R Kelly banned from contacting youngsters

Grammy-winning R&B singer R Kelly, who for years has faced allegations that he abused women and underage girls, has appeared in court in Chicago to face charges that he sexually assaulted four people, including three teenagers.

Cook County Judge John Lyke set bail at US$1 million for Kelly after calling the allegations "disturbing" during a hearing on Saturday where Kelly appeared in a black hooded sweatshirt and listened, head down, as prosecutors outlined the case against him.

The 52-year-old, whose full name is Robert Kelly, was charged with a 10-count indictment on Friday, nearly two months after the Lifetime television network aired a six-hour documentary series Surviving R Kelly in which multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct and abuse.

The judge also ordered Kelly not to have contact with anyone under the age of 18.

R Kelly's mugshot.
R Kelly's mugshot. Photo credit: Reuters

At a news conference on Friday, the Cook County state's attorney, Kimberly Foxx, said three of the four victims were under age 17 at the time of the abuse, which dated back as far as 1998. She did not comment on the details of the charges, which each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

His lawyer Steven Greenberg told reporters on Friday night that prosecutors had "rushed to judgment" due to public pressure.

"He's an innocent man," Mr Greenberg said.

Lawyer Michael Avenatti, known for representing porn star Stormy Daniels in her legal battle against President Donald Trump, said at a separate news conference on Friday that he had obtained a videotape from the late 1990s depicting Kelly performing sexual acts with a 14-year-old girl.

Mr Avenatti, who said he represents two victims, two parents and two whistleblowers from Kelly's inner circle, told reporters he had given the tape to authorities.

More than a decade ago, Kelly was acquitted of child pornography charges in Chicago. That case stemmed from a video purportedly showing Kelly having sex with an underage girl; both Kelly and the girl denied they were in the video.

Kelly, best known for his hit single 'I Believe I Can Fly', has for years denied accusations of abuse.

In 1994, he married his 15-year-old protege, the singer Aaliyah, a union that was annulled months later because of her age. Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001.

Surviving R Kelly touched off a new controversy when it debuted in January, prompting his record label, Sony Music-owned RCA, to end its relationship with the performer.

"We are proud that Lifetime was able to provide a platform for survivors to be heard," Lifetime said in a statement on Friday.

It was not clear if any of the alleged victims, who were not named in the indictment, were the same as those in the documentary.

Kelly, a three-time Grammy winner whose hits also include 'Bump N' Grind' and 'Your Body's Callin', grew up in a Chicago public housing project where, according to his autobiography, he was sexually abused beginning at age eight.

Reuters