R&B superstar R. Kelly turned himself in to Chicago police on Friday, after prosecutors charged him with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sex abuse against four victims, three of them minors.
The bombshell development in the Kelly saga came after a judge approved a no-bail arrest warrant for the 52-year-old, who for decades has faced accusations of child pornography, sex with minors, operating a sex cult and sexual battery.
Kelly surrendered to Chicago police at approximately 8.15pm and was taken into custody.
He will appear in court tomorrow afternoon, a police spokesman said.
Kim Foxx — the state's attorney for Cook County, which includes Chicago — told journalists the alleged crimes occurred between 1998 and 2010. A court clerk had earlier told AFP nine of the charges involve minors ages 13 to 16.
The felony charges carry three to seven years of prison time per count, Foxx said.
After Kelly was booked his lawyer Steve Greenberg dismissed the charges, saying they were based on old and false accusations.
Greenberg vowed the musician would be “vindicated”, saying: “I think all of the women are lying.”
“Everybody's trying to profit off of R. Kelly.”
An arraignment was scheduled for March 8 in Chicago, where he resides, a Cook County clerk said earlier.
It is the second time Chicago prosecutors have charged Kelly with a sex crime: after a dramatic trial that also involved a sex tape, the musician was acquitted of 21 counts of child pornography in 2008.
Greenberg said one of the charges involved the same victim as in that trial.
'Day of reckoning'
Kelly, known for hits like “I Believe I Can Fly”, has faced renewed public scrutiny after a scathing docu-series shed new light on his checkered past.
“Today marks a watershed moment in the 25 years of abuse by this predator,” said high-profile lawyer Michael Avenatti, who is representing two victims, two parents and two whistle-blowers linked to Kelly.
Avenatti and prominent women's rights attorney Gloria Allred are representing clients linked to Kelly, with the former saying his office had uncovered previously unreleased footage of Kelly having sex with a teenager, which he had given to the Cook County State's Attorney.
Avenatti — who also represents a porn star locked in a legal battle with President Donald Trump — told journalists on Friday that the approximately 40-minute tape shot in the late 1990s “leaves no question” of Kelly's guilt, and that both the victim and the musician refer multiple times to her age as 14.
He described in graphic detail a number of sex acts shown on the tape, saying the girl refers repeatedly to Kelly as "daddy". Avenatti said his team had recovered an additional such tape and is in the process of obtaining a third.
The attorney vowed to go after Kelly's “enablers”, who he said “turned a blind eye while teenage girls were sexually assaulted for over two decades".
"They did not want to kill the golden goose," the lawyer said.
'Never walk free'
Kelly infamously is known for marrying his protegee Aaliyah in 1994, when the late R&B star was 15.
Kelly, then 27, had produced the teenage singer's debut album titled "Age Ain't Nothing But a Number". Their marriage was later annulled, and Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001.
Despite the slew of unsettling claims against him, the decorated musician for years has continued to perform and maintain a solid fan base.
But last month's release of an explosive docu-series entitled “Surviving R. Kelly” once again brought accusations against him to the fore, while a #MuteRKelly movement aimed at preventing his music from airing has gained steam.
“Black women and girls who come forward with allegations of sexual violence are too often silenced or shamed,” said the American Civil Liberties Union on Friday, responding to the new charges. “It's well past time for them to be heard.”
The latest development came one day after two other women had come forward against Kelly, saying he invited them to a show's after-party in Baltimore in the 1990s — when they were teenagers — giving them alcohol and drugs before cornering them in his hotel room and demanding sex, with one of them complying.
The women were to speak with the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, their lawyer Allred said.
A division of the US Department of Homeland Security devoted to probing sex trafficking meanwhile has a team of dozens looking into alleged crimes against Kelly, according to The New Yorker magazine.
“He should never walk free another day in his life,” Avenatti said Friday. “He will rightfully die in a prison.”