CHICAGO — A Cook County judge on Friday granted Chicago inspectors permission to enter R. Kelly’s music studio on the Near West Side next week.
An anonymous tipster called 311 last week to report people living at the property in the 200 block of North Justine Street. The warehouse is zoned only for commercial use.
City inspectors will now investigate inside the building Wednesday.
“We had to get inside to figure out how the space is being used,” city attorney Kimberly Roberts said. “Because if it’s being used improperly or wasn’t converted properly, it’s not safe for the occupants.”
In a separate case, the building’s owner is trying evict Kelly for not paying rent. The judge in that case this week ordered Kelly to pay $167,000 to Midwest Commercial Funding, LLC.
Kelly is facing serious allegations raised in a documentary series called “Surviving R. Kelly,” which aired on the Lifetime network. The six-part series detailed decades of abuse and statutory rape allegations.
Those who work at the business next to Kelly’s Near West Side recording studio describe the warehouse as a “ghost town” because Kelly hasn’t been around recently.
But Jim Lewis, an operations manager who works nearby, said he’s seen young women in and out of Kelly’s studio — and noticed some odd items in the trash.
“When the allegations came up, he did some spring cleaning,” Lewis said. “There were mattresses — four mattresses — out in back, boxes of women’s shoes and stuff like that. The allegations are true; I know he’s gotten away with this for quite some time.”
Melvin Sims, an attorney representing the property owners and the tenant, made a vague statement after Friday’s hearing: “There is no truth to any of the specious allegations regarding that premises.”
Sims, while speaking face-to-face with reporters, asked that all questions be submitted via email. He wouldn’t confirm whether he was representing Kelly.
When a reporter pointed out that Sims had failed to respond to multiple questions already submitted via email, he still refused to answer questions.
Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx has asked potential victims to come forward after Georgia prosecutors opened a criminal probe in response to the series. At least two women have contacted Foxx’s office.
In 2008, a Cook County jury acquitted Kelly of child porn charges. Prosecutors accused Kelly of filming himself having sex with a girl believed to be as young as 13. Kelly denied any wrongdoing.