BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) - In front of a packed courtroom for his New York arraignment Friday, R. Kelly sat slouched in his chair with a pained look on his face and pleaded not guilty.
The five-count racketeering indictment is the third against Kelly, 52, who already is charged both at the sate and federal levels in Chicago with child pornography and other crimes.
Sporting a scruffy beard and mustache with navy prison scrubs, an orange T-shirt and neon-orange sneakers, Kelly looked dejected this morning as Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Geddes recounted what she called Kelly’s “lengthy and wide-ranging history of criminal conduct."
“He did this over a course of decades, and he did it with many women and children,” Geddes added.
Of the 13 alleged victims between all three cases, Geddes noted that the New York case against Kelly involves five Jane Does, some of whom were underage at the time of the alleged conduct. Though she insisted that the Chicago and Brooklyn federal cases do not overlap at all, Geddes allowed that the Chicago state case might intersect somewhat with the Brooklyn federal case.
Kelly is famous for hits such as “Trapped in the Closet” and “I Believe I Can Fly.” But allegations of sexual abuse, including of minors, have dogged the Grammy-winning star for decades. Indeed Kelly was 27 when he entered into a short-lived marriage with Aaliyah, then just 15. She died in a plane crash seven years later.
At one point Friday, as the proceedings paused for U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Tiscione to read a motion, Kelly looked around for his self-described girlfriends, Azriel Clary and Joycelyn Savage, who sat in the defense row of the gallery. He nodded at them and offered a tight-lipped smile.
Clary and Savage were living with Kelly in his Trump Tower apartment in Chicago. The feds seized the apartment last month and the women were reportedly kicked out, though they have denied that.
Gloria Allred was in the gallery Friday for both Kelly’s arraignment and brief status conference. The celebrity attorney told reporters outside that she represents three of the five Jane Does in the Brooklyn case, though she declined to specify which ones.
“I have no doubt that victims of Mr. Kelly are relieved that Mr. Kelly will continue to be kept in custody,” she said.
Prosecutors were silent this afternoon at the status conference when U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly asked whether the Brooklyn or Chicago federal case would proceed first.
“They’ve all told me they’re going first,” said defense attorney Steve Greenberg, who represents Kelly in Chicago.
The parties set a date of Oct. 2 for the next status conference in Brooklyn. Kelly, reportedly flown east from Chicago by private jet on Thursday, waived his appearance.
His lawyers have said they will appeal the decision in Brooklyn denying Kelly bail. They filed a similar motion in Chicago. Kelly does not know how to read, they say, and that challenge combined with his incarceration makes it difficult for them to review the case with him.
According to some media reports and his autobiography, Kelly himself is a childhood sexual-abuse survivor.
Responding to court papers this week where Kelly's New Jersey lawyer Douglas Anton attributed the New York allegations to “groupie remorse,” Allred took affront at the victim-shaming. “They are not groupies,” she said.
According to the indictment, Kelly would identify women or girls he wanted to see, who were given wristbands and put in communication with him. Members of the enterprise then arranged travel and established ground rules for the female visitors, including that they had to wear baggy clothing; call Kelly “Daddy”; and stay in their rooms unless Kelly gave them permission to leave, even for trips to the bathroom.
Greenberg, Kelly’s Chicago lawyer, backed Anton to reporters Friday, saying that the women would have raised alarms at the time if something was really wrong.
“The only thing that’s changed is how the public looks at these cases,” said Greenberg outside the courthouse Friday. “None of the facts have changed.”
The three recent cases against Kelly were all brought in the so-called #MeToo era.
In a pretrial release request filed earlier this week, Anton brushed off the racketeering charges, saying the alleged enterprise was merely Kelly’s tour staff, befitting his “rock star” status.
Anton also directed the judge to a YouTube video showing a 1985 interview of Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth on David Letterman’s show, in which they discussed an elaborate strategy for wrangling groupies Roth found attractive.
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