R&B star R. Kelly pleads not guilty to sexually assaulting teens

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CHICAGO (Reuters) – Grammy-winning R&B star R. Kelly pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges that he sexually assaulted three teenage girls and a woman in alleged incidents dating back to 1998, weeks after a television documentary leveled new accusations against him.

The 52-year-old performer, whose real name is Robert Kelly, is charged under a 10-count indictment with sexually assaulting three teenagers, with each count carrying a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, Kelly appeared in a Chicago courtroom before Cook County Associate Judge Lawrence Flood and spoke only to confirm his name. His lawyer, Steven Greenberg, entered a not guilty plea on Kelly’s behalf.

Prosecutors say the victims include a teenager Kelly met when she sought an autograph during his previous trial on child pornography charges, another he met at her 16th-birthday party and his hairdresser, who was then 24. The singer was acquitted of the pornography charges.

A fourth charge is based on a videotape that purportedly shows Kelly and a 14-year-old girl engaged in sexual acts, according to prosecutors.

Kelly faced the child pornography charges more than a decade ago, at a trial where the victim did not testify. The new charges emerge in a different environment, after the #MeToo movement made victims more willing to come forward and law enforcement more likely to believe them.

Michael Avenatti, a lawyer representing two accusers, told reporters after Monday’s hearing that he had turned over a second videotape to prosecutors earlier in the day.

The video was about 55 minutes long, dated from around 2000 and also showed a 14-year-old girl, though he did not make clear whether it was the same girl as in the first video.

FILE PHOTO: Singer Robert Kelly, known as R. Kelly, is pictured in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., in this handout booking photo obtained by Reuters February 23, 2019. Cook County Sheriff’s Office/Handout via REUTERS

Kelly lawyer Greenberg told reporters that his client hopes to post the required $100,000 cash bail Monday evening to be released from a prison hospital unit where he was placed to keep him apart from the general inmate population.

“Mr. Kelly has done absolutely nothing wrong,” Greenberg said. “No one has showed us any evidence that he has done anything wrong.”

The charges against the performer came just weeks after the Lifetime television network aired the six-hour documentary series entitled “Surviving R. Kelly” in which multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct and abuse.

Reporting by Karen Pierog, additional reporting by Jackie Botts and Jonathan Allen in New York; editing by Cynthia Osterman, Bill Berkrot and Jonathan Oatis