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R. Kelly due in Chicago court to face sex abuse charges

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  • CHICAGO — R. Kelly, the R&B star who has been trailed for decades by allegations that he violated underage girls and women and held some as virtual slaves, is due in court Saturday after being charged with aggravated sexual abuse involving four victims, including at least three between the ages of 13 and 17.

    In a brief appearance before reporters, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx on Friday announced the 10 counts against the 52-year-old Grammy winner, whose real name is Robert Kelly. She said the abuse dated back as far as 1998 and spanned more than a decade. She did not comment on the charges or take questions.

    Kelly was driven to a Chicago police station in a dark colored van with heavily tinted rear windows around 8:15 p.m. Friday. He did not respond to questions from gathered reporters as he walked inside the building.

    Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted a short time later that Kelly was under arrest. He was expected to be held overnight before an appearance Saturday in bond court.

    Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, told reporters following the singer’s arrest that one of the charges he faces appears to be tied to a decade-old child pornography case.

    “Double jeopardy should bar that case,” Greenberg said. “He won that case.”

    Kelly, who was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008, has consistently denied any sexual misconduct.

    Greenberg said he thinks prosecutors rushed to judgment Friday in charging Kelly, calling the singer “an innocent man.”

    “Mr. Kelly is strong,” Greenberg added. “He’s got a lot of support and he’s going to be vindicated on all these charges.”

    The arrest sets the stage for another #MeToo-era celebrity trial. Bill Cosby went to prison last year, and former Hollywood studio boss Harvey Weinstein is awaiting trial.

    Best known for hits such as “I Believe I Can Fly,” Kelly was charged a week after Michael Avenatti, the attorney whose clients have included porn star Stormy Daniels, said he gave prosecutors new video evidence of the singer with an underage girl.

    At a news conference earlier Friday in Chicago, Avenatti said a 14-year-old girl seen with R. Kelly on the video is among four victims mentioned in the indictment. He said the footage shows two separate scenes on two separate days at Kelly’s residence in the late 1990s.

    During the video, both the victim and Kelly refer to her age 10 times, he said.

    Avenatti said he represents six clients, including two victims, two parents and two people he describes as “knowing R. Kelly and being within his inner circle for the better part of 25 years.”

    “I don’t know what the tape is,” Greenberg said of the video Avenatti gave prosecutors. “We haven’t seen it. No one’s showed us the tape.”

    The new charges marked “a watershed moment,” Avenatti said, adding that he believes more than 10 other people associated with Kelly should be charged as “enablers” for helping with the assaults, transporting minors and covering up evidence.

    The video surfaced during a 10-month investigation by Avenatti’s office. He told the AP that the person who provided the VHS tape knew both Kelly and the female in the video.

    The jury in 2008 acquitted Kelly of child pornography charges that arose from a graphic video that prosecutors said showed him having sex with a girl as young as 13. He and the young woman allegedly seen with him denied they were in the 27-minute video, even though the picture quality was good and witnesses testified it was them, and she did not take the stand. Kelly could have gotten 15 years in prison.

    Charging Kelly now for actions that occurred in the same time frame as the allegations from the 2008 trial suggests the accusers are co-operating this time and willing to testify.

    Because the alleged victim 10 years ago denied that she was on the video and did not testify, the state’s attorney office had little recourse except to charge the lesser offence under Illinois law, child pornography, which required a lower standard of evidence.

    Each count of the new charges carries up to seven years in prison. If Kelly is convicted on all 10 counts, a judge could decide that the sentences run one after the other — making it possible for him to receive up to 70 years behind bars. Probation is also an option under the statute.

    Greenberg said he offered to sit down with prosecutors before charges were filed to discuss why the allegations were “baseless.” But they refused, he said.

    “Unfortunately, they have succumbed to the court of public opinion, who’ve convicted him,” he said.

    Legally and professionally, the walls began closing in on Kelly after the release of a BBC documentary about him last year and the multipart Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” which aired last month. Together they detailed allegations he was holding women against their will and running a “sex cult.”

    #MeToo activists and a social media movement using the hashtag #MuteRKelly called on streaming services to drop Kelly’s music and promoters not to book any more concerts. Protesters demonstrated outside Kelly’s Chicago studio.

    As recently as Thursday, two women held a news conference in New York to describe how Kelly picked them out of a crowd at a Baltimore after-party in the mid-1990s when they were underage. They said Kelly had sex with one of the teens when she was under the influence of marijuana and alcohol and could not consent.

    Latresa Scaff and Rochelle Washington were joined by lawyer Gloria Allred when they told their story publicly for the first time.

    In the indictment, the prosecution addressed the question of the statute of limitations, saying that even abuse that happened more than two decades ago falls within the charging window allowed under Illinois law. Victims typically have 20 years to report abuse, beginning when they turn 18.

    The singer and songwriter, whose legal name is Robert Kelly, rose from poverty on Chicago’s South Side and has retained a sizable following. He has written numerous hits for himself and other artists, including Celine Dion, Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga. His collaborators have included Jay-Z and Usher.

    Kelly broke into the R&B scene in 1993 with his first solo album, “12 Play,” which produced such popular sex-themed songs as “Bump N’ Grind” and “Your Body’s Callin’.”

    Months after those successes, the then-27-year-old Kelly faced allegations he married 15-year-old Aaliyah, the R&B star who later died in a plane crash in the Bahamas. Kelly was the lead songwriter and producer of Aaliyah’s 1994 debut album.

    Kelly and Aaliyah never confirmed the marriage, though Vibe magazine published a copy of the purported marriage license. Court documents later obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times showed Aaliyah admitted lying about her age on the license.

    Jim DeRogatis, a longtime music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, played a key role in drawing the attention of law enforcement to Kelly. In 2002, he received the sex tape in the mail that was central to Kelly’s 2008 trial. He turned it over to prosecutors. In 2017, DeRogatis wrote a story for BuzzFeed about the allegations Kelly was holding women against their will in Georgia.

    ___

    Associated Press Writer Amanda Seitz contributed to this report.

    ___

    More of The Associated Press’ coverage of the investigations into R. Kelly can be found at: https://www.apnews.com/RKelly .

    Sara Burnett And Michael Tarm, The Associated Press

















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    National Entertainment

    Loughlin, Giannulli plead not guilty in college scam

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  • BOSTON — Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are pleading not guilty to charges they took part in the sweeping college admissions bribery scam, according to court documents filed Monday.

    Loughlin and Giannulli said they are waiving their right to appear in Boston federal court for their arraignment and plead not guilty to the two charges against them. The judge must approve their request for a waiver to appear.

    The couple is charged with paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters admitted to the University of Southern California as crew recruits, even though neither is a rower.

    Loughlin, who played Aunt Becky on the sitcom “Full House,” and Giannulli haven’t publicly addressed the allegations against them.

    They are among 50 people charged in the nationwide scam, which authorities say also involved rigging college entrance exam scores.

    It’s the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department. The scandal embroiled elite universities across the country and laid bare the lengths to which status-seeking parents will go to secure their children a coveted spot.

    The couple and more than a dozen other parents were hit last week with a money laundering conspiracy charge on top of the mail fraud conspiracy charge they were already facing. Several other indicted parents have also filed court documents entering not guilty pleas.

    Fellow actress Felicity Huffman, who starred in ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and 12 other parents have agreed to plead guilty . Huffman is scheduled to appear in Boston on May 21 to enter her plea.

    Rick Singer, the consultant at the centre of the scheme, pleaded guilty to charges including racketeering conspiracy on March 12, the same day the allegations against the parents and coaches were made public in the so-called Operations Varsity Blues investigation.

    Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press



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    National Entertainment

    Guess who’s moving?Burton Cummings complained of noise from dance studio

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  • MOOSE JAW, Sask. — A Saskatchewan fitness studio is moving after multiple noise complaints from Canadian rock legend Burton Cummings.

    Kyra Klassen, who owns Dance Fitness with Kyra in downtown Moose Jaw, says she’s ready for a fresh start and the studio is changing locations May 1.

    “It’s disappointing it had to escalate to this. However, we are super thankful and feel blessed by the outpouring of support from our community,” Klassen said in a message Friday.

    “We are excited to be able to move forward and get back to doing what we love to do: serving the fitness needs of Moose Jaw and area.”

    Klassen said she moved into the mixed-use building nearly one year ago. The Guess Who singer lives in a neighbouring residential building.

    There were no problems for the first five months, but then Klassen said she started to get messages, complaints and visits from Cummings himself.

    Klassen has said she worked with her landlord to add soundproofing to the studio and didn’t think she was breaking any laws.

    Police eventually laid six noise bylaw charges. She is to appear in court April 18.

    The dispute also led city council to look at zoning in the area. During a council meeting March 11, a motion was unanimously approved to prepare a report re-evaluating how business licences are issued in areas of the city’s commercial district where there are also residential properties.

    A manager for Cummings has said the musician had no comment on the situation.

    Klassen said she was shocked the dispute went so far. To keep everyone’s best interest at heart, she realized she couldn’t share the land with the singer.

    “We are moving and super excited about it,” she said.

    “Moving forward and starting fresh!”

    Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press


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