Read the "Stomach-Churning" Sexual Assault Accusations Against R. Kelly in Full

Categories: R. Kelly

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It has been nearly 15 years since music journalist Jim DeRogatis caught the story that has since defined his career, one that he wishes didn't exist: R. Kelly's sexual predation on teenage girls. DeRogatis, at that time the pop-music critic at the Chicago Sun-Times, was anonymously delivered the first of two videos he would receive depicting the pop star engaging in sexual acts with underage girls. Now the host of the syndicated public radio show Sound Opinions and a professor at Columbia College, DeRogatis, along with his former Sun-Times colleague Abdon Pallasch, didn't just break the story, they did the only significant reporting on the accusations against Kelly, interviewing hundreds of people over the years, including dozens of young women whose lives DeRogatis says were ruined by the singer.

This past summer, leading up to Kelly's headlining performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival, DeRogatis posted a series of discussions about Kelly's career, the charges made against him, and sexual assault. He published a live review of the singer's festival set that was an indictment of Pitchfork and its audience for essentially endorsing a man he calls "a monster." In the two weeks since Kelly released his latest studio album, Black Panties, the conversation about him and why he has gotten a pass from music publications (not to mention feminist sites such as Jezebel) has been rekindled, in part because of the explicit nature of the album and also because of online arguments around the Pitchfork performance.

See also: Jim DeRogatis: Why Are People Finally Paying Attention to R. Kelly's Many Crimes?

I was one of those people who challenged DeRogatis and was even flip about his judgment -- something I quickly came to regret. DeRogatis and I have tangled -- even feuded on air -- over the years; yet, amid the Twitter barbs, he approached me offline and told me about how one of Kelly's victims called him in the middle of the night after his Pitchfork review came out, to thank him for caring when no one else did. He told me of mothers crying on his shoulder, seeing the scars of a suicide attempt on a girl's wrists, the fear in their eyes. He detailed an aftermath that the public has never had to bear witness to.

DeRogatis offered to give me access to every file and transcript he has collected in reporting this story -- as he has to other reporters and journalists, none of whom has ever looked into the matter, thus relegating it to one man's personal crusade.

I thought that last fact merited a public conversation about why.

In this interview (which has been condensed significantly), DeRogatis speaks frankly and explicitly about the many disturbing charges against Kelly and says, ultimately, "The saddest fact I've learned is nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody."

Refresh our memories. How did this start for you?

Being a beat reporter, music critic at a Chicago daily, the Sun-Times, R. Kelly was a huge story for me, this guy who rose from not graduating from Kenwood Academy, singing at backyard barbecues and on the El, to suddenly selling millions of records. I interviewed him a number of times. Then TP2.com came out. I'd written a review that said the jarring thing about Kelly is that one moment he wants to be riding you and then next minute he's on his knees, crying and praying to his dead mother in Heaven for forgiveness for his unnamed sins. It's a little weird at times. It's just an observation.

The next day at the Sun-Times, we got this anonymous fax -- we didn't know where it came from. It said: R. Kelly's been under investigation for two years by the sex-crimes unit of the Chicago police. And I threw it on the corner of my desk. I thought, "player-hater." Now, from the beginning, there were rumors that Kelly likes them young. And there'd been this Aaliyah thing -- Vibe printed, without much commentary and no reporting, the marriage certificate. Kelly or someone had falsified her age as 18. There was that. So all this is floating in the air. This fax arrives and I think, "Oh, this is somebody playing with this." But there was something that nagged at me as a reporter. There were specific names, specific dates, and those great, long Polish cop names. And you're not going to make that crap up. So I went to the city desk and I asked, "What do we do with this?" They said, Abdon Pallasch is the courts reporter, why don't you two look into it and see if there's anything there? And it turns out there had been lawsuits that had been filed that had never been reported.

When you cover the courts in Chicago or any city, you go twice a day and you go through the bin of cases that have been filed and every once in a while Michael Jordan's been sued or someone went bankrupt and it's this sexy story and you pull it out. These suits had been filed at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Ain't no reporter working at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and they flew under the radar. So we had these lawsuits that were explosive and we didn't understand why nobody had reported them.

Explosive in what regard?

They were stomach-churning. The one young woman, who had been 14 or 15 when R. Kelly began a relationship with her, detailed in great length, in her affidavits, a sexual relationship that began at Kenwood Academy: He would go back in the early years of his success and go to Lina McLin's gospel choir class. She's a legend in Chicago, gospel royalty. He would go to her sophomore class and hook up with girls afterward and have sex with them. Sometimes buy them a pair of sneakers. Sometimes just letting them hang out in his presence in the recording studio. She detailed the sexual relationship that she was scarred by. It lasted about one and a half to two years, and then he dumped her and she slit her wrists, tried to kill herself. Other girls were involved. She recruited other girls. He picked up other girls and made them all have sex together. A level of specificity that was pretty disgusting.

Her lawsuit was hundreds of pages long, and Kelly countersued. The countersuit was, like, 10 pages long: "None of this is true!" We began our reporting. We knocked on a lot of doors. The lawsuits, the two that we had found initially, had been settled. Kelly had paid the women and their families money and the settlements were sealed by the court. But of course, the initial lawsuits remain part of the public record.

So her affidavit, this testimony -- it's all public record?

To this day, any reporter who so cares can go to Cook County and pull these records, so it drives me crazy, even with some of the eloquent reconsiderations we've seen of Kelly in recent days, that they keep saying "rumors" and "allegations". Well, "allegations" is fair, OK. You're protected as a reporter, any lawsuit that has been filed as fact. The contents of the lawsuit are protected. So these were not rumors. These were allegations made in court.

Do you think part of how it's been handled and why it's been under-reported is that music writers may not know how to deal with it in a journalistic sense?

Let's start with the most mundane part. A lot of people who are critics are fans and don't come with any academic background, with any journalistic background, research background. Now, nobody knows everything, and far be it from me to say you've got to be a journalist or you have to have studied critical theory in the academy. Part of what we do is journalistic. Get the names right, get the dates right, get the facts right. Sometimes, on a very rare number of stories, there's a deeper level of reporting required.

There's another reason: People are squeamish. I think a lot of people don't know how to do it, don't care to do it, and it's way too much work. It's just kind of disgusting to have to write about this and bum everyone out when you just want to review a record.

You and I got into it over Twitter around Pitchfork, in part over the fact that you were saying, "If you are enjoying R. Kelly, you are effectively cosigning what this man has done." At the time, I was being defensive, saying people can like what they like.

To be clear, I think Pitchfork was cosigning it. I think each and every one of us, as individual listeners and consumers of culture, has to come up with our own answer. I don't think there's a right or wrong answer. The thing that's interesting to me is that Pitchfork is a journalistic and critical organ. They do journalism and they do criticism. And then when they are making money to present an act -- that's a cosign, that's an endorsement. That's not just writing about and covering it. They very much wanted R. Kelly as their cornerstone artist for the festival. I think it's fair game to say: "Why, Pitchfork?"

See also: #AskRKelly Backfires Mightily on Twitter


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3222 comments
lahipster
lahipster

when girls find out that they should get paid for giving away their pussy for free they sue years later 

Dottie
Dottie

This man, Derogitis, is consumed with the R. Kelly

situation. I am not advocating for or against him or for anyone to purchase or
not purchase his music. He went through the legal process and was found not
guilty. I get it, not everyone agreed with the verdict, but it is what it is.
There have been two court verdicts that I did not agree with: 1) OJ Simpson
trial verdict because I still believe he committed the crime, but not necessarily alone. 2) George Zimmerman because I don’t feel a
community watcher should have been armed and I don’t believe in the ‘stand your
ground Law.” , However, I am not advocating, don’t visit OJ or play golf with
him in jail. Nor do I advocate, ‘Don’t send George money or buy his paintings
because they do have to make a living.

Another thing, that is problematic to me, when Jim says,
nobody seems to care about little black girls. This a problem across all lines,
black, white, brown, asian, rich or poor. Also, court cases are settled everyday in the USA, they are still legitimate.

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anon
anon

I was a 15 year old girl, when I was backstage at an R Kelly concert at Wembley Arena, in London, UK and approached by one of his security guards who asked me if I wanted to 'go and help R Kelly get dressed'.....'YES' I screamed....this guy was one of my favourites, and I certainly didn't take that comment seriously.  I waited outside of his dressing room for 10 minutes I guess, the door opened, and a very flustered, very red faced young girl emerges, 'you can go in now'.  In I go, R Kelly is sitting on a sofa in a white towelling robe with sunglasses on, in front of him is placed a wooden chair, and he asks me to take a seat on it.  He then proceeds to tell me how sexy I am, how I am turning him on.....this goes on for some time.  I don't find the situation particularly comfortable, I am young, and don't feel particularly sexy.  So my responses are dismissive, 'I am sure you said that to the other girl who was in here', stuff like that.  He asks me to sit next to him on the sofa....at which point we kissed, and he opens his robe and he is naked underneath, and he tries to get me to masturbate him....again, I am not comfortable with the situation and so I don't do as he asks, and then he says he needs to get ready and go now, I am finished with.  He signs a poster for me "Be good to me, R Kelly", he gives me tickets and hospitality for the concert the next day...he also tells me the hotel he is staying in, the name he signs into the hotel with 'the Traveller'.....I call the hotel the next day, he asks me to go over....I don't.  I go to the concert the next day......I see his face backstage after the show...he doesn't acknowledge me.  It didn't effect me at the time, I loved R Kelly....I had just met my favourite singer....I was the luckiest girl in the world.  But now as a 36 year old, reading all this stuff, it is pretty nasty.  Not that it matters, but I was a young white female.

Matt Ornstein
Matt Ornstein

Is there a reason to recycle this now other than laziness?

Bill Fariello
Bill Fariello

The guy should be locked up...when Chris Rock has you in his comedy routine .... U know your a predator... He is a piece of shit

Bel Lopez
Bel Lopez

Child porn charges were dropped 15 years ago and he was never charged with rape, statutory or otherwise. So unless there are NEW allegations, why keep on rehashing ugly but more importantly unproven accusations?

Jane Kelly
Jane Kelly

This is six months old? Srsly, why do you guys do this? I'm hiding you from my news feed

godssoulsinger
godssoulsinger

I get really sick of the 'If it was a white girl...' Stabs, not necessary to the story. NOT TRUE. not where I live, I have seen girls of all ethnicities figured over by the court system over tape and serial abuse repeatedly throughout my life, most of them white. In fact most of the time they are ignoredor told to shut up, that they are overeacting, I know I was as well as many of my friends when they were raped, and it curdles my blood. Look in the same paragraph he states that R.Kelly probably kept it low because of who he is. That was telling and makes far more sense then throwing in the race card. Life fixing sucks for lot of ppl and being white v doesn't mean you can't be poor and or raped or molested nor does it mean you get justice, you usually don't. Rare is the day I see a pedophile, rapist, or abuser go to jail and when I do, I rejoice, but I have seen many get off simply b/c it is easier to settle, and cheaper, lawyers are giving expensive, period. There a lot of loopholes and the fact is, criminals know how to work then and normal ppl don't. :-(

OrMoyal
OrMoyal

@kristenorsborn truly awful human. Which makes me sad for a lot of reasons -one of them being that 'ignition' is a top 5 party jam.

siik
siik

@zeeohmara @sosupersam the shirts are about r&b, not scandals. if you disagree/can't accept that, i'm sorry if we've offended you.

sosupersam
sosupersam

@zeeohmara it is a blurry one. but there r other artists on the tshirt, so wouldnt go as far as to say we're championing rkelly as a person

sosupersam
sosupersam

@zeeohmara really glad you are addressing this bc i have read the article, and think about the line between personal character and artistry

sosupersam
sosupersam

@zeeohmara @siik have you seen the rest of the shirt, brandy is on it too should we remove her bc she is a murderer.

zeeohmara
zeeohmara

@siik @sosupersam again, thanks for the dialogue. have yet to hear a good reason to continue to support r. kelly but agree to disagree peace

zeeohmara
zeeohmara

@siik @sosupersam not offended, just over the blind eye to r.kelly's abusive existence bc he made some good tunes. thanks for responding tho

zeeohmara
zeeohmara

@sosupersam @siik hard channel to navigate i don't envy the job but bums me out to see consistent blind eye to the man's actions bc music

zeeohmara
zeeohmara

@sosupersam @siik IDK maybe as creative content curators there's a lot of responsibility about whom & what cultural ideas you propagate.

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