Following the US release of the documentary Surviving R Kelly, the rapper may now be under criminal investigation. Yesterday, TMZ reported that the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office in Georgia had opened an investigation following the claims made in the Lifetime docu-series.
According to the site, investigators have been reaching out to a number of the survivors featured in Surviving R Kelly, including Asante McGee, a woman who was an alleged former sex slave of R Kelly.
Gerald Griggs, an attorney for the family of Joycelyn Savage, has also confirmed that the Fulton County district attorney has contacted him. Her family claim that she is having a sexual relationship with R Kelly and he’s manipulating her into cutting off contact with the outside world.
Yesterday, a Chicago prosecutor said that her office has also been in touch with two families related to allegations against Kelly since the series aired. Cook County State attorney Kimberly Foxx urged potential victims or witnesses to come forward.
"There is nothing that can be done to investigate these allegations without the cooperation of victims and witnesses," Foxx said in a news conference. "We cannot seek justice without you."
Surviving R Kelly charted the sexual assault and abuse allegations the rapper has faced since the 1990s. The six-part documentary featured accounts from accusers and interviews with Kelly's close friends. Musician John Legend and #MeToo founder Tarana Burke were among those who appeared in the series.
The news coincides with the launch of a salacious Facebook page this week, which sought to discredit the women who accused the rapper of abuse. This Surviving Lies page used an image of Pinocchio as its profile photo. Facebook has since removed the page for violating the social-media network's terms of service. It has not been confirmed if Kelly set up the page himself.
Kelly, 52, has accused the series of having a “vendetta” against him. He has denied knowing half of the women featured in the series and all of the assault and abuse claims.
Kelly, 52, has accused the series of having a ‘vendetta’ against him. He has denied knowing half of the women featured in the series and all of the assault and abuse claims
It’s far from the first time that Kelly’s behaviour has been called into serious question. In 1994, aged 27, he married the 15-year-old singer Aaliyah in a secret ceremony in Chicago. The marriage was annulled in February 1995. Kelly has rarely spoken about Aaliyah since she died in a plane crash in 2001. She is not mentioned in his autobiography, where his author's note explains that "certain episodes could not be included for complicated reasons".
In 1996, he was sued by Tiffany Hawkins for $10m, who alleged that when she was 15 he convinced her to have sex with him, and to participate in group sex with him and other underage girls.
And in 2002, Kelly was charged with 21 counts of child pornography for a videotape that allegedly showed him having sex with an unidentified underage girl. He was later acquitted.
More recently, in 2017, BuzzFeed published an exposé about a girl being held against her will in R Kelly’s “cult”. The article contained testimonies from women who had escaped his inner circle, suggesting ongoing mental and physical abuse of several women in Kelly’s entourage.
After the release of the documentary, a sexual-assault hotline reported a 20 per cent increase in calls. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network’s president, Scott Berkowitz, said that after the Lifetime premiere of Surviving R Kelly, they were seeing more people call in to talk about childhood abuse.
During a screening of the documentary in December, the theatre was evacuated after the venue received a bomb threat that turned out to be non-credible. Attendees of the screening included Kelly's accusers and prominent social-justice activists depicted in the film.
Since the series launched, there has been a spike in Kelly’s record sales and streams. Jada Pinkett-Smith posted an Instagram video asking “what she’s missing” as to why people continue to support the rapper.
The spike in streams shows that now more than ever the long-running #MuteRKelly campaign needs to be taken more seriously. The idolisation of Kelly as the “R&B pied piper” shows that money can buy immunity, and in the words of Pinkett-Smith, if you’re still supporting Robert Kelly, you’re basically saying that you don’t care about black women in general.
Surviving R Kelly will be airing on Tuesday 5 February at 10pm on Crime & Investigation. The channel is available on a number of different platforms in the UK, including Sky and Virgin TV