CHICAGO —While R. Kelly no longer faces charges at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, the legal fight over his money is still playing out at the Daley Center.
Nearly two years ago, the disgraced singer was ordered to pay $4 million to a woman who filed a sex abuse lawsuit against him in February 2019 — a day before prosecutors in Cook County brought criminal charges against him.
The plaintiff in that lawsuit was one of the four alleged victims referenced in Kelly’s Cook County charges, all of which were dropped earlier this week.
Jennifer Bonjean, Kelly’s lead defense attorney in his two federal criminal trials, now represents him in the civil case. She is at least the fourth different attorney to file an appearance on Kelly’s behalf since the case was filed three years ago.
Bonjean filed a motion last week to vacate the $4 million award, arguing that the judge who issued the order exceeded his authority and that Kelly’s former lawyers did not keep him apprised of the case’s developments.
“I was absolutely astounded when I saw how railroaded he was through the process and how piss-poor his representation was during the process that resulted in a default judgment order being entered against him without his knowledge,” Bonjean told WGN. “People and judges are applying a different set of rules to him, frankly.”
Last September, a federal jury in Chicago found Kelly, 56, guilty of three counts of child pornography and three counts of enticement of a child. The child pornography counts stemmed from the same video that was at the heart of his 2002 state court case, in which he was acquitted. His sentencing in that case is scheduled for later this month. Last year, Kelly was also sentenced to 30 years in prison following his convictions of sexual exploitation of a child, racketeering, bribery and sex trafficking in New York federal court.
In February 2021, Kelly’s former attorneys filed a motion to vacate the $4 million award. That motion was denied and Kelly’s attorneys appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court. In September 2022, two weeks after he was found guilty in Chicago’s federal court, a panel of appellate court judges upheld the denial.
The woman who filed the February 2019 lawsuit filed another complaint against Kelly in October 2022. She alleged in that, in August 2021, Kelly “sold his ownership to his composition and lyric rights for $5,000,000.00 to his childhood friend,” who was also named as a defendant, in an effort to “make himself judgment-proof.”
Last week, Bonjean filed a motion on Kelly’s behalf to dismiss that lawsuit, saying that Kelly never sold the rights to any of his music. Bonjean also submitted several sworn statements— from Kelly, his former entertainment lawyer and his co-defendant — attesting that Kelly never sold the rights to his compositions.
“Plaintiff’s lawsuit is insufficiently pled and involves no material issues of fact because Plaintiff does not and cannot show that Kelly sold his ‘compositional or lyrical’ rights to anyone, including his ‘childhood friend’ [his co-defendant],” Bonjean wrote. “The complaint is sanctionable having been brought in bad faith.
Two days later, Jeffrey Deutschman, the woman’s attorney, filed a motion to amend the lawsuit. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for next week.