R. Kelly’s child-pornography trial has followed a long and complicated course since news about the videotape, in which Kelly is allegedly depicted having sex with an underage girl , first broke in February of 2002. Here’s a look at key events surrounding the increasingly complex case.
January 8, 1967 — Robert Sylvester Kelly is born in Chicago, the third of four children.
1991 — R. Kelly meets manager Barry Hankerson’s niece Aaliyah Haughton — she was 12 years old at the time. Kelly goes on to produce her 1994 debut, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number. This is also the year that Tiffany Hawkins claims that she began a sexual relationship with Kelly, and that he talked her into participating in group sex with other underage girls, according to her 1996 lawsuit. She was 15 at the time.
THE R. KELLY TRIAL: IN BRIEF
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For full coverage of the ongoing R. Kelly case, see The R. Kelly Trial Reports.
1994 — Kelly meets his future wife Andrea Lee when she auditions to be a dancer for the 12 Play tour (she was 20 at the time). However, he first marries 15-year-old Aaliyah — using a falsified marriage certificate that lists her age as 18 — in August.
1995 — Six months after the wedding, Aaliyah’s marriage to Kelly is annulled in February when her parents find out; her uncle continues to work with Kelly.
1996 — Kelly marries Andrea Lee. In December, Tiffany Hawkins files suit against Kelly.
1998 — In January, Kelly settles Hawkins’ suit for $250,000. In December, Kelly encounters 16-year-old Patrice Jones while she is out on her prom date , according to her 2002 lawsuit.
Somewhere between January 1998 and October 2000, Chicago prosecutors claim that Kelly made the sex tape at the center of the trial with an underage girl , his goddaughter, who they say was 14 at the time.
1999 — According to her lawsuit, Patrice Jones claims that in June she was pregnant , and that in September Kelly persuaded her to have an abortion.
2000 — In April, Kelly begins a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old record-label intern named Tracy Sampson, according to her 2001 lawsuit. In December, the Chicago Sun-Times publishes an article about the investigation and Kelly’s “pattern of pursuing underage girls for sex.” The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services launches a probe.
2002 — In February, the Sun-Times receives the videotape at the center of the trial from an anonymous source — they give the tape to the police, who say the girl was 14 at the time. News of the tape breaks as Kelly is about to sing at the Olympics’ opening ceremony; he proclaims his innocence in an interview with WMAQ-FM . By the end of the month, bootlegs of the tape are available on the streets and on the Internet .
In April, former Kelly protégée Sparkle identifies the girl on the tape as her niece , just as Kelly settles the Sampson suit for $50,000 and Patrice Jones files hers . In May, Kelly sits down with MTV to address the scandal, declaring, “I’m no monster.” By the end of the month, a fourth woman settles with Kelly before filing a lawsuit, and a fifth, Montina Woods, sues for invasion of privacy , accusing him of secretly taping their of-age sexual encounter in his recording studio.
In June, Kelly is arrested in his Florida home on 21 counts of child pornography . He posts a $750,000 bond when he surrenders to Chicago authorities . Shortly after, he releases a song called “Heaven I Need a Hug.” His brother Carey, concerned over rumors that the defense would suggest it was him on the tape, turns up at court to discuss it with R. Kelly .
2003 — In January, Kelly is arrested on 16 additional charges of child pornography in Miami when authorities say they found photos of a nude underage girl while searching his residence during the previous arrest. The Florida charges are later dismissed due to an anomaly in the search warrant . Despite Kelly’s failure to phone his probation officer while shooting a video in January in Florida, Judge Vincent Gaughan overlooks protests from prosecutors and grants the singer permission to leave the state for two brief tours, one in August and one in October .
In January, Kelly makes his first major concert appearance since the scandal began at a radio concert in New Jersey, and releases his Chocolate Factory album the following month; it enters the Billboard albums chart at #1 . He also releases a greatest-hits album, The R in R&B Collection, Volume 1, in September.
2004 — Kelly gets two victories — first, seven of the 21 counts against him in Chicago are dropped in February , due to misuse of the exact language in the law; two weeks later, the judge in his Florida case suppresses the photos that police found , causing the case to be dropped.
Bolstered by the mini-tours, Kelly asks the court in July for permission for a full-fledged outing , which he later announces as the Best of Both Worlds tour with Jay-Z . At the Chicago date, Kelly shows up two and a half hours after showtime and uses honey-colored showers and dancers clad in orange, mock-prisoner jumpsuits onstage , causing prosecutors to ask for a tape of the show. The next night’s show in Cincinnati is canceled. Kelly leaves the stage midway through the St. Louis date after an argument about the lighting, and spends the rest of the evening working the drive-through at a McDonald’s .
During the New York date in October, Kelly leaves the stage after announcing that two men in the audience threatened him with guns, and later claims he was also attacked with pepper spray . The tour falls apart as Kelly blames Jay-Z’s entourage for the alleged attack, and sues him for sabotaging the tour .
In November, news of another sex tape surfaces — this one involving Kelly and Gary Sheffield’s wife Deleon Richards , who admits to being involved with the singer 10 years earlier, when she was a teenager. A Chicago man is later found guilty of extorting Sheffield after demanding $20,000 from a sports agent to stop the release of the tape.
In May, Kelly is granted permission to travel and perform at New York radio station Hot 97’s Summer Jam concert on June 12 in New Jersey; at the show he is insulted onstage by 50 Cent . In August, Kelly releases the double album Happy People / U Saved Me ; the album debuts at #2 on the Billboard albums chart . Just two months later, he releases a joint album with Jay-Z titled Unfinished Business, which debuts at #1 .
2005 — Jay-Z countersues in February , but a New York judge throws it out a few months later . Andrea Lee, Kelly’s wife of nearly 10 years, seeks a restraining order against him in September , claiming he attacked her when she asked for a divorce. She later recants but moves out of their home.
Meanwhile, Kelly’s popular “Trapped in the Closet” song and video series , which is rolled out in installments throughout 2005 and 2006, provides a comic — and popular — distraction from his legal woes. In July, he releases TP3.Reloaded, which debuts at #1.
2006 — Carey Kelly claims R. Kelly offered him $50,000, a record deal and a house in exchange for saying that he was the man in the sex tape at the center of the criminal case; Carey says he refused . In April, Jay-Z’s cousin Tyran “Ty Ty” Smith confesses to pepper-spraying Kelly and four of his bodyguards at the New York Best of Both Worlds date .
2007 — Despite being separated, Kelly’s wife defends him in May , claiming he isn’t the man in the sex tape, even though she said she hasn’t seen it. Kelly’s trial date is set for September 17, only to be pushed back when the main prosecutor gives birth .
Also in September, Kelly’s longtime publicist Regina Daniels quits mysteriously after 14 years, saying that he “crossed a line” — she later claims Kelly had a sexual relationship with her daughter . A number of artists including Lupe Fiasco, Chris Brown, Swizz Beatz and T-Pain say they don’t believe the case has done Kelly’s career much harm .
In December, a fan snaps a picture of Kelly in court, only to get five days in the county jail. Kelly nearly gets jailtime himself, as the judge issues a bench warrant and nearly revokes his bond when he fails to show for a court date . Also in December, the trial receives a new start date: May 9, 2008 .
Kelly releases a new album titled Double Up in May . The album becomes Kelly’s sixth #1 debut on Billboard’s albums chart . In August, he releases further installments of “Trapped in the Closet.” And after initially denying through a representative that he was planning a fall tour , Kelly launches the Double Up trek in November, which stretches into January . Early in the tour, Kelly drops support act Ne-Yo , claiming paperwork problems, while Ne-Yo claims the reason for his ejection is because his performance was stronger than Kelly’s.
2008 — Ne-Yo sues in January for breach of contract for being fired from the Double Up tour , while the judge orders Kelly to cancel a show so as not to miss a court appearance the following day. In February, Regina and George Daniels clarify that Kelly had a sexual relationship with their college-age daughter , whom the singer has known since she was 7.
On May 3, the Saturday before the trial is scheduled to begin, the Chicago Sun-Times reports that a woman will testify that she was involved in a three-way sexual encounter with Kelly and the girl in the videotape, and that the girl in the videotape was underage at the time . (This takes place when the woman in question, Lisa Van Allen, testifies the following month.) On May 7, Kelly’s lawyer Ed Genson asks for the trial to be delayed yet again “because of the torrent of publicity over the weekend,” referring to the Sun-Times report; the request is denied. The day before the trial begins, the Sun-Times reports another strong allegation: that a Kelly aide paid Van Allen for the return of an incriminating sex tape featuring Kelly.
On May 9, more than five years after news of the videotape broke, jury selection for the trial finally begins (head here for an overview of reasons for the long delay). After a pair of near-comical incidents — including a strong bathroom smell in the jury room and a colorful potential juror — jury selection is completed the following week. (Head here for an overview of key players in the trial.)
On the first day, following opening arguments, the prosecution surprisingly plays the tape for the court, which had been expected to be presented later in the trial ; Kelly and the jurors appear uncomfortable while viewing it . In the following days, several people close to the girl who allegedly appears in the tape — including family members, friends , former Kelly protégé Sparkle (the girl’s aunt) and Kelly’s former assistant (who claims she is “110 percent” certain it’s Kelly in the tape) — testify to the girl’s identity. However, several other family members later testify that the girl in the tape is not their relative.
A visibly pregnant Van Allen, the “threesome” woman, also identifies the girl in the tape, and testifies that she had three sexual encounters with her and Kelly (two of which were videotaped). Van Allen alleges that she was paid $20,000 for the return of a copy of an incriminating tape, after being offered $250,000 for an original . The defense gives notice that they will call convicted felon Damon Pryor — the father of Van Allen’s 5-year-old daughter — in an effort to discredit her testimony . An expert called by the prosecution testifies that there is “no way” the tape at the center of the trial could have been faked. Reporter Jim DeRogatis, who received the videotape from an anonymous source and broke the story in 2002 , is ordered to testify but fails to appear in court ; he appears the following day and takes the Fifth.
The prosecution rested on June 2 (head here for an overview of their evidence and testimony ).
The defense case, which began on June 4, attempted to dismantle the credibility of the state’s witnesses . Keying on a distinctive mole on Kelly’s lower back, the prosecution’s forensic video analyst slowed down a half-second’s worth of footage from the sex tape and showed that the mole on the man in the video’s back was visible, but then the defense’s expert testified that this dark mark on the man’s back was no mole, since it came and went, making it a possible artifact of electronic noise.
The defense team’s expert made a version of the tape in which he put a background of the log-cabin room in Kelly’s home on a loop, then placed the man and the girl on the tape in a superimposed layer, and then made their heads disappear while they were having sex. Still, he conceded, there would be evidence of fakery, and the defense did not offer any suggestions as to a look-alike’s identity, nor did his lawyers present any evidence or witnesses regarding the room where the tape was shot, to demonstrate who else may have had access.
The defense also suggested that many people would want to set Kelly up, including Van Allen (arguing that she is the type of person who would demand money in exchange for not testifying), former protégé Sparkle (insinuating that she was bitter over being dropped from Kelly’s record label), former manager Barry Hankerson (whose niece was Aaliyah), and Chicago Sun-Times reporter Jim DeRogatis, although the jury did not hear from the latter two individuals.
To counter the dozen people — four relatives, three childhood friends (along with three of their parents) and two basketball coaches — who identified the girl on the tape, the defense presented three separate relatives who denied it was the girl in question.
The defense rested unexpectedly quickly — after just two days of testimony from 12 witnesses — with neither Kelly nor the girl who allegedly appears in the video taking the stand. On June 10, Kelly spoke for the first time during the trial — and waived his right to testify .
Closing arguments were heard on June 12, and the jury began deliberations. The following day, Kelly was found not guilty on all counts. Jurors said that while they were certain Kelly was the man on the sex tape, they were uncertain about the girl. In an exclusive interview with MTV News, Kelly attorney Sam Adam Jr. said, “It’s been one heck of a case.”
[This story was originally published at 8:00 am E.T. on 5.7.2008]