Grammy-winning singer R. Kelly was arraigned in Brooklyn Federal Court on Friday and pleaded not guilty to federal sex trafficking charges.
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With his live-in girlfriends and nearly two dozen supporters looking on in the packed courtroom, Magistrate Judge Steven L. Tiscione denied Kelly bail.
Kelly, 52, was escorted into the courtroom by three U.S. Marshals with his hands clasped behind his back, wearing blue prison scrubs and orange slip-on shoes with a white and blue striped sole. The “I Believe I Can Fly” singer appeared unshaven with a thick beard and spoke only when answering the judge’s questions.
Kelly’s attorney Doug Anton entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf.
The five-count indictment charges that Kelly was at the center of an “enterprise” of managers, body guards, drivers and personal assistants “to promote R. Kelly’s music and the R. Kelly brand and to recruit women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity with Kelly.”
Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth Geddes argued that Kelly is a flight risk, “a danger to the community,” and could attempt to obstruct justice due to his wide-ranging and “lengthy criminal history.”
The prosecutors also argued that Kelly has committed obstruction of justice for decades, involving women and children. The allegation drew visible reaction from Kelly’s supporters in the courtroom.
Anton argued that outside of the unproven accusations in both jurisdictions, the court does not have any reason to believe Kelly is a danger.
Judge Tiscione responded to Anton that even if he did grant Kelly bail theoretically, “he’s not going anywhere,” due to his detention in Illinois. The judge ordered him “detained pending trial.”
One Kelly supporter, who accompanied Kelly’s two girlfriends, shook her head and exclaimed out loud, “Oh my God.”
Kelly’s next status hearing in the Eastern District of New York case will be Oct. 2 at 10:30 a.m. Kelly will waive his appearance, and he told the judge the defense plans to file a motion and appeal bail.
Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, has always denied allegations of sexual misconduct.
The platinum-selling performer was acquitted of prior child pornography charges in 2008, five years after initially being arrested over a video that purported to show the singer with an underage girl.
The charges in New York are the latest in a number of legal issues for Kelly this year.
Kelly is facing 10-counts of felony criminal sexual abuse involving four alleged victims, after being arrested by the Cook County Sheriff’s Department in March. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges, some of which date back to 1998.
He has dealt with a number of child support issues, including being jailed for almost a week in March for failure to pay support dating back eight months for his three children with his ex-wife, Andrea “Drea” Kelly.
Kelly also faces a 13-count indictment in the Northern District of Illinois that includes charges of child pornography, sexual exploitation of children and obstruction of justice.
The family of Joycelyn Savage, Kelly’s girlfriend, met with federal investigators and provided them with physical evidence that they believe contributed to the case against Kelly, according to the family’s lawyer, Gerald Griggs. Savage’s parents appeared in the Lifetime documentary.
“We thank the jurors and prosecutors that returned the indictment against R Kelly. We are hopeful that justice will be served in this case,” said Griggs.
Geddes confirmed to the judge that there is no overlap with Kelly’s other federal case in Illinois, but there “may be some overlap” with his criminal case in Chicago, and at least four additional victims.
As Kelly left the courtroom, he looked over at his two girlfriends. Just before being led out the courtroom door, he stopped to turn around and give them one last glance. After his showing of attention, his girlfriend Azriel Clary smiled wide and appeared giddy.