This Is Only the Beginning of R. Kelly’s End

By Michael Arceneaux

After reportedly initially struggling to pay the $100,000 bail needed to free himself as he awaits trial on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse, R. Kelly was eventually released from Cook County jail last Monday evening (February 25).

Among those who waited outside the jailhouse for Kelly was a 25-year-old man named Omar Bey, a “lifelong fan” of the singer, per Chicago Tribune reporters Megan Crepeau and Jason Meisner, who admittedly stood there for a dubious cause. “I’m just trying to get some footage for my Snapchat,” Bey revealed. His motive notwithstanding, Bey sounded like a devoted R. Kelly fan when he added, “I’m not too sure if he did it or not, but I know he’ll beat the case.”

Kelly’s supposed invulnerability is a popular sentiment held not only by Bey, but also those currently posting in the unfortunate Facebook group “R. KELLY’S SINGLE LADIES” and others — fans and skeptics alike — who have echoed it across Twitter in recent days. I’ve also had the displeasure of hearing this viewpoint expressed at the barbershop, a place I go to for fades to boost my mood but often leave frustrated, stirred by asinine musings such as “R. Kelly finna get off again, boy.”

Following Kelly’s CBS This Morning interview with Gayle King yesterday (March 6), this chorus remained strong. Despite Kelly’s on-camera outburst, and the desperate assertions he made in his own defense, his fans are still out here proclaiming “innocent until proven guilty” and painting his accusers as liars and fame-seekers.

The notion that R. Kelly will skirt these charges the way he did previous ones — most notably in 2008 after his six-year trial centered on child pornography — is also a stance seemingly held by Valencia Love, who ultimately posted the $100,000 to secure Kelly’s release on February 25.

Love, who owns a Chicago childcare facility, the Lord and Child Christian Day Care, reportedly befriended Kelly on a cruise five months ago. Don Russell, a friend and adviser to Kelly, told the Chicago Sun-Times that Love decided to pay the sum because “she wanted Rob to have a chance at justice, and she thought he’d have a better chance outside of jail than inside.”

“He told me he was innocent,” Love said to Fox 32 News anchor Tia Ewing during a phone interview. “If he did it, he is wrong. I wasn’t there, you wasn’t there, give him the chance and allow him to prove his innocence. He’s not a monster.”

The people who still pledge allegiance to R. Kelly after long-standing allegations of sexual abuse, sexual assault, and pedophilia bewilder me. After a certain point, one would hope that a discography cannot overshadow the abusive behavior so many young girls and women have accused Kelly of subjecting them to.

As infuriating as it’s been to see Kelly continue to enjoy success in spite of decades-long accusations that he is a predator who targets underage girls, it should be undeniable that times have changed.

With the rise of the #MeToo movement, founded by Tarana Burke, the #MuteRKelly campaign, launched by Oronike Odeleye and Kenyette Barnes, and the wide viewership of the Lifetime docu-series Surviving R. Kelly, helmed by dream hampton, there is greater attention to Kelly’s alleged misconduct than ever before. Through his successful music career, R. Kelly was able to amass the fame and fortune that allowed him to create an ecosystem to commit his accused crimes without consequence. Thanks to the efforts of these whistleblowers, that ecosystem is crumbling and there is a greater urgency in seeking justice for his accusers.

And it looks as though it’s only the beginning.

Jim DeRogatis, who first reported on allegations against Kelly in December 2000 and more recently published a story on his accused “sex cult” for Buzzfeed in 2017, made the legal peril facing R. Kelly abundantly clear in a recent piece for the New Yorker. In it, DeRogatis notes that in addition to the state of Illinois targeting Kelly, the Department of Homeland Security, which investigates sex trafficking, has “formed a squad with roughly two dozen members, which is devoted to compiling evidence about a wide range of alleged crimes by Kelly.” That squad is specifically looking at “charges that Kelly transported girls across state lines ‘for immoral purposes,’ in violation of the White-Slave Traffic Act, from 1910, which is more commonly known as the Mann Act.”

Additionally, a “second grand jury has been convened in the Southern District of New York, based on investigations by the F.B.I. and the I.R.S.” Not to be outdone, officials in Fulton County, Georgia have reactivated what was previously considered a stalled investigation spurred by the parents of women who are allegedly being held against their will by Kelly. Then there is Michael Avenatti, who, may not be everyone’s favorite esquire, but for all intents and purposes, has already been effective in helping bring R. Kelly to heel as he claims to have provided law enforcement with evidence of Kelly engaging in sexual acts with a minor. Avenatti says he is currently representing seven clients — three alleged victims, two parents and two “whistleblowers.”

I am not a betting man — I have too much student loan debt to play like that — but if you asked me if R. Kelly can beat Cook County, Illinois, Fulton County, Georgia, the Southern District of New York, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and an eager celebrity lawyer actively seeking Kelly and his handlers’ imprisonment, I would go with no.

Not with his current attorney, Steven Greenberg, who appears quite unfit for the legal battle ahead. Not with public opinion continuing to rise against him. Not with the current climate in which people want to see predators brought to justice — particularly those of us who have wanted him put away for ages. Not after his immediately infamous sit-down with King. And not with his crumbling finances — which landed him back in jail last night (March 6) after he failed to pay $161,000 in child support, reportedly leaving his fans scrambling to gather more bail money.

It may have taken far too long for R. Kelly’s reckoning to come, but the moment seems to have finally arrived. His fans may not be able to accept that, but thankfully, his supporters can’t save him anymore.

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