By reaxing an opening statement that evoked sexually explicit scenes from R. Kelly’s past, Cook County prosecutors surprised many. Others, though, may not have realized the singer, one of the most popular acts in R&B music, was facing what may become some of the toughest accusations ever leveled at him.
The 50-year-old singer, who grew up in a tough Chicago neighborhood and became a three-time Grammy winner, has denied all wrongdoing. Since a dramatic raid of his house in July, photos emerged of Kelly hugging and kissing former child star Jocelyn Savage.
RELATED: ‘It’s a living hell, I want this place to be an example to those boys and girls who, at 13, are still vulnerable’: R. Kelly’s abuse case
On Thursday, an unprecedented televised hearing at Cook County’s courthouse depicted a mercurial figure who apparently never quite landed on a consistent course of behavior.
“Never, ever have we had somebody charged with that level of criminal conduct,” Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Passaro told the jury in his opening statement. “Never once in the history of our community in Chicago have we had a case with Mr. Kelly charged with running a sex cult.”
RELATED: How much R. Kelly has earned over his long career
While Passaro at one point depicted Kelly as a man intent on controlling and manipulating his alleged victims, defense attorney Steve Greenberg never claimed that Kelly was involved in a sex cult. Rather, Greenberg said, the singer’s alleged victims were fans who wanted to meet him and they hired people to obtain them tickets to his concerts in the past.
“All of a sudden, this whole thing has taken on a life of its own, and people have made some really patently false and damaging allegations,” Greenberg said.
RELATED: I thought I was going to die, R. Kelly fan says of alleged abuse
RELATED: How ‘petty’ cellphone footage might have helped free R. Kelly
RELATED: R. Kelly’s new prosecutors accused him of lying
RELATED: Inside the story behind R. Kelly’s conviction