In the first — and what he claimed would be his last — interview regarding his recent child-pornography trial, R&B singer R. Kelly sat down with BET News for a special that aired Tuesday, to say he has had been punished enough and that people should respect the not-guilty verdict he received three months ago.
"It's time for me to move on," Kelly told interviewer Touré during "R. Kelly Speaks." "I can't keep answering these questions. If you was charged with something and you was found innocent, then you can't be found guilty for being found innocent."
However, with that statement, Kelly failed to distinguish the difference between not guilty and innocent — no jury has the power to declare anyone innocent, only the power to say that the state did not meet its burden of proof to find someone guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. And in this particular case, the members of Kelly's jury still had some doubts. Kelly expected his fans and public to have some doubts as well, but he hoped to overcome them with the interview, in which he claimed his sex-god image was just that, an image — not his real life.
"I wish people wouldn't connect the R. Kelly image — of champagne, girls ... sex, sex, sex — to Robert," Kelly said. "R. Kelly is an image, a brand. That's my job. There's a whole other side of me that's Robert, who is a father, a friend. But then I put on the game face and go into the studio and do the music. That's just another day at the office."
When asked directly if he likes teenage girls, Kelly asked in response, "How old are we talking?" Touré responded, "Girls who are teenagers." Kelly then asked, "Nineteen? I have some 19-year-old fans. I don't like anybody illegal, if that's what you're talking about." (The subject of his annulled marriage to a 15-year-old Aaliyah did not come up.)
Touré countered that some of the singer's former employees (including an assistant and a publicist) and his brother Carey Kelly had raised "issues of concern" in this area. "Issues of concern?" Kelly asked. "What do you mean? Let me put it to you this way, man. People who don't work for me say that. The people who do work for me don't say that. The people who don't work for me were fired. ... Do not listen to the people who was fired. Don't even listen to the people who was hired. Listen to the facts."
But what about his own brother, who could hardly be considered just another disgruntled employee? "Doesn't matter," Kelly said. "I fired him too." Why? "I can't get into that," Kelly said. "But I fired him 1,000 times and I rehired him."
Kelly also claimed that he had been blackmailed, a claim he had made previously when a sex tape purporting to depict him and an underage girl was first made public, only now he said the blackmail attempts happened before, during and after the trial. (Kelly did not specify who had allegedly blackmailed him, but Kelly's own lawyer had dispelled the notion that ex-manager — and Aaliyah's uncle — Barry Hankerson was involved in any such attempt in his interview with MTV News immediately following the verdict.)
"I've been blackmailed a billion times," Kelly said. "I've been sued for ridiculous things. At one point in my life, I was an ATM machine. But I'm used to that. You don't get used to it, but I'm used to the fact that people will do this, even your own family members, and I don't hate none of them. A lot of people are out to get me, especially when I was vulnerable [because of the trial and public scandal]. When you're R. Kelly, they want a piece of you."
Kelly said the ordeal of the trial and the years leading up to it made him feel like he had already been given a guilty verdict. "I feel like I was in jail for the last seven years," he said. "A lot has been taken away from me. Going through that whole thing was hell, man. I wouldn't wish it on nobody."
Now that it's over, he wants to concentrate on his music (which he said would remain sexually explicit), his children (although he didn't mention his estranged wife) and humanitarian efforts. He's planning a trip to Africa — his first.
"I'm trying to put it all together," Kelly said. "I want to get over there not just to tour, but get into doing some humanity stuff. I don't know what that is yet."
Kelly said the trial and scandal experience has taught him a lot, including to be more humble, to be more spiritual and to separate his professional and private life.
"If it had an impact, I hope it to be a positive impact," he said. "If the 12 people who didn't know me, after hearing the facts and listening to everything, could find me innocent, [I hope that] people around the world could do the same thing."
Find a review of the major players in the R. Kelly trial here. For full coverage of the R. Kelly case, see the R. Kelly Reports and check out this complete timeline of the events leading up to the trial.