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R. Kelly Arrested, Faces Federal Charges In Chicago And Brooklyn


Today, two separate federal indictments were unveiled against R&B superstar R. Kelly - a 13-count indictment in the Northern District of Illinois and a five-count indictment in Brooklyn. Combined, they encompass charges of producing child pornography and transporting it across state lines, racketeering and transporting women and minors across state lines for sex, conspiracy to obstruct justice by destroying evidence and bribing witnesses and criminal sexual abuse. As NPR's Colin Dwyer reports, these charges mark a significant escalation in the singer's legal jeopardy.

COLIN DWYER, BYLINE: R. Kelly was already tangled in a messy skein of indictments in Illinois. Cook County prosecutors charged Kelly with sexual abuse in February and announced a second indictment in May after nearly three decades of questions about his conduct with underage girls. But even with that in mind, the past 24 hours mark a turning point.

PRIYA SOPORI: If found guilty, frankly, of any one of these charges, he would be facing a significant amount of prison time.

DWYER: Priya Sopori is a former assistant U.S. attorney in California. As a federal prosecutor, she pursued plenty of sex crimes cases like the ones against Kelly. She says the federal system can pack steeper penalties for crimes against children than a state system, including higher mandatory minimum sentences.

SOPORI: So in other words, if he is found guilty of having produced child pornography, a judge will have no discretion to sentence R. Kelly for fewer than 15 years.

DWYER: These indictments also represent something well beyond the particulars of Kelly's case.

JIM DEROGATIS: I think these federal charges are so broad and so deep that they finally encompass the enormity of his crimes.

DWYER: Jim DeRogatis helped reveal the allegations against R. Kelly as a reporter in Chicago nearly two decades ago, and he recently published a book detailing those accusations. He says he talked to some of the alleged victims today and says they greeted the news with complicated feelings.

DEROGATIS: It is a weird mix that these victims are feeling today of relief that finally justice is being served, but also, how could this have taken so long?

DWYER: Kelly, for his part, maintains his innocence, and in a statement, his legal team says that he is looking forward to his day in court. For now, though, he remains in federal custody in Illinois at least until next week; that's when a judge will determine when he heads to Brooklyn to face his second set of charges.

Colin Dwyer, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF ZERO 7'S "RED DUST") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.