Cook County prosecutors formally dismissed all charges against imprisoned R&B star R. Kelly on Tuesday, marking a subdued end to indictments that made international headlines when they were announced four years ago.
State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced the office’s intention to drop the cases at a news conference Monday. While they believe the allegations against Kelly to be credible, she said, the singer is already facing decades in prison on separate federal convictions and her office has chosen to spend its limited resources on other matters.
During a brief hearing before Judge Lawrence Flood, prosecutors moved to dismiss the four indictments alleging Kelly committed sexual abuse and assault. Kelly’s supporters in the gallery smiled.
Jennifer Bonjean, one of Kelly’s attorneys, told reporters afterward that her team is “pleased what I consider to be a very sound use of prosecutorial discretion.”
“To proceed with these charges was unnecessary,” she said. “It was very much a piling on. Mr. Kelly is only one man with one life, so he’s already facing decades in prison. I can’t imagine this is a good use of the prosecutors’ time, the judge’s time, or the taxpayers’ money.”
Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison for racketeering in his New York federal case. He is slated for sentencing in Chicago’s federal court Feb. 23 on convictions related to child pornography and sexual misconduct with minors.
Bonjean said she will request that any sentence levied in Chicago run concurrent to the 30-year New York prison term, which she said is tantamount to a life sentence for 56-year-old Kelly.
And Bonjean said she is eager to proceed with Kelly’s appeal in the New York case. She called those proceedings “one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice.”
“Everything from the way it was charged, to the way he was represented, to the way it was handled by the judge that presided over the case allowing in copious amounts of prejudicial so-called ‘bad act’ evidence, he just didn’t have a shot,” she said.
The four Cook County cases were announced in 2019 after Foxx made an unusual public plea for Kelly’s accusers to come forward, saying their cooperation is necessary to bring Kelly to justice.
But those indictments were soon outshined by bombshell charges from federal prosecutors in New York and Chicago. The county cases took a back seat for years while Kelly was convicted in one federal courtroom, then the other.
The federal convictions forced Cook County prosecutors into a tough calculation. If they brought him to trial and won, it would have little concrete effect on Kelly, who is expected to spend decades in federal custody no matter what they do. If they lost, it would prove embarrassing for the office that announced charges earliest and with great gusto.
Either route would have cost significant time and resources, and potentially require victims to relive traumatic moments on a very public witness stand.
Foxx said Monday that the office had consulted with the women at the center of the indictments before dropping charges, and reactions were mixed. Some were connected to the other cases and were satisfied with the ultimate outcome, given they had already endured the stress of the federal trials, Foxx said.
Foxx said Kelly’s accusers “are to be commended for their bravery and their relentless pursuit of justice no matter how long it took.”
One Kelly accuser, Lanita Carter, told the Tribune she was devastated when she heard the news.
“If you believe me, then you fight for me. If you believe me, you advocate for me,” she said.
One of the Cook County cases centered on Jerhonda Pace, who was a key witness against Kelly at his New York federal trial last year. Another focused on videos of Kelly abusing his then-teenage goddaughter, which jurors in Kelly’s Chicago federal trial viewed over the summer. Kelly’s defense had previously indicated it would attempt to have a judge throw out those cases on the grounds they were similar to the conduct for which he was convicted federally.
A third Cook County case centered on a woman identified as H.W., who accused Kelly of having sexual contact with her when she was just 16. A fourth indictment centered on Carter’s accusations.