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Cook Co. prosecutors to drop sexual assault cases against R. Kelly, already facing decades in prison

Cook County State's Attorney's office drops charges against R. Kelly
Cook County State's Attorney's office drops charges against R. Kelly 02:53

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx will be dropping four indictments accusing R. Kelly of sexual abuse and assault, with the disgraced singer already facing decades in prison following two separate convictions on federal charges.

A status hearing in Kelly's cases in Cook County is scheduled for Tuesday, but on Monday afternoon, Foxx announced her office "will no longer be pursuing these indictments" and will ask a judge to dismiss those charges.

"Sometimes justice is served even when there is no conviction," Foxx said.

The indictments were filed against Kelly in February 2019, and Foxx asked the public to come forward with information at that time. But the Cook County case has languished as federal prosecutors in Chicago and New York moved forward more quickly with other sex crime cases against the singer, and the COVID-19 pandemic caused significant delays for courts across the country.

The charges date back as far as 1998. Illinois has no statute of limitations on child sex abuse charges. Nine of the counts against Kelly specify the victim was between 13 and 16. One count did not specify any ages. In the one case in which the victim was not identified as a minor, Kelly is accused of forcing sexual contact on the victim by use of force or the threat of force.

The charges identify the victims only by initials, and the dates of the alleged abuse:

  • H.W. (13-16 years of age), victim of four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse between May 26, 1998, and May 25, 1999;
  • J.P. (13-16 years of age), victim of three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse between May 1, 2009, and Jan. 31, 2010;
  • R.L. (13-16 years of age), victim of two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse between Sept. 26, 1998, and Sept. 25, 2001;
  • L.C. (no age given), victim of one count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse on Feb. 18, 2003.
Cook County State's Attorney drops charges against R. Kelly 02:23

Kelly, 56, likely already will spend the rest of his life in prison, as he is already facing a 30-year prison sentence following a 2021 racketeering conviction in federal court New York, and Foxx said he faces 10 to 90 more years in prison following his conviction in federal court in Chicago on charges of child pornography and enticing minors to engage in sex.

"Due to the extensive sentences that these convictions hold, our office has decided not to continue to expend our limited resources and court time with the indictments that we previously charged Mr. Kelly," Foxx said. "Mr. Kelly is potentially looking at the possibility of never walking out of prison again for the crimes he has committed. This office, in the pursuit of justice for the victims in our indictment – as well as those across the country – worked tirelessly to get us to this point. While today's cases are no longer being pursued, we believe that justice has been served in the sentences that have already been handed down to Mr. Kelly, as well as the sentence that will come down next month."

Foxx also said that she believes, with Kelly already facing a lengthy prison sentence, her office's limited resources would be put to better use pursuing other cases of sexual assault and sexual abuse.

She said her office consulted with Kelly's accusers in the Cook County cases before deciding not to move forward with the indictments against Kelly. She said reactions to the decision were mixed.

"There was no consistency in reaction. We do have a survivor who was disappointed that she would not have her day in court. Some of our survivors, some of those who have been named in our petitions, have had justice in courtrooms that were not here in the Cook County courthouse, and for them the process and going through this process was very difficult, and they are pleased with the outcome related to the sentence and the judgment against Mr. Kelly," she said. "For those who did not have an opportunity to put their hand on the Bible, or who have felt for the last 20 years that their pain was not recognized, certainly this is a disappointing day for them."

Foxx said Kelly's accusers "are to be commended for their bravery and their relentless pursuit of justice, no matter how long it took."

Lanita Carter came forward with her name in 2019. Her accusations against Kelly, along with the accusations of three other women, led to Kelly's arrest that year. Carter issued a statement late Monday decrying Foxx's decision:

"I am the L.C. in People of the State of Illinois v. Robert Kelly, Case No. 19CR-2758. My name is Lanita Carter. I am extremely disappointed in the State's Attorney's Office's decision to dismiss their cases against R. Kelly, including the case where I am the victim. I have spent nearly twenty years hoping that my abuser would be brought to justice for what he did to me.  With today's announcement, all hope of justice for my case is gone.

"When I was sexually assaulted by R. Kelly in February 2003, I immediately went to law enforcement, and the State's Attorney's Office failed to prosecute my case. I decided to share my story for a second time when Kim Foxx called for victims of R. Kelly to come forward in 2019. I chose to place my trust in her and her office, and I've spent nearly four years preparing myself—mentally and emotionally—to face my abuser and tell my story. Over the past several weeks, after I came to learn that the State's Attorney's Office was considering dismissing these cases, I pleaded with Kim Foxx and her team to see the cases through. Justice has been denied for me a second time, making today's decision that much more difficult to comprehend and accept."

Meanwhile, an attorney for Greenberg said Kelly has subjected to unfair treatment.

"Hopefully, it's the first of many reversals in his plight," said attorney Steve Greenberg, who represents Kelly. "I don't think that any of the cases should have been brought, I thought they were reactionary. They were pitchfork justice. They were responding to community outcry."

Greenberg continued: "I think R. Kelly realizes this is an uphill battle. He's battling against the public perception, which has made it very difficult to get a fair hearing anywhere."

 In previous hearings on the charges in Cook County, Kelly's defense attorneys had sought to have the charges dropped, arguing they carry a lighter potential sentence than the federal cases in which he's already been convicted.

A regularly-scheduled hearing Tuesday morning is when the state is expected to ask a judge to dismiss the charges against Kelly.

Cook County prosecutors dropping charges in R. Kelly sex abuse case 02:05

In September 2021, a federal jury convicted Kelly of all counts after a six-week trial on racketeering and sex trafficking charges in New York. Several women, underage at the time, accused Kelly of using them for perverse and sadistic whims. Those allegations included taking some across state lines for sex acts.

Kelly was found guilty of a racketeering charge. It was one count, but lists 14 underlying acts including kidnapping, forced labor, sex trafficking, and bribery. The government had to prove at least two of the 14. Kelly was also charged with eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which makes it illegal to transport anyone across state lines for any immoral purpose.

The prosecution argued Kelly ran an enterprise of assistants, bodyguards and others, all used to recruit, groom and exploit underage girls, boys, and young women for his own sexual gratification.

Among the claims detailed at trial – his marriage to the late R&B singer Aaliyah, and how a government worker was bribed to get her a fake ID so Kelly could marry the then-15-year-old because he feared he had gotten her pregnant.

Witnesses testified about being locked in rooms and having to ask permission to leave, or use the bathroom. Others alleged Kelly gave them herpes without disclosing he had an STD.

In September 2022, a federal jury in Chicago convicted Kelly of six counts accusing him of sexually abusing his 14-year-old goddaughter "Jane" and other girls on video. The same jury acquitted him of seven other charges, including obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to receive child pornography, accusing him and two associates of rigging his 2008 child pornography trial in Cook County. His two associates, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, were acquitted of related charges.

Kelly was convicted of three of four counts accusing him of producing child pornography by filming himself having sex with his underage goddaughter, who testified against him under the pseudonym "Jane." Jurors saw parts of those three videos in court. Jurors acquitted him of a fourth child pornography charge involving a tape that Jane and prosecutors said showed Kelly having a threesome with Jane and his ex-girlfriend, Lisa Van Allen, but that tape was not shown in court. Prosecutors had argued that's because Kelly and his team successfully covered it up.

Jurors acquitted Kelly and McDavid, his former business manager, of a conspiracy to obstruct justice charge that accused them of rigging his 2008 child pornography trial in Cook County by covering up incriminating sex tapes, and intimidating and paying off Jane and her parents to keep his abuse of her secret.

Kelly, McDavid, and Brown also were acquitted of a conspiracy to receive child pornography charge accusing them of trying to retrieve and cover up three sex tapes involving Jane. Kelly and McDavid also were acquitted of two charges of receiving child pornography, involving further claims they tried to retrieve and cover up other videos involving Jane. The government's case on those charges rested in large part on testimony from Charles Freeman and Lisa Van Allen, who defense attorneys described as liars out to extort Kelly for money.

Finally, Kelly was convicted of three of five charges accusing him of enticing minors to engage in sexual activity, but acquitted of two other charges. Jurors convicted him of enticement charges involving Jane, and two other accusers testifying under the pseudonyms "Nia" and "Pauline," while acquitting him of enticement charges involving accusers "Tracy" and "Brittany."

Jane had accused Kelly of sexually abusing her hundreds of times after becoming her godfather when she was only 14 years old. Prosecutors showed the jury three videos that they said showed Kelly having sex with Jane, including one that showed him telling her to lay on the floor while he urinated on her.

Nia had testified she first met Kelly in 1996, when she was only 15 years old, and that they had two sexual encounters, one at a hotel during his concert tour in Minnesota, and another later that year at his music studio in Chicago.

Pauline testified that Jane introduced her to Kelly when she was only 14 years old, and the three soon started having threesomes, before Pauline started her own sexual relationship with Kelly alone when she was 15. She estimated she had sex with Kelly more than 80 times and had 60 threesomes with Kelly and Jane between the ages of 14 and 16.

Tracy testified that she met Kelly in 1999 when she was an off-the-books intern for an Epic Records executive, and claimed that, when she was only 16, Kelly "forced himself" on her at a downtown Chicago hotel. She said the two later developed a sexual relationship that continued beyond her 17th birthday. But defense attorneys cast doubts on her claims, pointing to a past lawsuit she filed against Kelly in which she claimed they met and started having sex in 2000, when she was 17 years old.

Brittany did not testify at trial, and while both Jane and Pauline testified to having threesomes with Kelly and Brittany when they were just girls, defense attorneys seized on the fact Brittany didn't testify herself, asking jurors in closing arguments "Where is Brittany?!"

Kelly is scheduled to be sentenced in that case on Feb. 23. He faces up to 20 years in prison for each of three child pornography convictions in that case, and up to 10 years in prison for each of three counts of enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity.

His trials on the Cook County cases have been delayed for years due both to the COVID-19 pandemic, and his two federal trials.

Kelly also is facing charges in Hennepin County, Minnesota, accusing him of engaging in prostitution with a minor in July 2021. That case also has yet to go to trial.

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