Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said this week her office is dropping multiple sexual abuse charges against R&B singer R. Kelly, saying he was already at risk of severe punishment by a federal court.
Foxx said that with Kelly likely to serve “long sentences” in prison, her office needs to focus on other abuse cases. A judge dismissed the case on Tuesday, after Foxx announced the decision.
But Jerhonda Pace, one of Kelly’s victims who testified in a successful federal case against him in New York and was also part of the case in Cook County, says she is disappointed with the Foxx’s decision – in part because Kelly is still battling to appeal his federal convictions.
Foxx noted that a federal court in Brooklyn, NY, sentenced Kelly to 30 years in prison last June. She added that, pending sentencing, Kelly faces 10 to 90 years in prison following a conviction in federal court in Illinois last September.
Foxx acknowledged that his decision to call off the case would disappoint the four accusers who have come forward to expose Kelly, 56.
“I understand how difficult it has been for these victims to come forward and tell their stories,” Foxx said, praising the women for their courage.
Through her attorney, David Fish, Pace told NPR that she was disappointed and concerned about the potential effects dropping the case could have on other abusers and victims:
“While I understand that Kelly was convicted in federal court (largely based on the testimony of our brave client Jerhonda’s Pace and the evidence we have on file with R Kelly’s DNA), his federal cases do l appealed and, if overturned, R. Kelly could be released from prison. This is not just a theoretical concern: we have all seen Bill Cosby recently win the appeal and go on comedy tours again.
“The Cook County State’s Attorney should have pursued the case until the appeals were completed. Or he should have sought an agreement whereby R. Kelly agreed not to appeal his federal convictions in exchange for the charges being dropped in Cook County. The state attorney’s decision to simply throw the case away leaves the community vulnerable to this dangerous man if he wins his appeals.”
Fish also questioned Foxx’s timing, saying the DA’s office informed Pace of the decision to drop the case in November. “We don’t know why he waited so long to publicly announce the decision.”
The first formal charges against Kelly were brought in 2002
Chicago is Kelly’s hometown – and it has been the center of decades of accusations and lawsuits against the singer, born Robert Sylvester Kelly.
Some allegations date back to 1994, when Kelly, then 27, married Aaliyah, then 15. video recordings showing the singer “having sex and engaging in a variety of lewd acts with an underage girl,” as reported by NPR.
These charges did not result in a conviction. But in 2019, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office filed a new set of charges, including counts of aggravated felony sexual assault and aggravated felony sexual abuse. Months later, the federal cases of Illinois and Brooklyn emerged.
“While this may not be the outcome they expected, given the sentences Mr. Kelly faces, we believe justice has been served,” Foxx said. “My office will direct our resources to find justice for other victims of sexual abuse who lack the power of a documentary to shine a light on their abusers.”
The documentary Foxx was referring to is Surviving R. Kelly, the six-part series aired on Lifetime in 2019, raising new allegations of abuse and statutory rape against the singer. The series prompted more women to speak out, leading to new charges against Kelly.
Kelly is expected to be sentenced in the Illinois federal case on February 23. He also faces criminal charges in Minnesota, where he is accused of engaging in prostitution with a minor.