R Kelly’s horrific under age violation gets messy

Over a period of sustained violation of minors, a lot more has now been exposed from a documentary on R. Kelly’s violation of minors.

The world is still reeling from the aftermath of a documentary, Surviving R Kelly, where his victims share harrowing details of their alleged encounters with the singer.

U.S. investigators are worried after a tip-off that Robert Sylvester Kelly, better known as R Kelly, is planning to flee the country – possibly to the African continent – amid his ongoing criminal investigation.

In November 2000, Jim DeRogatis reviewed R. Kelly’s No. 1 Billboard album, TP-2.com, for the Chicago Sun-Times. He had been covering Kelly’s music for years. “I had interviewed him the morning the Grammys were announced and had covered his rise from singing on the subway platform and at backyard barbecues to becoming the dominant force of R&B in the late ’90s — and still to this day, arguably,” DeRogatis told me.

But something in the review — which, again, emphasized Kelly’s vacillation “between the sacred and the profane” — caused someone (later determined to be Kelly’s assistant) to tip-off the rock critic about Kelly’s transgressions. DeRogatis received an anonymous fax claiming that the star had been accused of sex crimes by underage women.

The tip spurred an investigation into Kelly’s past that has produced a litany of horrific allegations — from his marriage to R&B singer Aaliyah when she was 15 years old to dozens of stories and lawsuits involving sex with underage girls and child pornography.

R. Kelly’s alleged crimes have bubbled up in the public consciousness with the release of Surviving R. Kelly, a docuseries that aired on Lifetime last week featuring Kelly’s accusers. In 2017, DeRogatis wrote a bombshell BuzzFeed investigation reporting that Kelly allegedly kept six women in a sex “cult.” Kelly, according to Cheryl Mack, Kitti Jones, and Asante McGee, former members of his inner circle, controlled everything from the women’s use of phones to what they wore and what they ate. And the parents of these young women, unable to reach their daughters, were terrified about what was happening behind closed doors.

Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Hope Reese
Stories about Kelly’s transgressions have been coming out for 17 years — why have they remained under the radar for so long?

Jim DeRogatis
The thing that makes me sick to my stomach is it’s impossible, in Chicago, to walk three or four blocks in the music communities of the South and West Side and not find ten people who have stories about R. Kelly, or their cousin has a story about him, or their sister. Why on earth isn’t there more reporting forwarding the story?

Hope Reese
You received an anonymous fax in 2000 from someone who urged you to look into his problem with “young girls.” What happened when you saw that?

Jim DeRogatis
I will confess to you that I took that fax and I threw it on the corner of my desk. I thought, “Player hater.” But something about these facts bothered me. It mentioned the Chicago sex crimes unit, and it named the head investigator. I called the PD and asked for her. I said, “I’m wondering about R. Kelly.” She said, “Oh. It’s about time somebody finally called about this. I can’t talk to you.” And hung up.

Anyway, we found this lawsuit by a young Chicago woman who claimed that Kelly picked her up when he came to give a lecture to his alma mater choir class at Kenwood Academy. The allegations were horrifying — mainly that Kelly had had sex with her at 14. That he’d arranged threesomes with some of her fellow sophomores. And that when the relationship ended, when she was two years older, she had slit her wrists and tried to kill herself. This lawsuit had never been reported.

We found other lawsuits. We got documents slipped to us that had been sealed in Michigan, when Kelly’s marriage to Aaliyah was annulled. We proved that Aaliyah was, in fact, 15 at the time, and that the certificate of marriage had been falsified to say she was 18.

Hope Reese
And then there was the sex tape that Kelly was eventually tried for on charges of child pornography.

Jim DeRogatis
Yes, around Thanksgiving the following year, 2001, the 26-minute, 39-second videotape that prosecutors allege shows him having sex with a 14-year-old and urinating in her mouth came to me. The Chicago Sun-Times turned it over to the police.

He was indicted for making child pornography. A really important distinction — that so many of my sloppy fellow journalists do not get right — is he was never tried for statutory rape for sex with minors. He was tried for making child pornography, which never made much sense to any of us. Why are you not also charging him with sex with a child?

The answer is the parents and the girl never cooperated with the police and did not testify in the trial. Three dozen witnesses did: her aunt, family members, pastor, best friends, best friends’ parents, basketball coach, you name it. They all said this was the girl and that was her age. But because there was no victim — and this is classic rape culture — there was no crime.

Nothing was ever introduced in court of the dozen-plus civil settlements in which [Kelly] had paid off young women who had either filed lawsuits or had directly accused him before they even filed. Instead of a pattern of a long period of behavior, it was about one girl and one videotape. That was how he was acquitted.

Hope Reese
How has this story impacted you, personally and professionally?

Jim DeRogatis
It’s not something I’ve wanted to live with for 17 years, that’s for sure. If you’re a serious journalist, whatever story you’re working on, you have to do it 100 percent and you don’t let it go until it’s done. Especially not when people are being hurt.

Right now it’s entirely possible that a foreign country interfered with the democratic process and our election process. Thank God for the Washington Post and the New York Times and the reporting that’s being done. And young women are allegedly in peril, being mistreated, physically and mentally abused, today, at a recording studio half a block away from Union Park in Chicago, where Kelly was hired by Pitchfork to headline their music festival in 2013.

Either way, whatever your story is, even if it’s a crooked city councilman in Gary, Indiana, you’re not a journalist if you don’t stay on the story. I’ve never seen it like I had a choice.

Hope Reese
Why have these allegations and the child pornography charge failed to result in convictions?

Jim DeRogatis
Look up the FBI statistics for sexual assault. This is rape culture. It’s horrifying. So many women are reluctant to come forward because they know what the process of getting justice is like. The number of women who actually file is a fraction of the number of women who are assaulted. For those who file, the number of arrests is a small fraction of those who filed. And something like 90 percent of sexual assault arrests, according to the FBI, never see a conviction.

Number two, I’ve said it often, and I’m paraphrasing Malcolm X by way of Mark Anthony Neal, a great African-American scholar. “Nobody matters less in society than young black women.” What Neal has said is if it was one white girl from the suburbs, this may have been a different story.

Hope Reese
There are many great artists who have been abusive, yet we still consume their work. Where do you see the line here?

Jim DeRogatis
We do not want to believe the worst of an artist whose work we admire. Gauguin, by all accounts, was a son of a bitch as a husband, a father, and just the way he treated women in general. But the art, I think, doesn’t reflect that.

I think 99.9 percent of the time, separating the art from the artist is a valid argument, philosophically. But when the art is about the misdeeds that the artist is accused of, that’s impossible to do. I think that’s the case with R. Kelly. I can watch and love “Midnight in Paris.” But I can’t watch “Manhattan” — not after reading about what Woody Allen’s stepdaughter has accused him of. That’s a film about a really old guy dating a high schooler.

Hope Reese
There’s a history of bad behavior and mistreatment of women in music industry. Where does this story fit in?

Jim DeRogatis
This is a trail, two and a half decades long, of dozens of young African-American women whose lives have been ruined by R. Kelly. This is not Jerry Lee Lewis marrying his cousin or Elvis and Priscilla, or Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and Lori Maddox. This is different. It is a horrifying document of a rape in real time. The women who have talked to me on the record, describing the living conditions in Kelly’s “cult” — their word — allegedly. It’s horrifying.

There’s Jimmy Savile from the BBC, and Gary Glitter. And there are a handful — and I’m not an expert on those cases — of others. But I don’t think the number of victims came anywhere near approaching those alleged victims of Kelly. So that makes it a little more hard to understand how Live Nation and RCA Records and The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon and Lady Gaga and Alexander Wang’s fashion line and entertainment dollars can co-sign this man.

Hope Reese
Has it been a lonely journey for you?

Jim DeRogatis
I’ve shared bylines with Abdon M. Pallasch in the Chicago Sun-Times. And Mary Mitchell wrote a column the other day about these new allegations. You know, there have been journalists, like the one in Jezebel last week, who forwarded the story.

But the fact that in over 17 years, citing, like, three examples, the Chicago Tribune has never done anything to forward this story. The Los Angeles Times has never done anything to forward this story. They are, of course, the best newspapers in America in this sector of the media, of the entertainment industry. Very few music publications have ever done anything to forward this story, and, like I said, there are a number of sources in Chicago who are eager to tell it.

Hope Reese
Do you worry that even after your BuzzFeed article came out, people will still ignore what’s happening?

Jim DeRogatis
I think the ability of the internet today to spread a story so far and wide — BuzzFeed has almost never seen anything like this, they’ve told me — is different. But whether that results in real action, whether it results in getting these women home, these daughters home to their parents, whether it results in any impact on Kelly’s career, I don’t know.

Hope Reese
TMZ recently released a video interview with Jocelyn (Joy) Savage, one of Kelly’s alleged victims, claiming she’s “totally fine.” What do you make of it?

Jim DeRogatis
Joy’s mother and father said from day one she’s going to deny that she’s being held against her will. The parents don’t believe that what she’s saying is sincere, that she’s being coached. They keep using the words “Stockholm syndrome.”

You know, the Savages shared texts that Joy had sent to her grandmother where she said the same thing. You know, “Stop all this noise you’re making, Mom and Dad, because I’m where I want to be, you’re just trying to hurt R. Kelly’s career, and that hurts me.” I don’t think that’s surprising at all. She also was questioned, even TMZ noted this, “Where are you,” and she wouldn’t answer, and, “Can you leave?” and she wouldn’t answer.

It’s super creepy.

Hope Reese
Can you talk about the reactions you’ve had to your reporting?

Jim DeRogatis
Some people are saying why am I still on R. Kelly’s dick — you know, in the charming language of the Twitterverse. But I gotta say, I think it’s been about 95 percent positive to 5 percent of that old BS. I think there has been a zeitgeist shift since earlier R. Kelly stories.

But it’s never been an easy story to report, and certainly my interactions with the Kelly camp were a little harrowing.

Hope Reese
Who holds responsibility here? The justice system? Record labels? Music consumers?

Jim DeRogatis
The legal system failed. I think journalism failed, I think the entertainment industry failed, and I think fans fail if they are made aware of alleged mistreatment of women.

Hope Reese
You’ve spent so much time one on one with parents and victims. Can you talk about any particular moment that really stood out for you personally?

Jim DeRogatis
Well, I had members of Aaliyah’s family crying on my shoulder. And I sat with one of the young women who tried to hurt herself after her relationship with Kelly ended. And I’ve talked to the parents in Florida and Georgia for nine months now.

This is a story, and I’m a professional and I’m objective and I’ve verified everything they told me. But these are human beings, and the stories they told me and that BuzzFeed verified and published are really disturbing. It’s a disturbing aspect when people say, “Well, how could any parent ever let their kid get near R. Kelly?” And it’s like, “Well, you’ve never made a mistake in your life? Really?” The parents now say it’s the biggest mistake they ever made. And again, I think journalism is partly to blame. He was tried and acquitted, but they were nowhere near aware of everything in the 17-year history that we’ve reported.

Hope Reese
How are the parents and families coping with being unable to contact their children?

Jim DeRogatis
They’re overwhelmed by the attention and the stress of it all. They’re feeling lost and confused. The main thing is that their daughters aren’t home yet.

Hope Reese is a staff writer for TechRepublic (a division of CBS Interactive) based in Louisville, Kentucky. Find her on Twitter @hope_reese.

READ: Painkiller Tramadol has killed more people than heroin and cocaine; A must read

Source: Vox.com

Loading...

0 thoughts on “R Kelly’s horrific under age violation gets messy”

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.