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R. Kelly Charged With Sexual Abuse of Minors; Mueller Report Not Expected Next Week. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired February 22, 2019 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Had no knowledge, and had no reason to believe that a grand jury had been convened, and that he had not been contacted by law enforcement. Obviously, he has now been contacted by law enforcement because there is a warrant out for his client's arrest.
Where we stand now is waiting for the state's attorney to reveal exactly what they are charging R. Kelly with. We will also be waiting to find out if he turns himself in or if he is indeed arrested. One or the other should happen today.
We should also mention that this has been -- there have been allegations and accusations against R. Kelly for decades, literally decades, women who have come forward, women who have settled out of court accusing him of having sex with them when they are minors, women who have come forward just recently in the "Surviving R. Kelly" series.
That's a six-hour series on Lifetime that aired in January. That definitely seemed to shake information loose. That series had several women who came forward saying that they themselves had been abused by R. Kelly, both sexually and physically and other ways.
They also talked about being minors, a few saying that they were minors when R. Kelly engaged in sexual activity with them. As you know, engaging in sexual activity with a minor is considered statutory rape. And so we should also, though, mention that R. Kelly, all these years, all the accusations that have come forward against him, he has denied each and every one of them.
He's been very clear, saying that he is innocent of any of the allegations and accusations, and in 2008, when he was charged with 14 counts of child pornography, he was acquitted in that case. That case involved a girl who was on a videotape, a girl who the jurors said they could not positively identify beyond a reasonable doubt.
The prosecution said the girl was 13 or 14 years old. They said that it was also R. Kelly on that videotape showing him involved in several sex acts. What we know about this new videotape, because we have viewed it, is that there is a girl on the tape, there is a man who appears to be R. Kelly on the tape.
And it is a much clearer, better version of the video. We have learned that she has said on the tape, herself, out of her own mouth, more than five times that she refers to her 14-year-old genitalia.
And he, in turn, clearly hears her, because he then also a couple of times refers to the age of her genitalia being 14 years old. We do not know if that plays a role in the charges that have come forward. What we do know is that attorney Michael Avenatti is in town, and he handed that tape over to the prosecution a week ago, and that he says that he has clients as well.
And we understand now from sources that at least one of his clients has spoken with the state's attorney's office as well. There are lots of moving parts here. We do not yet know exactly what he's been charged with. But we do know now that the indictment has happened, that charges have been filed in court records, and that there is a warrant, a no-bail warrant out for Robert Sylvester Kelly's arrest -- Brooke.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Wow. Sara Sidner, we're going to take your shot the second we see Kim Foxx, the Cook County state's attorney, with those details any moment now.
But let me just say this. Today's indictment comes just weeks, Sara mentioned this, this devastating Lifetime documentary called "Surviving R. Kelly." It is a series that spotlights several women, including the singer's ex-wife, who allege that they suffered physical and emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of this R&B star.
And several of those women were asked what they would say to R. Kelly if he were watching them, watching them speak their truth and tell their stories. And here are some of their responses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIZETTE MARTINEZ, R. KELLY ACCUSER: I would just like to know that you really hurt me. I was a little girl in like a bad man's world. I never really recovered from it.
JOVANTE CUNNINGHAM, R. KELLY ACCUSER: You need to see the effects of your behavior. You need to see how you have ruined lives, how you have damaged relationships, how you have torn up other people's families.
LISA VAN ALLEN, R. KELLY ACCUSER: I would hope that he would want to be a better person and quit hurting, quit hurting people, quit hurting these girls.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Jamilah Lemieux is former senior editor at "Ebony" magazine. She was speaking in that "Surviving R. Kelly" documentary. Joey Jackson is a criminal defense attorney and CNN legal analyst. And then we've got Yodit Tewolde back as well.
And so, Jamilah, before we see this, you know, state's attorney in Cook County, you know, hearing the word of more than one count within the indictment, arrest warrant, how are you feeling?
JAMILAH LEMIEUX, INTERACTIVE ONE: I'm just -- I'm overwhelmed. I think a lot of us that participated in this documentary series, including Dream Hampton, who directed it, believed that this moment could finally bring something resembling justice to R. Kelly's victims and accusers.
And when Kim Foxx came out and said, I'm looking for stories, you know, if there's something we need to know about this person, we will pursue it, take it seriously, talk to us, I think that was a sign that things could play out a bit differently this time than they did after the 2008 trial. And I'm just hoping that this is it.
BALDWIN: What is it?
LEMIEUX: The moment in which those young ladies that are said to still be in his care, whose parents can't reach them, that they go home, that they're taken away from him, that Robert is forced to be accountable for what he has allegedly done to so many young girls and women over the years, that he will have to answer these things, and that he won't be able to pay or shine his way out of this, that there won't be any more World cup performances or being the grand master in Chicago's Bud Billiken back-to-school parade, or performing at the Olympics, or getting an NAACP Image Award.
All these things happening after the first tape, that this is the moment in which our society at large and our system of law enforcement can no longer ignore who this person very likely is and who he's been to so many people.
BALDWIN: What are we about to hear from Kim Foxx?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think we're about to hear what this indictment is all about, what it means, what it represents, what are the charges, who they relate to, when it occurred.
Just as a cautionary tale, of course, an indictment is a mere accusation. An indictment lays out. You convene 16 people from the county, and you need nine, a minority, to vote out an indictment. They're not determining proof of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. They're determining, is there reasonable cause to believe that a crime was committed and that R. Kelly committed it?
Having said that, it's very significant, because it brings the process. And although there's no judge in a grand jury, although the people who testify in the grand jury are not cross-examined in any way, certainly, the people there felt it compelling enough -- and generally grand jurors indict -- to move the matter forward.
And now, Brooke, I think we will see the evidence challenged, and we will see. You know, if Mr. Avenatti brought a videotape and, of course, people have looked and seen the tape -- the first time around, 2002, there was such a tape. We have been here before. He was acquitted of those charges, of course.
It involved allegedly him having sex with a minor. That person didn't testify at the trial. There was disputes as to whether R. Kelly was on that tape. This tape, apparently, there's a lot more clarity. But, still, you're going to question where the tape came from, the authenticity, was it superimposed, and you're going to look and evaluate the testimony because this grand jury doesn't just look at tape. They hear testimony.
And you can't help, as we all sit here, and I'm sure anyone at home, to listen to all the women who had something to say just a few minutes ago, it has an effect. And the open question for me, Brooke, is during the course of the trial, how many judges -- if there is a trial, there's a lot that could occur between here -- how many of those women will the judge permit to testify as to his alleged prior bad behavior?
People listening and sitting to that, you know, I'm certain you find it compelling. And it goes to show your motive, it goes to show your intent, it goes to show your M.O., who are you, and that matters when a jury's considering guilt or lack thereof.
BALDWIN: Yodit, as we're hearing about this no-bail arrest warrant, no bail, I presume, because they see him as a flight risk. Yes?
YODIT TEWOLDE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Absolutely.
A judge has to assess several factors. And one of the factors, is the defendant a flight risk, and does he pose a danger to himself or the community? And so for the underlying offense or whatever was charged in this indictment is indicative of a possible child predator, right, a sexual predator?
And so with the means and access that R. Kelly has, the court is afraid that he would be a possible flight risk, so they want to ensure that he is going to be in court and is going to confront these charges, and also keep the community at large safe from his actions, because, clearly, victims have come forward, family members have come forward, and there's just been rumors for over 20 years about this man.
And so the court does not feel comfortable in letting this person loose while this case is pending.
BALDWIN: So -- all right, so, Mark O'Mara, if you are R. Kelly's attorneys -- and, again, you know, throughout, they have vehemently denied any of these accusations -- what are you doing right now?
Are calling up R. Kelly, wherever he is, and essentially saying, sir, you need to turn yourself in? What's happening right now?
MARK O'MARA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. At this point, he needs to make it as easy on himself as it can be. We know there's a very significant indictment that's now come out.
I find it to be significant because it sounds as though there are four different victims who are in the indictment. We don't know if there's more than one victim or complaining witness in the tape. But that suggests to me, as Joey mentioned, that there's a lot of what we call similar fact evidence.
And that type of evidence, evidence of other women arguing that the same thing happened to them, that is devastating evidence.
BALDWIN: A pattern.
O'MARA: Yes, exactly.
A jury may give you that benefit of the doubt and the presumption of innocence in a one-off event, but when you have it happening time and time again -- and, again, you don't need prior convictions, you just need prior similar acts -- then that's going to be devastating evidence. R. Kelly needs to come in.
He's going to be placed under arrest. The judge will consider, though it's a no-bond warrant at this point, the judge will have a bond hearing to determine if he's entitled to bond. And he will under these charges. Then what conditions he will have. Take away his passport, large bond, security bond, whatever it is.
We will probably see him out on bond at some point soon, so that he can get ready for his defense, because this defense is going to be very fact-intensive. His response to it is going to be very important. It's going to take a lot of time with him and his legal team to defend against the charges of the indictment.
BALDWIN: All right, everyone, stand by.
We're waiting to see Kim Foxx behind that podium. She's the Cook County state's attorney. She will have the details from the indictment, how many counts, how many women, what, when, where, why.
Stand by. Waiting for the breaking news out of Chicago next.
BALDWIN: All right, back to our breaking news again.
There's the podium. Waiting for Kim Foxx. She is the Cook County state's attorney. She's about to drop a lot of information on a lot of us, right, with regard to R&B superstar R. Kelly. He's been indicted.
We don't know the counts yet or many of the details. But what I was -- first of all, we know he has a no-bond arrest warrant. There's that. And we also just got handed this from Sara Sidner, who is in the room -- looking at the screen.
KIMBERLY FOXX, COOK COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY: Good afternoon. Earlier today, Robert Kelly was indicted before a Cook County grand
jury on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four victims.
The first victim, initials H.W., was involved in incidents which occurred between May 26, 1998, and May 25, 1999. A grand jury returned an indictment on four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse based on the victim being under the age of 17, and Robert Kelly being more than 5 years older than the victim.
The second victim, initials R.L., was involved in an incident which was involved between September 26, 1998, and September 25, 2001. A grand jury returned an indictment on two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, based on the victim being under the age of 17, and Robert Kelly being more than 5 years older than that victim.
The third victim, initials L.C., was involved in an incident which occurred February 18, 2003. A grand jury returned an indictment on one count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, based on the transmission of semen by Robert Kelly upon any part of the body of the victim for the purposes of sexual gratification during the course of an underlying felony of attempt criminal sexual assault.
The fourth victim, initials J.P., was involved in incidents which occurred between May 1, 2009, and January 31, 2010. The grand jury returned an indictment on three counts, three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, based on the victim being under the age of 17 and Robert Kelly being more than 5 years older than the victim.
Aggravated criminal sexual abuse is a Class 2 felony with the sentencing range of three to seven years per count. It is also probationable.
We anticipate that Mr. Kelly will appear in bond court tomorrow afternoon.
BALDWIN: All right. So, there you have it. We were wondering how many counts, 10, 10 counts, four victims, four women ranging from the years -- I jotted down between essentially 1998 and as recent as 2010.
Jamilah Lemieux, Joey Jackson.
Guys, let me know when Sara Sidner is up, but...
JACKSON: I think it's significant, inasmuch as, look, a critical question is the statute of limitations. And, of course, the statute of limitations for a minor is 20 years after you reach the age of 18.
And so if you're in that applicable period, it can go forward. It seems as though, from the charges she listed off, they're in that applicable period. That's number one.
[15:20:01] Number two, there's four victims here. That's pretty compelling. Think about a trial when you have one witness testify as to things that are significant. And what is significant? Having sex with a minor. Right?
And then you have another witness testify, and there are multiple counts as to each. They will be describing different circumstances, different scenarios, et cetera, and then you have the third witness testify. And then you have another.
So I think, you know, again, haven't evaluated evidence. She stated her piece. I'm not surprised she didn't take questions. Prosecutors get into a lot of trouble when they start taking questions. She just laid out what the accusations are. But these accusations are significant.
BALDWIN: And so what's happening with R. Kelly? Where is R. Kelly? What's next for him? She mentioned a bond hearing tomorrow.
JACKSON: Well, at some point, he will have to -- generally, what happens is that, when there's an arrest warrant, usually law enforcement gives you the opportunity with counsel to surrender yourself.
When you surrender yourself, you will go to that bond hearing. At that hearing, the judge will make the determination as to whether or not you get bail. Remember, the purpose of bail, Brooke, is to determine whether, right -- it ensures that you come back to court.
It's not preventative. It's not punitive. It just sets an amount that gives you an incentive to come back. At that hearing, his lawyers will argue that he's a good risk to return. People who know R. Kelly is. I'm sure he will have to surrender a passport. There will be other conditions.
And the bail may be substantial, but certainly it's likely improbable that he will be granted bail tomorrow.
BALDWIN: So, these alleged incidents have been going on for decades. And I asked you this. I want you to make the point again. I asked you why has this allegedly been going on so long, and it's taken this long to indict the man? And you said what?
LEMIEUX: You know, I stand firmly in the belief that we're only now hearing this because these were black girls, that he was not tried and successful -- or successfully prosecuted in the past because these were young black girls.
And these were not black girls typically of means. These weren't celebrities, with the exception of Aaliyah. These were regular working-class girls from like places like the South Side of Chicago, from the South, girls that are believed to be adults from the point that they grow breasts, you know, or can walk the streets unaccompanied at 11 or 12, girls that are thought to be more responsible for what happens to them in the care of an adult than the adult themselves. You know, the people who believe that R. Kelly is guilty have said,
but what about those girls? At 14, I knew better than to do that, or at 16, what are you doing in the company of a grown man?
JACKSON: Blaming the victim.
LEMIEUX: Blaming the victim over and over again. And I think that this particular demographic of victims has been blamed so often that people don't see them as victims. They see them as co-conspirators, at best, and the actual villains, at worst.
BALDWIN: Until that BuzzFeed piece, until the "Surviving R. Kelly," until she, you know, the state's attorney, came out and said, please, come forward if you are a witness or if you, you know, are a survivor, come forward and please share your story.
And, therefore, that brings us to today.
Sara Sidner is in the room.
Sara Sidner, there you have it, 10 counts, four victims.
SIDNER: That's right, 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
What was interesting to listen to there is that she gave the initials of the alleged victims' names, and she also mentioned something else. She said that they are expecting to see R. Kelly, Robert Sylvester Kelly, in the bond hearing, which means that there should be or there is likely conversations going back and forth between him or him and his attorney and somebody from the state's attorney's officers as they are trying to figure out whether or not he will turn himself in or whether or not he will be arrested.
I do want to read a little bit of what we have gotten from the state's attorney's office here.
SIDNER: Just to be able to digest all that we have learned, if you don't mind.
So she talked about the first victim. She gave the initials of the first victim. And what's interesting here are the dates. So this, she says, occurred between 1998 and 1999, and that was a year that she has listed there, May '98 to May '99.
And she talked about a sexual abuse victim who was under the age of 17 and that Robert Kelly was more than five years older than the victim. That could -- we do not know -- that could well be referring to the girl that we saw on the videotape that was handed over to the prosecution a week ago.
I will also read you the next one, which was from September 1998 until 2001. Now, think about the length of time, these cases that they have been looking into. This may mean that they have not just witness testimony that they are aware of, but that there are some other things and other pieces of evidence that they are looking at as well.
We know, obviously, that there is a videotape that they have in their possession in this particular case, and that the third victim said there was an incident that occurred, and it's a very specific date, on February 18, 2003.
The last victim, May 2009 to January 2010. So, in some cases, and in the last case, it also was a victim being under the age of 17. The reason why 17 is so important here is because that is in Illinois the age of consent.
And so those are -- we are talking about minors. In a couple of these cases, it is specific, and I think in three of the four cases, it is specifically about a victim being under the age of 17, in other words, a minor, who cannot consent. And they're talking about aggravated criminal sexual abuse. These are major charges.
We -- in order to be, you know, open and honest about what all has gone on, we should also mention the grand jury has been meeting for some time, hearing witnesses, witness testimony, seeing potential evidence in the case, and that they did indict, the state's attorney going forward with charges.
There has now been an arrest warrant that has been filed. That's been confirmed by Chicago police. Now we are waiting to find out when R. Kelly is going to -- if he is going to turn himself in, or whether or not he will be arrested.
But, certainly, there is a bond hearing scheduled between 12:30 local time and 1:00 tomorrow, in which the state's attorney said they expected to see R. Kelly. So, that gives you some idea that they are expecting him to be there.
In other words, he will either be picked up or he will turn himself in with the help of his attorney, Steve Greenberg. We should also mention Steve Greenberg well aware of what's happening here, and we are hoping to hear something from him.
But all this time that R. Kelly has been accused, over decades, over decades of time, where there have been accusations about him having inappropriate sexual contact with young girls, with girls who are minors, he has always maintained his innocence. He's always said that he has done nothing wrong, nothing illegal, with young girls.
He did an interview, for example, with Black Entertainment Television, BET, back in 2008, and he was asked, do you like teenage girls? And his response was, well, it depends on how old they are, and went on to say that, of course, these teenagers, a lot of them are his fans, and he has friendships with teenagers but that he has done nothing illegal.
So, he has maintained that he has not done anything illegal over the years. We have not heard anything from him or his attorney now, but remembering that these charges just came forward in the last few minutes, all of this information obviously is going to be handed over to his attorney, and then we will see where we go from there.
But this is a major development in a story that has been permeating this area of Chicago and the rest of the country for years.
BALDWIN: Yes, decades.
SIDNER: And there is the element, Brooke -- and you have talked about this -- this is important. There is the element here that these black women who came forward to talk about what they say they had gone through in the "Surviving R. Kelly" series, they felt ignored by us, the media.
They felt ignored by law enforcement. They felt ignored by so many people when they tried to get help, when they tried to explain what was happening to them. And they also felt that, because R. Kelly was who he was, because he was such a superstar, because he was such a big moneymaker, that he had the power and has always maintained the power in their relationship.
So, it is important to note that now there is an indictment. We're talking 11 years after he was acquitted in a 2008 trial on child pornography charges. There's now an indictment where he is facing aggravated sexual abuse charges. This is big, Brooke.
BALDWIN: You have been incredible on all of this. Sara Sidner, thank you so much.
A major moment for women. A major moment for women of color across this country. And, again, he will be in custody at some point for that bond hearing tomorrow.
So that's the latest on the R. Kelly news.
I want to make a right turn here, because we have got some breaking news involved in this special counsel Robert Mueller probe.
Shimon Prokupecz is our crime and justice reporter who has been reporting out the when, seeming that it would be imminent, this Mueller report dropping, when Bill Barr, the A.G., would be getting that. Do you have an update on the timeline?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
Well, we don't have an update on the timeline. What we do know now is that this is not expected to land on William Barr's desk next week. Mueller is not expected to deliver his final report next week, as has been anticipated.
We were told that it could happen next week. We're now being told -- actually, our justice correspondent, Laura Jarrett, over at the Department of Justice has been told that that is not now expected to happen next week.
One of the reasons why, we're told, is that the president, who, as we know, is planning his trip on Monday, is planning to leave -- it's obviously a very big trip -- we're told officials do not in any way want to step on that trip.