Mann Act, which makes it illegal to take anyone across state lines “for any immoral purpose.”
– October 20, 2021: A judge orders Kelly to stand trial in Chicago on child pornography and obstruction of justice charges.
– November 17, 2021: A man is sentenced to eight years in prison for setting fire to a car in Florida what authorities say was an attempt to intimidate a potential witness in the sex trafficking trial.
– June 8, 2022: Prosecutors say Kelly deserves at least 25 years behind bars for abusing children and women.
– June 29, 2022: Kelly is sentenced to 30 years in prison in the New York case.
– August 15, 2022: Kelly is scheduled to stand trial in Chicago on child pornography and obstruction of justice charges.