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R. Kelly pleads not guilty to federal sex crime charges in NYC and ordered held without bail

The Gayle King Interview with R. Kelly

R&B singer R. Kelly pleaded not guilty in a New York City court Friday to charges he sexually abused women and girls. The jailed Kelly appeared for scheduled back-to-back hearings in federal court in Brooklyn, where he was ordered held without bail, reports CBS New York. The hearings follow his arrest last month in a separate Chicago case accusing him of engaging in child pornography. 

Kelly, 52, is charged in New York with exploiting five victims, identified only as "Jane Does," three of whom were minors. According to court papers, they include one he met at one of his concerts and another at a radio station where she was an intern. 

The Gayle King interview with R. Kelly

The New York indictment alleges Kelly for two decades ran a racketeering enterprise comprised of "managers, bodyguards, drivers, personal assistants and runners for the defendant, as well as members of his entourage" who recruited women and girls for sex with Kelly and transported them around the country. Kelly often filmed the sexual activity, federal prosecutors say, including sex with the underage victims, constituting child pornorgraphy. He had one woman travel in 2017 to a show on Long Island, where he had unprotected sex with her without telling her "he had contracted an infectious venereal disease" in violation of New York law, they say.

Witness who allegedly appears in three sex tapes with R. Kelly cooperating with investigators

Kelly allegedly enforced numerous rules, not allowing the women and girls to leave their rooms to eat or go to the bathroom without his permission. The indictment alleges Kelly required the victims to call him "Daddy," to wear baggy clothing and to keep their heads down and not look at other men. Prosecutors say the singer isolated the women and girls from their family and friends and made them financially dependent on him.

"The defendant also maintained his leadership and control of the enterprise by demanding absolute commitment from its members, not tolerating dissent and obtaining sensitive information about members and associates of the enterprise in order to maintain control over them," prosecutors said in court filings.

Another federal indictment in the northern district of Illinois outlines allegations by five additional victims and accuses Kelly of having sex with five minors in the late 1990s and early 2000s, recording some of the abuse on multiple videos. It also accuses Kelly of conspiring to intimidate victims and conceal evidence. Kelly also faces sex assault and sex abuse charges in Cook County, Illinois.

In a July 12 court filing, federal prosecutors in New York argued against bail for Kelly, saying he poses a significant flight risk given the government's "exceedingly strong" evidence against him. It says prosecutors aim to prove a "distinctive pattern and modus operandi" using testimony of victims, "insider-witnesses" previously employed by Kelly, medical records, phone records, photographs and other evidence. The filing also says Kelly may try to threaten potential witnesses and obstruct justice if allowed pre-trial release.

But in a filing this week, an attorney for Kelly blasted the government's characterization of the alleged racketeering enterprise, saying it was making the "stretch of all stretches" to "define the rock and roll employment of professionals and mutually desired and competitive fan and groupie/celebrity experiences as akin to criminal conduct." It blasts the women and girls as "disgruntled groupies" who years later have "groupie remorse."

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R. Kelly, right, pictured in a court sketch as he appears in a New York federal court on sex trafficking charges, Aug. 2, 2019 Jane Rosenberg

The Jane Does "sought out Robert's attention, even fought each other for it, voluntarily contacted him, came to his shows, pined to be with him," the defense papers say. "Robert would spend his time and even become friends with and care about these groupies and fans who were dying to be with him."

The defense filing claims there is"zero" evidence Kelly gave one of the women an STD and discounts the argument that he is a flight risk, saying that he has appeared for all his previous court dates. It argues that Kelly's only alleged crimes in New York were with an adult woman and that the government is overreaching by tying it to an alleged racketeering enterprise.

The allegations have swirled for years around Kelly, whom federal prosecutors said last month was "emboldened by his fame and the lack of any real consequences." The charges come after two documentaries and a series of news articles about the accusations, as well as pleas from prosecutors who have urged new victims and witnesses came forward.  

Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents three of the victims identified as "Jane Does" in the New York indictment, said last month that long-overdue justice "will soon be done."

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