On Monday, Buzzfeed published a long and detailed report accusing R Kelly of trapping six women in a sex “cult”.
The article alleges that Kelly, best known in the UK for hits like I Believe I Can Fly and Ignition (Remix), targets young women who come to him for help with their fledgling music careers.
It claims he seduces them before taking control of their lives – forbidding contact with the outside world, and taping their sexual encounters.
The allegations come from the parents of several women, who say their daughters have all but vanished.
Kelly, 50, has strenuously denied the story – but this is not the first time the R&B star has faced accusations of sexual misconduct, with many of the stories centring around the predatory pursuit of teenage girls.
The star was himself the victim of child sex abuse, detailing in his autobiography how he was raped by an older women when he was eight years old who told him to keep it a secret. He added that “she did it repeatedly for years”.
Here is a brief history of the accusations against him.
1994: Marries Aaliyah
The star, then aged 27, marries 14-year-old singer Aaliyah at a secret ceremony in Chicago. Vibe magazine later discovered that Aaliyah had lied on the wedding certificate about her age, listing herself as 18. The marriage was annulled in February 1995.
For the rest of her career, Aaliyah dodged questions about the nature of her relationship. “When people ask me, I tell them, ‘Hey, don’t believe all that mess,'” she told one interviewer. “We’re close and people took it the wrong way.”
Kelly himself has rarely spoken about Aaliyah since she died in a plane crash in 2001. She is not mentioned in his autobiography, where his author’s note explains that “certain episodes could not be included for complicated reasons”.
In a 2016 interview with GQ magazine, he described their relationship as “best best best best friends”; but declined to comment on their marriage, saying: “I will never have that conversation with anyone. Out of respect for Aaliyah, and her mother and father who has asked me not to personally.”
1996: Sued for emotional distress
Tiffany Hawkins sues R Kelly for the “personal injuries and emotional distress” she suffered during a three-year relationship with the star.
In court documents, she said she began having sex with Kelly in 1991, when she was 15 and he was 24, and the relationship ended three years later, when she turned 18. According to the Chicago Sun Times, Hawkins sought $10 million in damages, but accepted a fraction of that amount ($250,000) when the case was settled in 1998.
Kelly’s spokeswoman said she had “no knowledge” of the accusations.
2001: Sued by intern
Tracy Sampson sues R Kelly, accusing him of inducing her “into an indecent sexual relationship” when she was 17 years old.
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The woman, a former intern at Epic Records, claimed she was “treated as his personal sex object and cast aside”.
“He often tried to control every aspect of my life including who I would see and where I would go,” she said in her legal case against him. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, said the New York Post.
April and May 2002: Two more court cases
Kelly is sued for a third time by Patrice Jones, a Chicago woman who claims he impregnated her when she was underage, and that she was forced to have an abortion.
A woman named Montina Woods also sued Kelly, alleging that he videotaped them having sex without her knowledge. The recording was allegedly circulated on an R Kelly “sex tape” sold by bootleggers under the title R Kelly Triple-X.
The star settled both cases out of court, paying an undisclosed sum in return for a non-disclosure agreement.
June 2002: Charged over child pornography
The star is charged with 21 counts of making child pornography, involving intercourse, oral sex, urination, and other sexual acts.
Chicago police accused him of videotaping each of these acts and enticing a minor to participate in them. All of the charges related to one girl, born in September 1984.
His arrest stemmed from a video which was sent anonymously to the Chicago Sun Times earlier in the year. They passed it on to police, who verified the authenticity of the tape with help from FBI forensics experts.
Kelly, who posted $750,000 bail, immediately denied the charges in an interview with MTV and later pleaded not guilty in court.
It took six years for the case to come to trial, during which time Kelly released his wildly successful Trapped In The Closet album; and was nominated for an Image Award by the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), prompting widespread criticism.
The jury eventually concluded that they could not conclusively prove that the girl on the tape was a minor, and Kelly was found not guilty on all counts.
2002 – 2004: Arrest prompts further charges
Kelly is charged with a further 12 counts of making child pornography in Florida, where he was arrested at his holiday home.
These charges came after police seized a camera during the arrest, which allegedly showed the star having sex with an underage girl.
The charges were dropped when a judge agreed with Kelly’s defence team that police lacked sufficient evidence to justify a search.
2017: Allegations of a “cult”
Buzzfeed reports that Kelly lures young women into his inner circle and keeps them against their will inside his homes in a “cult-like” atmosphere.
The story says six women are being held in the star’s properties, where he controls all aspects of their lives.
Buzzfeed also interviewed three former members of Kelly’s inner circle, and reports the singer controls every aspect of the women’s lives: dictating “what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records”.
The superstar also confiscates the women’s cell phones, the report says, barring contact with friends and family. He gives them new phones that they are only allowed to use to contact him or others with his permission.
The story was written by Jim DeRogatis, who has covered the allegations against R Kelly for two decades, principally for the Chicago Sun Times.
All of the women cited in his article are of legal age; and one has denied accusations that she is being held against her will.
“I’m not being brainwashed or anything like that,” said 21-year-old Joycelyn Savage in a video call to TMZ. However, she would not reveal where she was speaking from, nor the nature of her relationship with Kelly.
R Kelly’s lawyer, Linda Mensch, has also issued a strongly-worded denial of the accusations.
“Mr Robert Kelly is both alarmed and disturbed at the recent revelations attributed to him,” the statement said.
“Mr Kelly unequivocally denies such allegations and will work diligently and forcibly to pursue his accusers and clear his name.”