CHICAGO (Reuters) - R&B singer R. Kelly pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to a raft of federal charges accusing him of running a scheme to force women and girls to provide sex for himself and others, and a judge ordered that he remain in jail without bail.
A federal judge said the main reason he was denying bail was obstruction of justice charges, part of a multi-count indictment unveiled on Friday in Chicago and New York.
Wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and handcuffed at a hearing in federal court, the 52-year-old singer entered his plea of not guilty and answered “Yes, sir,” to all of U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber’s questions. He made no eye contact with supporters in the Chicago courtroom.
“Kelly is an extreme danger to the community, especially teenage girls,” federal prosecutor Angel Kroll argued.
Prosecutors brought 18 counts against the Grammy Award-winning artist with allegations he preyed on teenagers and young women for two decades, forcing them into sexual acts.
Under the obstruction of justice charges, R. Kelly and his entourage are accused of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to buy victims’ silence, even giving a car to one young woman, and using intimidation and threats of violence.
The singer, who rose to fame in the 1990s, has been jailed in solitary confinement since he was arrested on Thursday night walking his dog in downtown Chicago, his lawyer Steve Greenberg said.
R. Kelly has faced sexual abuse allegations dating back to the 1990s, which were documented in a television series “Surviving R. Kelly” and aired in January.
In February he was charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse in Illinois state.
Greenberg said R. Kelly was not a flight risk as he spent all his time in his one bedroom apartment on the 48th floor of the Trump Tower in Chicago and had no money.
“If he was going to flee he would have done so already,” Greenberg said. He later said that he would appeal the judge’s bail decision.
Two women who say they have been in consensual relationships with the singer were at the hearing, but did not speak in court or comment to reporters.
The women, Joycelyn Savage and Azriel Clary, expressed their support for R. Kelly in a video posted this week on entertainment news site TMZ.
Best known for hits “Bump n’ Grind,” and “I Believe I Can Fly,” R. Kelly faces a maximum prison sentence of over 190 years for the Chicago charges and decades more for those filed in New York. He is already fighting sexual assault charges in Illinois that carry a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
The musician and record producer is charged with sexual misconduct with 12 teenage girls and young women. Prosecutors said they had evidence in three videotapes of women performing sexual acts with Kelly.
Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, who says he represents three of Kelly’s victims, on Monday said the singer paid over $2 million to keep one young woman off the stand in his 2008 trial on child pornography charges, in which he was acquitted.
“The difference between his old cases and now is that his victims are cooperating with law enforcement,” said prosecutor Kroll.
Reporting by Barbara Smith in Chicago; writing by Andrew Hay; editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Grant McCool