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Illinois Prosecutors Drop Charges Against R. Kelly After Convictions in Two Federal Courts

R. Kelly appears in an Illinois state courtroom in a 2019 file photo.

R. Kelly appears in an Illinois state courtroom in a 2019 file photo.

Prosecutors in Illinois have dropped charges against R. Kelly, noting that the R&B singer’s convictions in federal courts will put the 56-year-old behind bars for several decades.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx noted that Kelly is already serving a 30-year sentence following his racketeering conviction in the Eastern District of New York. That racketeering charge was predicated on numerous criminal allegations that a federal jury found that Kelly committed, including the sexual exploitation of children, forced labor, and Mann Act violations.

At the time of that June 2020 sentencing, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said Kelly used his “fame, fortune and enablers to prey on the young, the vulnerable and the voiceless for his own sexual gratification.” Kelly’s trial in Illinois on separate child pornography counts was then just a couple of months away.

Since that time, Kelly was found guilty in that separate trial of three counts of child pornography and three counts of child enticement. He has not yet been sentenced, but the penalty on that case is likely to add decades to his federal prison stint. His minimum penalty is 10 years imprisonment, and his maximum penalty is 90 years.

On the state level, Foxx credits her office with taking “unprecedented steps” in calling for victims and witnesses in response to the “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary. She said that this investigation helped her federal counterparts in New York and Illinois build those cases.

In light of those outcomes, Foxx said, she believed the office’s resources would best be steered elsewhere.

“I understand how hard it was for these victims to come forward and tell their stories. I applaud their courage and have the utmost respect for everyone who came forward,” Foxx said in a statement. “While this may not be the result they were expecting, due to the sentences that Mr. Kelly is facing, we do feel that justice has been served. My office will direct our resources to find justice for other victims of sexual abuse who do not have the power of a documentary to bring their abusers to light.”

Kelly’s attorney Jennifer Bonjean did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

During his trial in Brooklyn, New York, prosecutors told a jury that Kelly systematically groomed women and girls for abuse, including minors such as the late pop star Aaliyah.

“This case is about a predator,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez told the jury in August 2021. “That man, that predator, is the defendant, Robert Sylvester Kelly, more commonly known as R. Kelly.”

When his career took off in the early 1990s, the prosecutor added, Kelly took advantage of that “access” that came with it — whether it was to a “girl, a boy, or a young woman.” The government depicted Kelly as the leader of a racketeering “enterprise,” filled with enablers and dedicated to his sexual gratification. His clique of managers, assistants and runners helped recruit victims, pressured them into signing non-disclosure agreements, and gave them hundreds of thousands of dollars in “hush money” settlement payments to keep the scheme going, prosecutors said.

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."