Embattled singer R. Kelly facing new charges

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Just when it seemed like things could not get worse for singer R. Kelly, CBS News, Page Six and other outlets report that he has been charged with 11 new counts of sexual assault and abuse.

The charges have been brought by “Surviving R. Kelly” participant, Jerhonda Pace. Those familiar with the documentary series will remember that Pace was a minor in 2010 when she first met and was alleged sexually abused by Kelly.

According to CBS News, “The charges include four counts of aggravated criminal sex assault, three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a victim between the ages of 13 and 16, two counts of criminal sex assault by force and two counts of aggravated criminal sex abuse, according to court records.”

CNN reports that an Illinois grand jury has indicted the singer. The charges include four new felonies with “maximum penalties of 30 years.”

Previously, Kelly was charged with 10 counts of “aggravated criminal sexual abuse.” Those charges stemmed from events that occurred between 1998 and 2010. According to CNN, Kelly’s attorney claims that “the new indictment ‘changes nothing’.”

R. Kelly and the court of popular opinion

The words of Kelly’s attorney are particularly troubling. What exactly goes unchanged? From a certain perspective, it would seem that it would be better to simply maintain a client’s innocence. As the world has seen before, charges against the singer do, in fact, change things. Persistent allegations against the singer have resulted in a #Mute R Kelly movement, which led to canceled concerts and a growing sense of injustice among former fans and members of the general public.

The assertion that the new charges “change nothing” also seem incorrect because Pace has been allowed to press charges. And she is apparently being listened to. According to her social media, she is aware of the position she is in as someone bringing charges against the popular singer.

Pace’s (public) Facebook page finds her addressing head-on the potential backlash that she might face from Kelly’s most ardent fans and supporters. In court documents, she is listed only by her initials, but decided to identify herself.

She writes: “Yes, I am aware of the 11 new charges against R. Kelly. Yes, all new counts are related to my case. Yes, I know his fans are mad about it. Please DO NOT contact me telling me how I’m wrong for pursuing criminal charges all of these years later…No matter how ‘wrong’ you think I am, the law is on my side, a MINOR at the time…”

But that didn’t stop people from doing exactly that. One commenter, (whose name is available on the post) wrote a lengthy detraction of Pace’s claims. Using, among other things, the idea that older men are still doing this to young girls, so one person bringing charges makes no sense, essentially.

It is as if victims of sexual abuse are to live in a world in which fallacies rule. Because your claims will not stop all such cases, it is pointless. The mindset is problematic at best. That idea keeps victims silent. Also, it is “interesting” that the “what you claim doesn’t matter” approach is only applied to victims of sexual assault. No one would think of saying any such thing to families of murder victims. The lengths to which people will go to support Kelly are astounding.

But, on the bright side, Pace had more than a few supporters. People are cheering for her, wanting her to do what she can to get justice for herself. Their positive feedback drowns out the clamor of those who doubt the validity of her claims.

For fans of 1990s r&b, and of Kelly in particular, Kelly’s indictments and troubling statements from his supporters, all cast a problematic light on a singer whose natural talent wowed the world once upon a time. It is still unclear how and if Kelly’s career will ever recover.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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