R. Kelly cases then and now: What has changed since 2002

CHICAGO — Some may argue that Chicago law enforcement has been hunting down R. Kelly for nearly 20 years. Child pornography charges first came down in 2002, and a Cook County jury acquitted Kelly in 2008.

On Friday, Kelly, 52, was charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

The R. Kelly cases, then and now, unfolded in the same city, at the same courthouse and involve the same defendant and largely the same allegation: repeat sexual encounters against a minor that were allegedly orchestrated repeatedly by Kelly.

Dick Devine was the Cook County state’s attorney in 2008 and was one of the key players very close to the first case over a decade ago.

Devine said in 2008 there were groups outside the courthouse applauding him and cheering for him. He said that he doubts the same thing will be seen this time around.

In 2008, Kelly was closer to 40 years old and was at the peak of his musical career. Now, at 52, he was not the star he once was. Kelly had trouble posting bond after facing child porn charges in 2019. This time, four victims, three of who are allegedly minors, are central to the case. A decade ago, it was one victim, Kelly’s goddaughter who may have been as young as 13 back then.

“Today’s charges are more traditional,” Devine said. “The victims have come forward, stated their case and are cooperating. What you’re seeing today are the charges we would have brought had the victim been cooperating with us (in 2008).”

Devine said the #MeToo movement making all the difference this time.

Another difference between the two cases, then and now, is that in the group of witnesses that have surfaced, it would appear there is the presence of some whistleblowers — maybe more than one. They are people trying to come forward either to save themselves or to do the right thing.

Devine also believes women don’t feel so alone anymore if they come forward, and there is a lot less scrutiny publicly when they do.

“You look back and you think a lot of victims might have been not victims,” Devine said. He said that’s the real sadness. That, and the young ages of the girls involved.

Devine said he was gratified to learn law enforcement was finally able to get enough evidence to nail down the elusive Kelly, who was acquitted in 2008.

“It’s a whole different ball game in many ways,” he said. “The atmosphere, the feeling about sex assault and abuse and where R Kelly fits into the whole thing.”

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