Readers note: This recap may be triggering to those who have experienced sexual assault.
Part four of the Surviving R. Kelly docu-series chronicled the events following Kelly’s arrest for 21 child pornography charges in June 2002. It also called into question whether the legal system provided adequate protection of Kelly’s alleged victims.
After the arrest, Kelly pleaded not guilty and posted bail. A year later, Kelly was arrested for child pornography charges in Miami. Police found photographs of Kelly having sex with an underage girl at his Florida home. In March 2004, the judge overseeing the Florida case concluded that the photos were obtained illegally and could not be used as evidence in court. The case was dropped.
Amid many allegations, lawsuits, videotapes, and a pending criminal case, it was business as usual for Kelly. In February 2003, Kelly released his fifth studio album the Chocolate Factory which spawned the hits “Ignition” and “Step in the Name of Love.”
“It deterred us away from all the allegations and our focus then became on the music,” said Tracii McGregor, media and music executive.
During this period, Kelly’s ex-wife contemplated climbing on a ledge and dying by suicide. She eventually left him with $2500 and their three children. Psychologist Dr. Candice Norcott pointed out the difficulty of leaving an abusive relationship, citing that it takes the victim an average of seven attempts to break it off for good.
While Kelly neglected father and husband responsibilities, he was attempting to buy his way out of his legal troubles. His attorneys accused his brother Carey Kelly of being the man on the tape, which Carey Kelly denied. R. Kelly reportedly offered Carey Kelly $100,000 if he did a deposition stating the allegations against Kelly were untrue. He declined.
Sparkle was offered six figures for a sit down with Kelly and the media, to say there was no issue between them. “I didn’t take the money because I can’t be bought,” she said.
Although he was charged in 2002, the case did not go to trial until 2008. When it commenced, Kelly’s fans, many black women and girls, showed up to show him support. One of them was Jerhonda Pace, a 14-year-old high school freshman. Pace said she was raised by a single mom and because her mother was busy, it was easy for her to skip school to go to the trial. Outside the Cook County courthouse, she crossed paths Kelly and later entered a relationship with him after the trial.
The prosecution’s case focused on the tape and 14 witnesses, including the victim’s friend and basketball teammate Raven Gengler and their coach, Jacques Conway. They both believed Sparkle’s niece was the girl on the tape.
But Sparkle says her niece’s mother denied it was her daughter. Sparkle’s brother also denied.
In the end, the jury returned a not guilty verdict. One juror, John Petrean said he didn’t believe the women who testified against Kelly. “I disregarded all that they said,” he admitted.
“I think that Robert wasn’t convicted because my niece and sister and brother-in-law didn’t come forward,” said Sparkle. “Regarding criminal cases, if there is not a willing participant than really there is no case.”
In the aftermath, Kelly dodged questions about his alleged pedophilia in the media. During an interview on BET, journalist Touré asked Kelly, “Do you like teenage girls?”
— Vibe Magazine (@VibeMagazine) January 5, 2019
“I have some 19-year-old friends, but I don’t like anyone illegal if that’s what we’re talking about,” Kelly said.
Even with this information out there, it was like Kelly’s acquittal absolved him, hip-hop journalist Miss Info expressed.
As for Andrea Kelly, she and R. Kelly finalized their divorce in 2009. By then he had stopped paying child support, she claims. Kelly said her decision to speak out about her experiences wasn’t because Kelly stopped giving her money. “The checks have been over for a very long time,” she said.
With the trial behind him, Kelly began a relationship with Pace when she was 16. His rules for Pace mirrored accounts given by other Kelly accusers: Call him “daddy”; give him updates about their movements; don’t speak to other men. When she disobeyed, Kelly slapped and starved her. The longest she went without eating was three days.
During their first sexual encounter at his home, Pace told him she was a virgin.
“He said, ‘Well that’s perfect,’” said Pace. “That means I get to train you and I get to take your virginity.”
A former employee, who spoke anonymously in the documentary, noticed Kelly’s system of abusing girls revolved around isolation. “They couldn’t have communication with other people,” they said.
Back in 2009, Pace brought Kelly another girl, her friend 17-year-old Dominique Gardner. Gardner’s mother Michelle Kramer, found out from a friend that her daughter was seeing R. Kelly.
She notified the authorities but because Gardner was 17, the legal age of consent in Illinois, they could not take legal action. Part four ends with a preview of Kramer and other parents of Kelly’s alleged victims’ fight to see their daughters again. Kelly has isolated these women from their families.
Part 5 and Part 6 of Surviving R. Kelly air on Saturday, January 5 at 9 pm ET on Lifetime TV.