R. Kelly has been dogged by allegations of sexual misconduct for years, and now that a videotape has surfaced that allegedly portrays him having sex with an underage girl, charges of child pornography threaten his career.
Kelly had been riding high before the tape surfaced. He performed at the opening ceremonies at the Winter Olympics and his song, "The World's Greatest" from the Ali sondtrack, was a hit. But since the controversy emerged, he's seen his prospects fade. A tour to support his latest album, The Best of Both Worlds, a collaboration with rapper Jay-Z, was scrapped and sales have been disappointing. Still, many other celebrities have overcome serious criminal charges, and many music experts believe Kelly can negotiate through these difficult times if he makes the right choices. Vibe magazine writer Lola Ogunnaike, who wrote a May 2002 cover story on the R&B star, says Kelly's fans will forgive him if he accepts responsibility for the tape. "The urban community tends to be very forgiving of their artists when they run afoul of the law," Ogunnaike told ABCNEWS Radio. "I think it would just be in his best interest to apologize and just try and seek redemption and really just come out and said I've done bad things, things that I'm ashamed of, things that I'm not proud of and I'm just hoping that you guys can stick through this with me and continue to support me."
Kelly Maintains Innocence
In recent months, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs has seen great success after he was cleared of gun charges in a New York City nightclub shooting. Jay-Z, who was accused of second-degree assault but received probation on a lesser charge, has also overcome adversity. Kelly, 35, maintains his innocence. After indictments were handed down, he released a statement saying, "Even though I don't believe any of these charges are warranted, I'm grateful that I will have a chance to establish the truth about me in a court of law. I have complete faith in our system of justice and I am confident that when all of the facts come out, people will see that I'm no criminal." At the heart of the indictment is a 30-minute video, widely circulated over the Internet, made as early as 1997 with a woman who Chicago police say was 14 at the time. Ogunnaike says Kelly will have a hard time distancing himself from that controversial tape. "The tape has been authenticated by the FBI and they've determined that it could not have been a forgery, so I think he's going to have to abandon that line of defense and either come out and say that it is him or try in some way to avoid the question altogether, which is basically impossible," she said. "I viewed the tape with several editors at Vibe and we all agreed that it was Mr. Kelly performing on the tape. There were several women he was involved with [in the tape] but the one in question did appear to be very underage." Long History of Legal Trouble
Kelly has been fighting allegations about his sex life for years. He has been the focus of at least four lawsuits, three of which accuse him of having sex with underage girls.
He has acknowledged settling two of the lawsuits regarding underage sex, but insists that he did so only on advice of his lawyers and maintains that he did not have sex with minors.
In the third suit, filed April 29, a woman claims Kelly had sex with her when she was a minor and forced her to have an abortion.
In another lawsuit, Montina "Tina" Woods, a 33-year-old dancer, accuses Kelly of secretly taping their sexual encounter at his recording studio.
Kelly was previously married to Aaliyah, who was killed last year in a plane crash. But that marriage was annulled because she was only 15 when she applied for a marriage license.
Kelly is currently married to a former dancer from his touring troupe. They have a newborn son and two young daughters.
The singer rose from poverty to strike it big with several hits, including the Grammy-winning hit from the movie Space Jam, "I Believe I Can Fly." He has sold millions of records, topping the charts in 2000 with "TP-2.Com," and other hits like "Bump 'n' Grind," "Feelin' on Yo Booty" and "Your Body's Callin'."
Andrea Dresdale of ABC Radio Networks contributed to this report.