Disgraced R&B singer R Kelly was sentenced on Wednesday to 30 years in prison for using his fame to sexually abuse young fans, including some who were just children, in a systematic scheme that went on for decades.
Through tears and anger, several of Kelly’s accusers told a court in New York City, and the singer himself, how he had misled and preyed upon them.
The Grammy Award-winning, multiplatinum-selling songwriter was found guilty of racketeering and sex trafficking at trial last year. The hearings gave a voice to accusers who had previously wondered if their stories were being ignored because they were black women.
This is a full timeline of his life, career and the case:
January 8, 1967: Robert Sylvester Kelly is born in Chicago to Joann Kelly, a school teacher. R Kelly is third of four children and lives with his family in Chicago's housing projects. Little is known about his father.
1975: At age 8, Kelly begins singing in church. Around the same time, his mother teaches him how Stevie Wonder sings by putting a nickel on the record player needle to slow down the revolutions. "So the runs could go really slow and then you learn them," Kelly told ABC News in 2004.
1979: At age 12, Kelly said, he "experienced a lot of things at a very young age that I don't know if I was supposed to," including witnessing older youth sexually abuse one of his girlfriends.
1983: At age 16, his mother moves the family from the projects and enrols her son at the prestigious Kenwood Academy, a Chicago public school. Kelly meets his mentor, Lena McLin, who chairs Kenwood's music faculty. "She was my second mother. She made me feel I could do anything," Kelly told People in 1994.
1984: At age 17, his music teacher places him in a local talent show to perform a version of Ribbon in the Sky, a Stevie Wonder song. "That night it was like Spider-Man being bit. I discovered the power you get from being onstage," he told Newsweek in 1995. In the years that follow, he performs in Chicago's subway stations full time with his Casio keyboard, often pretending he's blind to avoid arrest.
1990: R. Kelly's R&B group MGM wins the $100,000 grand prize on the syndicated television talent show, Big Break, hosted by Natalie Cole. Because of money disagreements, that was the last time the group performed. Music executive Wayne Williams of Jive Records discovers Kelly singing at a barbecue that summer.
January 1992: R Kelly & Public Announcement debut Born Into The '90s. Released a year later, the album goes platinum.
Autumn 1992: R Kelly tours on a 10-week nationwide run that includes billings with En Vogue, CC Penniston and High Five.
November 1993: His album 12 Play is released and eventually sells more than five million copies. Hit singles include Sex Me and Bump N' Grind, which becomes the longest-running number one R&B song in more than 30 years.
August 31, 1994: At age 27, R Kelly marries 15-year-old R&B singer Aaliyah D. Haughton. The couple weds in a secret ceremony arranged by Kelly at a hotel in Chicago. The marriage is annulled months later because of Aaliyah's age.
September 1994: Aaliyah's debut album, Age Ain't Nothing But A Number, which Kelly produces, is certified platinum. Aaliyah died in a plane crash seven years later, aged 22.
September 1995: Produces Michael Jackson's hit single You Are Not Alone. Kelly also produces songs for Whitney Houston, Quincy Jones, Toni Braxton and Janet Jackson.
November 1996: R Kelly releases his third album, R. Kelly. A month later, he incorporates Rockland Records, where he can groom new artists, and his song I Believe I Can Fly, from the Space Jam soundtrack, peaks at number two on the Billboard pop chart. The same year, he marries 22-year-old Andrea Lee, a dancer from his touring troupe. The couple goes on to have three children: Joanne, Jaya and Robert Jr.
February 18, 1997: Tiffany Hawkins files a complaint against Kelly alleging intentional sexual battery and sexual harassment while she was a minor, according to court records.
January 1998: Hawkins' lawsuit is reportedly settled for $250,000, shortly after she gave a seven-hour deposition.
February 1998: Kelly wins three Grammys for I Believe I Can Fly, including best R&B song and best male R&B performance.
November 1998: His album R. hits stores. It has since sold six million copies.
November 2000: His album TP-2.com debuts at number one on the Billboard album chart.
August 2001: Tracy Sampson files a lawsuit against Kelly, alleging their sexual relations were illegal under Illinois law because he was in "a position of authority" over her. The case is reportedly settled out of court in the spring of 2002, for an undisclosed amount.
February 8, 2002: The Chicago Sun-Times reports that it received a 26-minute, 39-second videotape allegedly showing Kelly having sex with a minor. The paper reports Chicago police began investigating allegations about Kelly and the same girl three years earlier. At the time, the girl and her parents deny it.
The same day the news breaks, Kelly performs at the opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
June 5, 2002: Kelly is indicted in Chicago on 21 counts of child pornography, stemming from the tape. He pleads not guilty and is released on $750,000 bail.
January 2003: Kelly is arrested at a Miami Dade hotel in Florida on additional child pornography charges after investigators said they found incriminating photos of him. Kelly is released from jail on $12,000 bond. Charges are later dropped after judge rules police didn't have a warrant to search Kelly's house.
February 18, 2003: Kelly's album Chocolate Factory is released, selling 538,000 copies in its first week.
February 2004: In Chicago, Cook County prosecutors drop seven of the 21 child pornography charges against Kelly.
November 2004: Kelly files a $90 million lawsuit against Jay-Z and a promoter, claiming breach of contract and sabotage. Jay-Z kicked Kelly off their 40-city tour, citing Kelly's "unpredictable behaviour".
July 2005: Kelly's seventh solo album, TP.3 Reloaded, hits number one spot on the Billboard chart.
September 2005: Andrea Kelly asked for an order of protection from her husband, accusing the singer of hitting her when she said she wanted a divorce. The couple reconciles. She says later they live in different homes.
February 2006: R Kelly's brother, Carey Kelly, says his brother offered him $50,000 and a record deal to say he was the person on the video.
May 29, 2007: Kelly releases his album Double Up, which peaks at number one on the Billboard albums chart.
August 2007: In Chicago, Judge Vincent Gaughan rules that jurors and the public will see the tape in open court, rejecting arguments from defense lawyers and prosecutors that it shouldn't be shown.
September 2007: Following a five-year delay, the trial is scheduled to start, but Gaughan postpones it until 2008. He doesn't explain why.
December 21, 2007: Gaughan decides not to revoke Kelly's bond after threatening to do so when the singer failed to show up at a hearing a few days earlier. Kelly was in the middle of a 45-city tour and said his bus had been held up by police for speeding in Utah.
May 9, 2008: Kelly's child pornography trial finally begins.
June 13, 2008: Kelly acquitted on all counts after less than a full day of deliberations.
January 8, 2009: Kelly and his former wife, Andrea, confirm they had divorced after 11 years of marriage.
July 12, 2011: Crain's Chicago Business reported that a $2.9 million foreclosure was filed by JPMorgan Chase bank against Kelly's suburban Chicago mansion. A spokesman claims the singer was not having financial trouble.
March 21, 2012: Kelly announced he was reviving his cult classic video series, Trapped in the Closet. The project began as five videos for his dramatic cliffhanger songs in 2007, and eventually grew to several dozen musical chapters dealing with a web of sexual deceit. Kelly teamed with IFC to premiere the old and new series, and performed the rap opera at events such as a sing-along at Bonnaroo. There was talk of a Broadway show.
September 4, 2012: After successful romantic albums Write Me Back and 2010's Love Letter, Kelly vowed not to abandon the explicit music that helped make him famous. "Make no mistake about it, R Kelly is not going anywhere. It's just that R Kelly has such a unique talent, and I've been blessed to be able to do all type of genres of music ... I'm exploring my gift right now," Kelly told The Associated Press.
June 15, 2012: The Chicago Sun-Times reports Kelly owes the IRS more than $4.8 million in back taxes.
June 27, 2012: Kelly publishes his autobiography, Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me, focusing on his creative and family life rather than his legal troubles.
September 29, 2012: Kelly was nominated for two Soul Train Awards, making him the most nominated act ever at the awards show.
March 18, 2013: Kelly's custom-built mansion, once valued at more than $5 million, sells for $950,000 in a foreclosure auction.
July 17, 2017: Buzzfeed reports on parents' claims that Kelly brainwashed their daughters and was keeping them in an abusive "cult". One woman says she was with Kelly willingly. Following the BuzzFeed report, activists launched the #MuteRKelly movement, calling for boycotts of his music.
February 13, 2018: Kelly is evicted from two Atlanta-area homes over more than $31,000 owed in unpaid back rent.
April 30, 2018: The Time's Up campaign, devoted to helping women in the aftermath of sexual abuse, joined the #MuteRKelly social media campaign and issued a statement urging further investigation into Kelly's behaviour, which had come under closer scrutiny over the last year as women came forward to accuse him of everything from sexual coercion to physical abuse. An appearance at a concert in his native Chicago was canceled after protests. Kelly's camp responded: "We will vigorously resist this attempted public lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture."
May 11, 2018: Spotify cuts R Kelly's music from its playlists, citing its new policy on hate content and hateful conduct. Kelly's team says he has only promoted love in his music and that Spotify is acting on "false and unproven allegations". They note other artists on the service have been accused or convicted of crimes.
May 21, 2018: News outlets report that Apple and Pandora are also not promoting Kelly's music, though both companies haven't officially made announcements.
May 21, 2018: Faith Rodgers, 20, accuses R Kelly of sexual battery, mental and verbal abuse, according to a lawsuit filed in New York.
August 15, 2018: An Atlanta-area property company sued Kelly for $203,400 over "extensive damage" to two homes he rented. An associate of Kelly's was previously accused of robbing the same homes in 2017. Kelly and the company settled for $170,000, but lawsuit says Kelly has only paid $20,000.
January 3, 2019: Lifetime airs the documentary Surviving R. Kelly, which revisited old allegations against him and brought new ones into the spotlight. The series follows the BBC's R Kelly: Sex, Girls & Videotapes, released the previous year, that alleged the singer was holding women against their will and running a "sex cult".
January 8, 2019: Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx holds a press conference after her office is inundated with calls about the allegations in the documentary, some tied to Kelly's Chicago-area home. Foxx says there's no active investigation of Kelly and that launching one would require victims and witnesses.
January 9, 2019: Lady Gaga apologises for her 2013 duet with R Kelly in the wake of the sexual misconduct allegations against him, saying she intended to remove the song, Do What U Want (With My Body), from streaming services. The collaboration had been intensely criticised when it was released, in part because of the allegations against him and because of the sexually charged performances they did on Saturday Night Live and the American Music Awards in 2013.
January 10, 2019: Nielsen Music says streaming numbers for R Kelly nearly doubled after the Lifetime documentary. Kelly averaged more than 955,600 streams in the last week of 2018. He averaged more than 1.5 million streams from January 3 to 6.
January 14, 2019: Faith Rogers said Kelly had written a letter last October to one of her lawyers, threatening to reveal embarrassing details of her sexual history if she didn't drop her May 2018 lawsuit accusing him of sexual abuse. The Chicago Tribune publishes a story detailing court records it obtained on a July lawsuit seeking payment of $174,000 in back rent and other costs for his Chicago recording studio. A signed eviction notice was put on hold for Kelly to pay by January 21.
January 21, 2019: Multiple media outlets report Kelly and his label, Sony subsidiary RCA Records, had parted ways. Lady Gaga and Celine Dion recently removed their duets with Kelly from streaming services, and French rock band Phoenix apologised for collaborating with Kelly in 2013. Kelly continues to deny all allegations of sexual misconduct.
February 1, 2019: An estimated 25.8 million people had seen all or some of the six-part documentary series that brought together dozens of people who accused Kelly of sexual misconduct, primarily contact with underage girls, since the first episode aired January 3, according to the Nielsen company.
February 6, 2019: Kelly announced by Tweet a new tour outside the United States, saying he'd be going to Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. The tweet was later deleted following a backlash from Twitter users who urged fans not to buy concert tickets.
February 14, 2019: Attorney Michael Avenatti said he gave Chicago prosecutors new video evidence of Kelly having sex with an underage girl, and that it is not the same evidence used in Kelly's 2008 trial, when he was acquitted on child pornography charges.
February 22, 2019: Kelly is charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse. He is arrested after turning himself in to police later that day.
February 25, 2019: Kelly is released from a Chicago jail after raising $100,000 (Dh367,250) bail, which is 10 per cent of the $1m bond set by a judge. He pleaded not guilty to the 10 charges of aggravated sexual abuse against four women (three of whom were minors at the time of the abuse). The singer was asked to surrender his passport and have no contact with anyone under the age of 18. His next court date is set for March 22.
March 6, 2019: In an emotional interview with CBS News's Gayle King, Kelly has denounced the sexual abuse allegations as "stupid", "not fair" and "not true". "I didn't do this stuff," he said, on the verge of tears. "This is not me, I'm fighting for my [expletive] life." He asked viewers to use their "common sense", claiming he doesn't "need to" have non-consensual relations, but also said it's unfair to keep returning to his history. And he repeatedly emphasised that he's already been acquitted of one case.
King also interviews two women who are currently living with Kelly, including one whose parents say she is being held against her will.
March 7, 2019: Hours after the TV interview aired, Kelly was taken back into custody for failing to pay child support. A judge in Chicago said he would be held until he paid the $161,000 (Dh591,272) he owes his ex-wife and their children. The singer's defence attorney has said Kelly's finances were a "mess". He was prepared to pay $60,000, but the judge required the full amount. His next court hearing is scheduled for March 13.
March 9, 2019: The singer is released from jail after bail was paid. It's unclear who made the payment.
"I promise you, we're going to straighten all this stuff out," Kelly told reporters outside the jail.
April 24, 2019: A woman who accused R Kelly of sexual abuse wins her civil case by default, after the singer failed to respond to her lawsuit and didn't show up to court. She'd filed her case in February, a day before Kelly was arrested on 10 charges of sexual abuse. The lawsuit says Kelly first met the woman when she was 16 years old and had a relationship with her that lasted more than a year.
May 30, 2019: Cook County prosecutors charge Kelly with 11 new sex-related counts, including four charges of aggravated criminal sexual assault that carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. The new charges are believed to relate to a single victim.
July 11, 2019: Kelly is indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago on charges including child pornography, enticement of a minor and obstruction of justice. A separate indictment filed in the Eastern District of New York included charges of racketeering, kidnapping, forced labour and the sexual exploitation of a child. He is again arrested in Chicago.
July 16, 2019: A federal judge orders Kelly be held in jail without bond after prosecutors warned he would pose an extreme danger to young girls if set free.
August 2, 2019: Kelly pleads not guilty to federal charges accusing him of sexually abusing women and girls who attended his concerts, as his lawyers continue to label the alleged victims as disgruntled “groupies".
August 5, 2019: Kelly is charged in Minnesota with prostitution and solicitation related to an allegation he invited a 17-year-old girl to his hotel room in 2001 and paid her $200 to dance naked with him.
October 2, 2019: Kelly is denied bail in his New York City sex abuse case after a judge agreed with prosecutors that freeing him from jail would create a risk of him fleeing or tampering with witnesses.
December 5, 2019: Kelly is charged by federal prosecutors with paying a bribe in exchange for a “fraudulent identification document” for an unidentified female a day before he married R&B singer Aaliyah. He later pleads not guilty.
March 5, 2020: Kelly pleads not guilty in Chicago to an updated federal indictment that included child pornography charges and allegations involving a new accuser, while prosecutors say more charges alleging yet another victim were forthcoming.
August 12, 2020: Federal prosecutors announce charges against three men accused of threatening and intimidating women who accused Kelly of abuse, including one man suspected of setting fire to a vehicle in Florida.
August 14, 2020: Kelly’s manager is arrested in California on charges he threatened to shoot people at a Manhattan theatre two years ago, forcing an evacuation and the cancellation of the screening of a documentary addressing allegations the singer had sexually abused women and girls.
July 24, 2021: Federal prosecutors in Kelly’s sex trafficking case say he had sexual contact with an underage boy in addition to girls and the government wants jurors in his upcoming trial to hear those claims.
August 18, 2021: Opening statements begin in Kelly’s long-anticipated federal trial.
September 27, 2021: The jury finds Kelly guilty of sex trafficking and violating the Mann Act, which makes it illegal to take anyone across state lines “for any immoral purpose".
October 20, 2021: A judge orders Kelly to stand trial in Chicago on child pornography and obstruction of justice charges.
November 17, 2021: A man is sentenced to eight years in prison for setting fire to a car in Florida in what authorities say was an attempt to intimidate a potential witness in the sex trafficking trial.
June 8, 2022: Prosecutors say Kelly deserves at least 25 years behind bars for abusing children and women.
June 29, 2022: Kelly is sentenced to 30 years in prison in the New York case.
August 15, 2022: Kelly is scheduled to stand trial in Chicago on child pornography and obstruction of justice charges.